Severino set to make second start

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino puts his fist to his heart leaving the mound in the fifth inning of the Yankees' baseball game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium in New York, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2015. Severino, making his debut in the majors, allowed only two hits and struck out seven. Boston won 2-1. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

The Yankees send rookie Luis Severino to the mound for his second career start tonight in Cleveland.

They’ll need a big effort from him tonight if the team wants to snap its three-game losing streak.

Severino, 21, signed as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic in 2011. He made a quick rise through the Yankees’ minor league system over the past three and a half seasons, going 23-11 with a 2.30 ERA in 67 career minor league appearances. He was promoted to Triple-A Scranton from Double-A Trenton earlier this year, and he went 7-0 with a 1.91 ERA in 11 Triple-A starts. In 61 1/3 innings for Scranton, he allowed 40 hits, walked 17 and struck out 50.

He took the loss in his debut against Boston last week, allowing one run – a David Ortiz home run – over five innings. He gave up just two hits, walked none and struck out seven. Severino’s average fastball velocity was 96.35 MPH in that game, and he also threw a change-up at 88.51 MPH and a slider at 89.49 MPH.

That’s a pretty good mix of stuff for the youngster, who’s already at 104 1/3 innings this season. How far will the Yankees push him, innings-wise and with his pitch counts? I’d expect he might be able to go six innings or 100 pitches tonight, give or take, but no matter how desperate the Yankees get down the stretch run, he probably won’t be asked to do much more than that.

Severino is a hot commodity for the Yankees. He certainly looks the part of a MLB-caliber starting pitcher and he’s still just 21 years old. It will be years before he reaches arbitration and free agency, so the team won’t sacrifice any of that potential for short term gains.

One wonders exactly how Severino fits into the Yankees rotation plans for the future.

Masahiro Tanaka, if healthy, isn’t going anywhere. Same for Michael Pineda, who won’t reach free agency until after the 2017 season. Nathan Eovaldi, who has had his struggles but has still gone 11-2, is also signed through the end of 2017. Ivan Nova, recently returned from Tommy John surgery, is under contract through the end of next year.

The problem here is CC Sabathia, who’s signed for 2016 and has a vesting option for 2017 provided he doesn’t suffer a shoulder injury next year. He’s untradable and due $25 million over the next two seasons, he’s too expensive to simply cut loose.

Of course, the Yankees could trade away one of the Pineda-Eovaldi-Nova trio to open up a spot for Severino. There could be an injury that keeps a spot open for him as well.

For now, it looks like the Yankees have made room for their young ace in the making. Will he continue to pitch well enough to keep his job in the big leagues or will he wind up back in the minors at some point?

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Five Renegades named to NY-PL All-Star game

Five Hudson Valley Renegades players were named to the New York-Penn League All-Star game, which will be played on August 18 at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen, Md.

Infielder Jake Cronenworth has been Hudson Valley’s top hitter this season and his .443 on-base percentage leads all qualifying NY-PL players.

Outfielder Cade Gotta is second in the league with 13 doubles.

Joe McCarthy, an outfielder who helped lead Virginia to an NCAA title this spring, is hitting .252 with 10 RBI and nine stolen bases.

Roel Ramirez is one of Hudson Valley’s top starting pitchers, going 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA in eight starts.

Angel Yepez is 4-1 with a 2.85 ERA in his eight starts with 35 strikeouts and seven walks over 41 innings.

The NY-PL will use a North-South format for the game this season, with Hudson Valley players competing on the North team alongside members of the Auburn Doubledays, Batavia Muckdogs, Connecticut Tigers, Lowell Spinners, Tri-City ValleyCats and the Vermont Lake Monsters.

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Mets acquire slugging Cespedes

Detroit Tigers' Yoenis Cespedes follows through on a single against the Baltimore Orioles in the first inning of a baseball game, Thursday, July 30, 2015, in Baltimore.(AP Photo/Gail Burton)

The Mets did finally make a trade for an impact bat, acquiring Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers at the deadline.

