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Appalachian League switching from minor league baseball to college summer circuit

Bristol Pirates starting pitcher Adrian Florencio watches from the dugout during a September 2019 game. The Appalachian League will convert to college summer ball as the first part of Major League Baseball's contraction plan for minor leagues.David Crigger/Associated Press

Major League Baseball started the process of contracting minor league affiliates Tuesday, with the Appalachian League converted to a college summer circuit for rising freshmen and sophomores. The agreement between MLB and the minor leagues expires Wednesday. MLB has proposed cutting the minimum guaranteed minor league affiliates from 160 to 120 next year, or to four per major league organization plus teams at their spring training complexes. Many teams from the Pioneer League and the New York-Penn League also are likely to become part of college summer leagues. MLB and USA Baseball said the Appalachian League will become part of its Prospect Development Pipeline and that 320 players will be invited to play next year. The league could be in competition with the Cape Cod League for top amateur talent. The 10-team Cape League has long been the No. 1 summer ball destination for college freshmen, sophomores and juniors. The Appalachian League had been an affiliated minor league with professional players since 1911. MLB and USA Baseball said they are communicating with the NCAA to ensure participation does not detract from college eligibility, which presumably means players in the league no longer will be paid. Each team will be scheduled for a 54-game regular season with wood bats, and the two organizations will support staffing and administration. The early list also included four Double-A teams from the Eastern League and Southern League and several from the Class A Advanced Florida State League, Midwest League and South Atlantic League, and the Class A Short Season Northwest League. MLB has proposed eliminating the office of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues in St. Petersburg, Fla., and moving administration of the minors to MLB’s office in New York.


Aces finish off Sun, advance to Finals

A’ja Wilson had 23 points and 11 rebounds, Angel McCoughtry added 20 points, and the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces held off the No. 7 seed Connecticut Sun, 66-63, in Bradenton, Fla., to advance to the franchise’s second WNBA Finals. Las Vegas will play Friday against Seattle, which advanced to its second championship series in three seasons on Sunday after sweeping Minnesota. The Aces' franchise hadn’t reached the finals since doing so as the San Antonio Silver Stars in 2008. Carolyn Swords and Danielle Robinson each grabbed 10 rebounds for Las Vegas, which overcame 18 turnovers. The Aces were without Dearica Hamby, last season’s sixth woman of the year, because of a season-ending knee injury. She averaged 13 points and 7.1 rebounds during the regular season. Las Vegas trailed 49-39 early in the third quarter but went on a 13-0 run, with McCoughtry, Wilson and Kayla McBride combining for 13 points, to take the lead. McCoughtry missed a free-throw line jumper and Connecticut guard Jasmine Thomas called a timeout with 13.4 seconds left, down 66-63. Thomas received the inbounds pass and got it to DeWanna Bonner at the top of the arc, but her contested shot didn’t hit the rim as time expired. Alyssa Thomas, dealing with a shoulder injury, had 22 points and 10 rebounds for Connecticut, which was going for its second straight trip to the Finals. Bonner had 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Connecticut was held to 18 second-half points.



South Alabama-Troy football postponed

South Alabama called off its Saturday game with Sun Belt rival Troy because of COVID-19. The school didn’t say how many players had been affected by the coronavirus, but the team was stopping workouts. South Alabama, Troy and the league will try to find a makeup date. “This postponement is unfortunate, however it’s prudent and wise,” South Alabama athletic director Joel Erdmann said. “Our most significant concern is the wellbeing of our student-athletes.” ... Purdue University has suspended 14 students — 13 of them athletes — for violating the Protect Purdue Pledge by attending a party Saturday in a residence hall. All of the athletes compete in winter or spring sports, athletic department spokeswoman Kassidie Blackstock confirmed. Blackstock declined to identify which teams will be affected. It’s the second time Purdue has suspended a group of students for not following the school’s COVID-19 guidelines. The university suspended 36 students on Aug. 20 ... The University at Buffalo says 25 athletes, including 19 football players, have tested positive for the coronavirus. Athletic director Mark Alnutt says five members of the women’s volleyball team and one women’s soccer player also tested positive. Alnutt says the athletes have been placed in isolation and are doing well. All three teams have suspended activities through at least Monday ... La Salle has cut seven sports, effective at the end of the academic year, in a move affecting approximately 130 athletes. The Philadelphia-based university sliced men’s baseball, swimming and diving, tennis and water polo. It also cut women’s softball, volleyball and tennis. The university announced the move in an open letter on its website. The cuts drop La Salle’s intercollegiate athletics teams from 25 to 18 ... South Carolina starting linebacker Sherrod Greene will miss at least the next four-to-six weeks with a fractured hip.



