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Wednesday, May 10, 2017: Wilson pitcher perfect on mound and at plate

   Leading off today: John Bender had a perfect day at the plate Tuesday ... and an even better day on the mound.

   The senior right-hander threw a perfect game in Wilson's 11-0 victory over Royalton-Hartland in a showdown between top Niagara-Orleans League baseball teams. Bender struck out 10 and didn't allow a ball to be hit out of the infield.

   At the plate, Bender went 4-for-4 with a home run, a double and three runs batted in.

   As a junior Bender no-hit Barker for six innings "before I had to pull him," Wilson coach Mark Kurtz told The Buffalo News. "Today, he was in total command with all his pitches right from the beginning."

   Girls lacrosse: Highland's Eliz Fino broke her own school record for goals in a game, scoring 13 in a 22-2 victory over New Paltz.

   Abigail Munson added six goals and four assists in the win.

   Boys lacrosse: Junior goalie Jake Drennen was credited with 24 saves as Geneva pulled off a 5-1 victory over perennial small-school power Penn Yan.

   Penn Yan is ranked 10th in Class D by the New York State Sportswriters Association.

   "He was really a wall back there," Geneva coach L.J. Russell told the Finger Lakes Times. "Every time Penn Yan tried a shot, he just saved it and we were going the other way with the ball."

   "Quinn Eighmey led Geneva with two goals.

   Choppy waters ahead: The Section 3 decision this week to turn its 2017 baseball playoffs into an open-tournament format has run into its first snag: With 15 teams potentially bidding for the title, a one-year experiment to make the Class A tournament a double-elimination event just got significantly more complicated -- especially if the main reason for opening the tournament -- weather -- continues to rear its ugly head.

   The sectional tournament for Class A is tentatively scheduled for May 21-29, and the state tournament sub-regionals begin June 1. Winning a double-elimination tournament with fewer than 16 teams could require the eventual champion to play between four and six games.

   We've got some wiggle room," Jamesville-DeWitt coach Ryan Dera told "We have the best interests in the sport and teams and the kids. We don't need to scrap it. We have to hope for good weather. It's been unfortunate to this point but hopefully we've paid our dues."

   Coming up: The NYSSWA will release the girls basketball all-state team online at 4 p.m. Thursday.

   Good reading, Part 1: An aging pool of candidates and a culture of verbal abuse -- and even physical attacks -- is contributing to the shrinking pool of game officials for high school sports contests, The Journal News reported Tuesday.

   The trend is playing out in New York and nationally. An average of only two of every 10 officials return for their third year of officiating, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations.

   Officials available for Sections 1 and 9 are in such short supply for varsity games that league officials are pulling refs from junior varsity, freshman and middle-school games, the paper reported. Officials are retiring or choosing travel-league assignments at a rate that exceeds recruitment of new candidates.

   While the pay and time constraints are factors, the stories of abuse and confrontation at games stand apart. Terry Walsh, a 34-year-year veteran of officiating in Dutchess County, recounted the story of a varsity coach

going after the referees after a game. He was kicking the door of the locker room and, when Walsh opened the door, the coach grabbed him and slammed him against a wall before players intervened.

   "Parents have gone through the roof as far as the level of passion for sports," he told the paper. "Some of the comments coming from them are awful."

   John Jay East Fishkill softball coach Mike Crocco said he doubts he could officiate for that reason.

   "There would be plays that I miss and I don't want 20 people yelling at me because of it," he said. "The negative energy could affect you and make you say, 'Even for $100, is it worth it?'"

   Scheduling also contributes to the difficulty in finding and retaining fresh blood. For many people in their 20s and 30s, the priority is getting established in their careers, and a typical 9-to-5 job will overlap most high school games.

   "Who has a job where you can drop everything and leave at 3 (p.m.) for a game?" asked Dennis Burkett, chairman of the Officials Coordinating Federation. "That alone means you're going to have a lot of retirees in your pool of officials."

   Good reading, Part 2: The days of parents judging school districts for their children by means of test scores or teacher-student ratios aren't over, but the quality of sports facilities is increasingly a factor in their decisions, The Buffalo News reported this week.

   The paper's story ticked off a long list of Western New York schools that have recently upgraded their facilities or are slated to do so in the near future.

   "It's a national trend," said Robert Zayas, executive director of the New York State Public High School Athletic Association. "I think communities are really seeing the value of high school sports, what it brings to the community and what it does to benefit the students who participate."

   Said David Mauricio, chief of strategic alignment and innovation for the Buffalo Public Schools: "Look at the number of people who will come out to Friday night games, Saturday games. People love to go to athletic events. There's high interest."

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