New York sends pitching prospects Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa to Detroit in return.

Cespedes came to the major leagues from Cuba in 2012, becoming an instant star with Oakland that season. Over his four-year career, which included stops in Boston and Detroit, he’s a .269 hitter with 89 home runs and 323 RBI in 518 games.

This season in Detroit, he was hitting .293 with 18 homers and 61 RBI. That’s the kind of right-handed bat the Mets so desperately needed in this lineup. Cespedes, however, doesn’t walk much, drawing just 19 free passes in 427 plate appearances this season.

The Mets will be on the hook for the rest of Cepedes’ salary this season, about $4 million or so. He will be a free agent at the end of the season and at 30 years old (his birthday is in October) he’ll be one of the top free agent targets. Perhaps this few months with the Mets encourages him to resign here, but money will largely be the biggest issue for Cespedes. Will other teams be able to offer more money and/or years?

This is a move for now, and the addition of Cespedes certainly makes the Mets lineup much scarier in the short term. If Michael Cuddyer and David Wright ever return – and who knows how productive they’ll be – this team will get even better.

The trade did not come without a cost. Fulmer was one of the Mets’ top pitching prospects, having posted a 6-2 record and a 1.88 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Binghamton this season. But with Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Zack Wheeler all slated to fill the Mets’ rotation in the years to come, parting with Fulmer was a little easier.

Cessa, 23, had reached Triple-A Las Vegas earlier this season after going 7-4 with a 2.56 ERA at Binghamton to start the year. He will give up hits, but his walk-to-strikeout ratio (4.05 strikeouts for every walk) is a very good sign that he can have success in the big leagues.

The Mets dealt from a position of strength, giving up a few pitchers that have high ceilings but weren’t likely to be contributors at Citi Field this year. In return, they got Cespedes, who just might bash the Mets into the 2015 postseason. If that’s the case, then the Mets will consider this trade a win, no matter what uniform Cespedes wears next season.

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Yankees acquire Dustin Ackley from Seattle

Newly acquired New York Yankees utilityman Dustin Ackley with the Seattle Mariners (Photo: AP)

The Yankees made their first move of trade season, acquiring utilityman Dustin Ackley from the Mariners for outfielder Ramon Flores and reliever Jose Ramirez.

Ackley has played significantly at second base and left field during his major league career, and he would look to get the most time at second base here in New York. The Yankees, however, will have to make a 25-man roster move to accommodate Ackley, which means one of the Stephen Drew/Brendan Ryan/Garrett Jones trio is likely to depart.

Does this mean the Yankees have another trade up their sleeves to flip one of those three somewhere else or will they be willing to go the designated for assignment route? We’ll see.

The second overall pick in the 2009 draft, Ackley is in his fifth major league season in Seattle. He’s never quite developed the way the Mariners had hoped.

Ackley is a career .243 hitter and he has 42 homers and 201 RBI over 2,220 career plate appearances. His career on-base percentage of .306 isn’t great either.

With the Mariners’ signing of Robinson Cano prior to the 2014 season, Ackley has been shifted to the outfield almost exclusively, splitting time between left and center field. Since the Yankees look set with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carlos Beltran and Chris Young in the outfield, it would figure that the Yankees would move him back to second due to Drew’s struggles.

As a left-handed hitter, Ackley’s power would figure to see a boost at Yankee Stadium. He’s a .296 hitter with two homers and nine RBI in 17 games at the stadium.

Ackley is under team control through the end of the 2017 season, so the Yankees will have the chance to hold onto him cheaply for two more years after this.

Moving on to the prospects on the move, we’ll start with Flores. He played in 12 games in the majors this year and the 23-year-old outfielder hit .286 with seven homers and 34 RBI for Triple-A Scranton this year. He’s been with the Yankees since 2009, making a steady progression through the farm system ever since.

Flores could still be a regular big league contributor in the years to come, or he could be more of a fourth outfielder type. We’re just not yet sure, so the Mariners snag some big league-ready talent with upside here, although his ceiling isn’t super high.