Hungary squad in Champions group stage

Ferencváros ended a 25-year wait to return to the Champions League group stage, giving Hungary a rare place on European club soccer’s biggest stage. A 0-0 draw at home to Molde in the second leg of the qualifying playoffs took Ferencváros through on the away goals rule after a 3-3 draw in Norway last week. Coach Serhiy Rebrov’s team will be the first from Hungary in the 32-team group stage since Debrecen 11 years ago. Ferencváros, which last played in the group stage in 1995, will be the lowest-ranked team in Thursday’s draw in Geneva. Rebrov’s former team, Dynamo Kiev, also advanced Tuesday by beating visiting Gent 3-0 to complete a 5-1 aggregate score. Olympiakos sealed its 20th Champions League entry by drawing 0-0 in Cyprus against Omonia for a 2-0 aggregate win. The last three playoff matches are played Wednesday ... Tottenham staged a second-half comeback before eliminating Chelsea on penalties to reach the quarterfinals of the League Cup. The first nine penalties were all successfully converted before Chelsea’s Mason Mount missed the target to ensure Tottenham advanced 5-4 in the shootout after the game ended 1-1 ... Liverpool midfielder Thiago Alcantara has tested positive for coronavirus. The 29-year-old, who joined the team from Bayern Munich this month, will now self-isolate ... Manchester City completed the signing of center back Rúben Dias as its third addition of the summer transfer window on Tuesday ... Bayern Munich forward Leroy Sané will miss around two weeks because of a new injury to the same knee he injured at Manchester City last season, coach Hansi Flick said.



House bill combats doping in horse racing

The House approved a bill to create national medication and safety standards for the horse racing industry as lawmakers move to clamp down on use of performance-enhancing drugs that can lead to horse injuries and deaths. The “Horseracing Integrity and Safety Act” comes after a series of doping scandals and a rash of horse fatalities in recent years. More than two dozen people were charged in March in what authorities described as a widespread international scheme to drug horses to make them run faster. Jason Servis, whose champion horse Maximum Security crossed the finish line first at the 2019 Kentucky Derby before being disqualified for interference, was among those charged. The Democrat-controlled House approved the bill by voice vote, sending it to the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, has co-sponsored similar legislation. McConnell’s home state of Kentucky boasts some of the country’s top breeding outfits and Churchill Downs, site of the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the fabled Triple Crown. Co-sponsors include senior Democrats from California and New York, which also have top racetracks and breeding operations ... An Ethiopian runner had to pull out of the London Marathon after she and the coach of two other elite marathoners tested positive for the coronavirus, the race director said. Degitu Azimeraw, who won the 2019 Amsterdam Marathon, and coach Haji Adilo tested positive in Ethiopia ... The Spengler Cup, one of the oldest annual tournaments in ice hockey, has been canceled. Organizers of the event held in Davos, Switzerland, during the December holidays cite the impact of the pandemic. The invitational tournament was first played in 1923, and a six-team edition was won last year by Team Canada, comprising of mostly Europe-based players ... Chad Knaus will move into a management role with Hendrick Motorsports after the season, ending his crew chief career after a record-tying seven NASCAR championships. Hendrick announced Knaus will become vice president of competition. He will replace Jeff Andrews, who has been in the role since 2017 but was elevated to executive vice president and general manager.