Keeping Score

Keeping Score: Comfort zone

Good morning!

Greenfield’s Josh Hillman won’t be intimidated by the company he’s keeping on Monday, even if it includes two-time U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen. Earlier this month Hillman qualified for the U.S. Open Sectionals by shooting a 2-under-par 70 at the Schuyler Meadows Club in Loudonville, N.Y. The opening round eliminated roughly 90 percent of 10,127 scratch golfers worldwide who were trying to qualify for one of about 50 spots in the U.S. Open that is two weeks hence in Pinehurst, N.C.

Now he must go against an even stronger field, which will tee off Monday at the Century Country Club and Old Oaks Country Club in Purchase, N.Y., which is off I-684 near White Plains. The Sectionals are contested at 11 U.S. locations and two in Europe. “My best guess is that four out of the 80 from our sectional will qualify. This is the last step,” he said in a telephone interview while returning from a lesson in Great Barrington on Thursday.

Others notables at the New York Sectional will include former PGA Tour pro Scott Dunlap, 2014 NCAA Division I champion Cameron Wilson and club pro Steve Scott, the runner-up to Tiger Woods at the 1996 U.S. Amateur.

“There’s a few big names in there but we’re at the same stage (of playing ability) and it’s not that intimidating. I’m comfortable with who I am and what I do for a living and this is just a bonus, really.”

Hillman is the club pro at Taconic Golf Course and coach of the Williams College golf team. “I’ll tee off from the 10th tee at the Oaks Country Club at 8:50 a.m. The Century Country Club’s right around the corner and I’ll bounce over there for 18 in the afternoon.”

Fans can follow Hillman’s progress online at http://www.usopen.com/en_US/news/live_updates.html.

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The New England Collegiate Baseball League kicks off its 21st season this week and three teams are on Franklin County’s doorstep.

The North Adams SteepleCats play at Joe Wolfe Field near the Hoosic River off Route 8, the Valley Blue Sox play at Mackenzie Stadium off Exit 16 in Holyoke and the Keene Swamp Bats play at Alumni Field off Route 9 next to the high school.

Collegiate wooden bat leagues have flourished — from the Lewis and Clark League in Missouri to the Coastal League in the Carolinas on up west of the Yukon to the Alaska League, home of the Anchorage Bucs and Chugiak Chinooks.

The NECBL is for players with at least one year of college eligibility remaining. Many have been drafted and others expect to be on Thursday; Keene had 15 draft picks last season. Major League alumni include Stephen Strasburg, Matt Joyce, Brian Wilson, Rajai Davis and Craig Breslow.

The class of the league, the defending champion Swamp Bats were ranked 13th nationally by perfectgame.org. “We’re in it for the sense of pride it brings to our communities,” says Swamp Bats’ president Kevin Watterson. “I’ll give the Cape Cod League its due but we’re fast on their heels.

“By the way,” he adds, “if we can do what we’re doing in Keene, is there any reason Greenfield can’t do the same? I would love a Greenfield-Keene rivalry.”

Give us an owner, a ballpark, and a few good players and we’ll see what we can do.

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Rivals.com, reports that Alabama, Penn State and Clemson are winning the 2015 recruiting race. The Tide landed five-star wideout Calvin Ridley of Coconut Creek, Fla., Clemson’s top commit is 6-foot-5, 258-pound offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt of Suwanee, Ga., and the Nittany Lions have 11 four-star recruits.

Boston College is ranked 33rd out of 97 teams that are listed, but UConn and UMass are both off the radar, somewhere between 98th and 125th.

By comparing this year’s UMass roster with last year’s, it appears that 17 underclassmen have left the team between seasons. The departed include three quarterbacks, three running backs, and three wide receivers. Quarterback Mike Wegzyn started 21 games for the Minutemen but has transferred to Tennessee, where he’s fifth on the depth chart.

UMass media director John Sinnett didn’t respond to several requests for an interview with coach Mark Whipple, but odds are that Whipple’s quarterback will be Marshall transfer Blake Frohnapfel when the Minutemen play B.C. on Aug. 28.

Eagles coach Steve Addazio has already named Tyler Murphy to be his starter. Murphy is eligible to play as a fifth-year graduate transfer from the University of Florida where he threw for 1,216 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions last season.

“You’re talking about a guy who’s been in the heat of battle ... a veteran who’s been a starter in the SEC,” said Addazio.

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During the Western Conference semis in San Antonio, Portland’s Thomas Robinson found a live snake in his locker. “I ain’t gonna lie, I was scared,” he told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I jumped five feet high and 20 feet back.”

Robinson said the non-venomous reptile was captured and released “by our brave trainers.”

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Ariel Levy’s New Yorker article about Diana Nyad’s Cuba-to-Florida swim detailed her coping skills on long airline flights. What she’ll do is empty a large bag of M&M’s and separate them by color, divide the length of the flight by the number of M&M’s, and eat them at evenly timed intervals. “Of course,” she said, “if you don’t land on time then you’re screwed and your whole O.C.D. personality is in crises.”

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Juliet Macur’s book “Cycle of Lies” is an unsparing account of Lance Armstrong’s years of betrayal and deception. “He treats people like bananas,” said a source. “He takes what he needs, then just tosses the peel on the side of the road.”

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More about Jerry Remy’s off-air persona, provided by a retired Mass. State Trooper: “After the last Red Sox game I went to, which was years ago, I saw Jerry pull out of the gated lot and then drive, like a maniac, through the crowd leaving the park, blaring the horn and zig-zagging through the walkers like an idiot. After that I was not a Remy fan.”

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Squibbers: Recorder sports staffer Mark Durant said he lasted 29 minutes in his much-anticipated World Series of Poker debut. Gone faster than a P.K. Subban slap shot. ... Dan Patrick on Donald Sterling’s quick turnabout from acquiescence to belligerence: “This is what happens with people that age, one day great mood, next day angry.” ... The Yankees and Cardinals celebrated the 50th anniversary of their ’64 World Series showdown with three games that drew 137,790 into Busch Stadium. ... Lookalikes: Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and actor Walton Goggins of TV’s “Justified” and “The Shield” ... NESN called Sunday afternoon’s dustup in Tampa a “Bench Clearing Brawl” but Rays manager Joe Maddon had it right: “Typical baseball fight. Push, push, push. ... Point, point, point.” ... Preakness flop Kid Cruz was named for Giants receiver Victor Cruz, fourth on the UMass all-time list with 131 catches. ... Jared Remy and V. Stiviano would’ve been an interesting couple. ... Kurt Bush raced the Indy 500 and the same day did 406 miles of the Coca-Cola 600 before his engine blew. That’s like driving from New Haven to Savannah in five hours. ... Noting all the pitchers who’ve had Tommy John surgery, Tommy Lasorda said, “Thank God it wasn’t Billy Grabarkewitz.”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley.

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