Ramirez has made 11 appearances out of the Yankees pen over the last two seasons, but it’s a bit unfair to look at those stats alone. The 25-year-old righty has been in the Yankees system since 2008 and has gone from starter to reliever over his minor league career. He’s spent each of the last three seasons at Triple-A Scranton, going 7-3 with a 3.38 ERA over 93 1/3 innings, making eight starts – all in 2013 – in 49 appearances. He’s struck out 100 against 54 walks and has saved 11 games.

Ramirez was supposed to be one of the internal options for the Yankees’ bullpen in 2014, but he got hurt and Dellin Betances instead emerged. We know how that’s gone. So like Flores, Ramirez is still young and controllable and has some upside for Seattle, although his peak is still unknown.

It’s hard to make much sense about this deal until the Yankees announce a corresponding roster move, but they certainly added some versatility to the big league bench for the stretch run at the very least. Perhaps a change of scenery can help jumpstart Ackley’s career.

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Mets trade for Carlos Gomez

The Brewers' Carlos Gomez points skyward as he approaches home plate after his solo home run against the Tigers. (Carlos Osorio / AP)

UPDATE: Well, scratch all that. It now looks like this deal has died, as the Brewers had second thoughts about Wheeler’s elbow following his Tommy John surgery. The original post remains below.

Carlos Gomez is coming back to New York.

According to many Mets beat writers and a few national baseball scribes on Twitter, the Mets have come to terms on a trade that will bring Brewers center fielder Carlos Gomez to the Mets. The Brewers will receive Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler.

Let’s start with Gomez.

A 2002 free agent signee out of the Dominican Republic, Gomez worked his way through the Mets’ farm system, reaching the big leagues in 2007. In February 2008, he was one of the key pieces  in a trade that brought Johan Santana to New York from Minnesota.

Gomez spent two frustrating seasons with the Twins before going to Milwaukee in a trade for J.J Hardy in November 2009.

Since he’s become an everyday player in 2012, Gomez has flourished as one of the best all-around outfielders in baseball. He was an All-Star in both 2013 and 2014, putting up nearly identical stat lines in each of those seasons. This year, he’s hitting .266 with eight home runs, 20 doubles and 43 RBI. He’s also well-regarded defensively, having won a Gold Glove in 2013, a season in which he added 4.6 wins with his defense alone.

Gomez turns 30 in December and he is under contract for $9 million for the 2016 season, so this is a move that helps the Mets win now and will also help them next season as well. A right-handed hitter, he’ll give the Mets a bit more balance from that side as the club is currently lefty-heavy.

It’s a big move for a team that dearly needs some offensive production. Gomez brings power, speed and solid defense but his acquisition didn’t come without a cost.

Wilmer Flores has spent three seasons bouncing around the Mets’ infield, playing second, short and third base. He’s a .244 career hitter and has 17 home runs and 82 RBI over 197 big league games. He turns 24 next month, so there’s certainly time for him to become more than the role player/platoon-type he’s looked like more of his major league career. The Brewers supposedly like Flores at third base and that should be his new home.

Zack Wheeler is out for the season, having undergone Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Wheeler came to New York in a deadline trade for Carlos Beltran in 2011 and was quite impressive in the 49 starts he made between 2013-14. In 285 1/3 major league innings, Wheeler has allowed 257 hits, struck out 271 and walked 125. Wheeler, 25, won’t be eligible for arbitration until 2017 and doesn’t reach free agency until 2020, so the Brewers should have him at a reasonable cost in their rotation from June of 2016 through the end of the 2019 season. So that’s a ton of talent for the Mets to give away.

But, the reason why the Mets would make this trade is twofold. One, they feel like they can contend right now, given the strength of their starting pitching, even with Wheeler on the DL. So it makes sense to Gomez here for the stretch run. Two, with Steven Matz leading a strong group of Mets minor league starters, replacing Wheeler may be possible with internal options.

The Mets have had the pitching. With Kelly Johnson, Juan Uribe and rookie Michael Conforto in the mix, and you can add Gomez to that, the Mets should have enough of an offense to be competitive. The chips have been pushed to the center of the table. The Mets are all in. And with a big weekend series at home against Washington coming up in the next few days, the stretch run is going to be something to watch.

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Mets add Clippard to the bullpen

In this June 14, 2015, file photo, Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Tyler Clippard throws to the plate during the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif. In their second trade in four days, the New York Mets have acquired closer Clippard from the Oakland Athletics for minor league pitcher Casey Meisner. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

The Mets followed up on their acquisition of Kelly Johnson and Juan Uribe by trading for Oakland A’s reliever Tyler Clippard, who will bring some much-needed credibility to the bullpen.

A ninth round pick of the Yankees in the 2003 draft, Clippard made six starts for the Yankees in 2007. He was traded to the Nationals for Jonathan Albaledejo during that offseason and spent the last seven years as a key reliever in Washington. He was the Nats’ closer in 2012, saving 32 games.

This past offseason, Clippard was traded to Oakland for infielder Yunel Escobar. He saved 17 games for the A’s this year, going 1-3 with a 2.79 ERA in 38 2/3 innings over 37 appearances. Clippard has walked more hitters this year (4.9 per nine innings) than he has in the past, and his strikeout rate is down.

What makes Clippard a unique case are his lefty/righty splits. A right-handed pitcher, he is dominant against lefties, holding them to a .100 batting average and a .129 slugging percentage over 81 plate appearances this season. Righties hit .247 and slug .425 against him this year.

Alex Torres, the Mets’ main lefty out of the pen this year, hasn’t been great. He’s walked 23 hitters in 31 2/3 innings. So the addition of Clippard gives the Mets a much better option against lefty hitters in the late innings. Jeurys Familia should remain in the closer’s role.

It’s quite possible that Torres will be the odd man out of the bullpen when Clippard arrives, although young Hansel Robles does have options and could be sent down freely.

Casey Meisner, the Mets’ third round pick in the 2013 draft, goes to Oakland in the deal. He was pitching for the Mets’ High-A affiliate in St. Lucie, going 3-2 with a 2.83 ERA in six starts. He had made 12 starts (7-2, 2.13 ERA) at Low-A Savannah earlier this season. There is a lot of upside for Oakland to like in him, but he’s still quite a long way from the majors. With the Mets’ surplus of starting pitching talent, it seemed like a deal the Mets were willing to make for some short-term gain in the big league bullpen.

Again, this isn’t a blockbuster move for the Mets – Clippard is a free agent at season’s end, and some team will likely pay him closer’s money – but it is a trade that makes the team better. Will it help the Mets reach the postseason?

That’s the goal, but the Mets might still have to do more in a loaded National League pennant race.

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Mets make a move

New York Mets Juan Uribe celebrates after hitting a tenth-inning, walk-off single to lift the Mets to a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers in a baseball game in New York, Sunday, July 26, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

After over half a season of offensive frustration, the Mets finally made a move to fix that, trading with Atlanta for Juan Uribe and Kelly Johnson on Friday.

Uribe has already made his presence felt, coming through with a walk-off hit in his second game in a Mets uniform.

It’s not exactly a race-shaping trade, but the Mets were able to plug two problem spots in the lineup. Johnson figures to get most of the playing time at second base and Uribe most of the time at third, with Daniel Murphy also figuring into the mix.

Uribe is in his 15th big league season and he’s still been very productive in recent seasons. Through 77 games this year, which included some time with the Dodgers before they traded him to Atlanta, Uribe is hitting .275 with eight home runs and 24 RBI. He’s been particularly effective against left-handed pitching, slugging .593 in 54 at-bats against southpaws this season.

Johnson is a .272 hitter with 10 homers and 35 RBI, having played outfield, first base and third base for the Braves this year. So he’ll give Terry Collins some extra flexibility in the lineup. Johnson got few at-bats against lefties in Atlanta, but his offensive numbers across the board were pretty similar to what he did against righties.

Neither one of these guys is going to save the Mets’ offensive by himself. They’re not pieces for the future, either, as both are free agents at season’s end. But for a relatively small cost – the Mets sent minor league right-handers John Gant and Rob Whalen in return – the Mets can now field a much more formidable, or at the very least, competent, major league lineup on most nights. They didn’t add an All-Star like Troy Tulowitzki or Justin Upton – at least not yet – but the Mets added some pop and some length to the batting order and, by extension, the bench. This trade on its own probably isn’t enough to make the Mets serious contenders for a playoff spot, but it has put the club on the right track.

Will GM Sandy Alderson keep making moves this week? Or was this all the Mets are going to do?

We’ll see.

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Catching up with the Renegades

Hudson Valley Renegades infielder Jake Cronenworth follows through on a swing during a game against Brooklyn at Dutchess Stadium on July 8, 2015. (Will Montgomery photo/Times Herald-Record)

I was over at Dutchess Stadium to get a few stories for our weekly Hudson Valley Renegades pages that run in the paper every Sunday.

It was the day after Hudson Valley’s walkoff win over Williamsport on a Jake Cronenworth home run, so I asked manager Tim Parenton about the emotional lift that comes from such a game.

“It’s a great feeling when you win a game like we did last night with Cronenworth hitting a home run,” Parenton said. “This team just plays baseball. I can’t explain it right now. They’re a group that shows up, they do their work, they do what’s expected of them and when a game happens, they play. We’ve been on the good end the last couple of weeks, rolling a little bit and I hope it stays like that throughout the rest of the year.”

With the results of last night’s games, Hudson Valley moved into a first place tie in the McNamara Division with the Brooklyn Cyclones and the Staten Island Yankees. Brooklyn, which got off to a hot start, has won just three of its last 10 games, letting the Renegades and Yankees back in the mix. There’s about seven weeks left in the season, so things can certainly change, but it’s shaping up to be a good pennant race this summer.

The New York-Penn League has three divisions, so each of the division winners qualifies for the postseason, as does the second place team with the best overall record.

Here is the Renegades coverage we’ve had in the paper so far this season in case you’ve missed any of it:

July 19: Well-traveled Greg Maisto seizes opportunity

July 11: Joe McCarthy takes familiar road to pro debut

July 4: Reliever Brandon Koch not intimidated

June 27: Michael Russell back with a bang

June 20: Tim Ingram driven to succeed

June 18: Daniel De La Calle bridges language gap

June 17: Benton Moss a man of many talents

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Who is Michael Conforto?

Michael Conforto, selected by the Mets as the 10th overall pick, was the Pac-12 Conference Player of the Year for Oregon State. Photo: AP

With the Mets still mulling their options in regards to the status of Michael Cuddyer’s knee injury, one name keeps popping up as a potential replacement.

Michael Conforto.

Who is Michael Conforto?

Let’s take a look.

The Mets selected Conforto, an outfielder, with the 10th overall pick in the first round of the 2014 draft out of Oregon State University. Conforto, who played three years of college ball, was twice named the Pac-10 Player of the Year and hit .345 with 16 doubles, seven home runs and 56 RBI as a junior.

Following the draft, Conforto was assigned to Brooklyn of the New York-Penn League, where he hit .331 with 10 doubles, three homers and 19 RBI in 42 games. He did strike out 29 times against 16 walks, but it was still a strong pro debut.

This year, Conforto was assigned to High-A St. Lucie of the Florida State League out of spring training. In 46 games there, he hit .283 with 12 doubles, seven homers and 28 RBI, earning a promotion to Double-A Binghamton.

Through 42 games at Binghamton, Conforto is hitting .325 with 12 doubles, five homers and 25 RBI. He’s also drawn 21 walks in 182 plate appearances, good for an on-base percentage of .407.

The Mets have said that they don’t think Conforto will be ready for the big leagues until 2016 at the earliest, which is the normal trajectory for a player of Conforto’s age and skill set.

Still, the Mets have a pressing need for offense. With a lack of appealing options at Triple-A, and with the front office’s reluctance to trade any of the club’s minor league assets for major league-caliber talent, Conforto has become the fans’ latest solution.

Conforto’s rise through the minor leagues has been impressive, but there’s a big leap between the pitchers he’s seeing in Binghamton and the pitchers he’ll face in the National League. Should he struggle upon a call-up, how will he bounce back if he’s optioned back to the minor leagues? Could calling up Conforto too soon damage his confidence moving forward?

The Mets really need something to help punch up the offense and they need it soon. Conforto is one answer, but he comes with plenty of question marks. Most of all, is he ready?

Maybe he is. Maybe he isn’t. Either way, he’s probably worth a shot as the Mets look to keep from sliding out of playoff contention by the time July is over.

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MLB’s second half about to begin

My annual mid-season reports on the Mets and Yankees ran in the paper today. You can follow those links to read those stories.

For the first time in a long time, both New York teams stand a pretty good chance of qualifying for the postseason. Here’s a look at some things that may be big stories over the next few months.

Mets

  • If the playoffs were to start today, the Mets wouldn’t qualify, as they’re two games behind the Cubs in the loss column for the NL’s second Wild Card. And we’ll probably know much more about the Mets’ playoff chances after the next 10 days. The Mets begin the second half with three games in St. Louis, three games in Washington and four games at home against the Dodgers, NL division leaders all. These are the teams the Mets are going to have to beat if they want to make a run in the postseason. They’ll also need to at least keep their heads above water during this stretch or run the risk of falling out of reasonable wild card contention in July.
  • Michael Cuddyer won’t play in the Mets’ first game of the second half, even though he’s healthy enough to go if his name was on the lineup card. Cuddyer hasn’t done nearly what the Mets had hoped he would to help this offense and a perpetually hobbled Cuddyer down the stretch is only going to make a weak Mets lineup weaker. Does this injury force the club to look for outfield help on the trade market?
  • How hard does management push its young pitchers? Matt Harvey is in his first season back from Tommy John surgery. Jacob deGrom is in his second MLB season. Noah Syndergaard is but a rookie. How many innings do these guys pile up this year, whether the team is chasing a playoff berth or not?

Yankees

  • The offense has been great so far, and there’s reason to believe that the Yankees will continue to keep scoring runs in the second half. But there is a little bit of a house of cards vibe with this lineup, as Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez aren’t getting any younger. Brian McCann, who gets just as many at-bats as any catcher in baseball, is also a big part of the lineup. Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury seem to come up with these little nagging injuries all the time. Simply put, can these guys stay healthy? An injury to any one or two guys out of that group won’t be crippling, but if a bunch of guys go down at the same time, this offense might be in trouble.
  • Thanks to a lights-out bullpen and an offense that scores runs, the Yankees have managed to survive with a starting rotation that’s above average but not great. Will the team make a move for another starting pitcher? How long will CC Sabathia remain in the rotation if he continues to pitch this way? Will Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda stay healthy? Does Louis Severino get a shot in the bigs? There’s not a huge problem with this Yankees rotation as is, but it doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence heading into October. Are the Yankees willing to make it better for a postseason run? Time will tell.
  •  Rookies on the way. The Yankees have already called up Rob Refsnyder to the majors and it looks like he’s going to at least platoon with Stephen Drew at second base for now. Does he win the job outright pretty soon or will he be back in Scranton? The Yankees have a few other promising position player prospects who aren’t too far from being MLB-ready. Is Aaron Judge ready to take over for Carlos Beltran in the outfield? Does Greg Bird get the call at first base should Teixeira get injured? If Gary Sanchez is ready, could he take some of the load off McCann or make for some sort of platoon situation at DH? Perhaps some of these guys get flipped in a trade, but it would be interesting to see them get a chance to play in pinstripes at some point this summer.

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    Will Montgomery

    Will Montgomery covers boys' soccer, girls' basketball, boys' and girls' swimming and diving, boys' lacrosse and baseball (including the Hudson Valley Renegades) for Varsity845.com and the Times Herald-Record. Prior to joining the TH-R in November ... Read Full
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