Blast heeds Churchill's words, works to stay in playoff race

Bill Tanton

March 30, 1992|By Bill Tanton

Only Blast coach Kenny Cooper would even try to handle adversity this way.

The Blast is hanging by a thread to its playoff hopes. Several of the team's key players are sidelined by injuries. Cooper admits he needs miracles.

So when the players came to the Arena for yesterday's do-or-die game against Dallas, they found this message on the bulletin board in the dressing room:

"Never, never, never give up."

Winston Churchill

Cooper's ploy worked. The Blast sucked it up and beat Dallas, 5-3, before a delighted crowd of 10,285. The win guaranteed that Baltimore would not be eliminated going into the final weekend of regular-season play.

"I still think we have a great chance to make the playoffs," Cooper was saying. "We just need one more miracle [Cleveland and Wichita to lose next Friday] and a couple other things to fall in place [a Blast win Saturday]."

Will the Blast surprise everybody and make it into postseason play?

"I've been in this league 12 years," said Blast goalie Cris Vaccaro. "I've seen a lot of funny things happen."

Cooper may have to dig deep into Bartlett's Quotations to pull this one off.

* The Orioles can send Cal Ripken home from spring training right now, as far as I'm concerned. Cal's third-inning home run against Toronto yesterday raised his spring batting average to .436. And this with people insisting he can't possibly repeat his MVP year of 1991.

* Overshadowed by Duke's miracle finish Saturday night to beat Kentucky in OT and advance the Blue Devils to their fifth straight Final Four is the great coaching job turned in by the Wildcats' Rick Pitino. As I said, it took a miracle for the nation's No. 1 team to beat him.

Christian Laettner's 15-footer as time ran out did more than provide us a memorable college basketball moment. In my travels yesterday, people were saying it was the most exciting thing they'd ever seen in any sport. It certainly came at a time when sports can use a little uplifting.

* A look into the future: Laettner will become a very good pro. Bobby Hurley, a great college player, will not. At his height (6 feet) and without a quick release jumper, Hurley may not be a pro at all.

* Baltimore hockey fans are incredible. When the Skipjacks came home for back-to-back weekend games, they were exhausted, injured, in last place and mired in an eight-game losing streak. The two largest crowds of the AHL season turned out at the Arena -- 9,410 and 8,933, a total of 18,343 for two nights of minor-league hockey. I still think Baltimore could have become a good NHL town.

* To those who think March Madness and the Final Four are the ultimate in basketball, listen to this from the Portland Trail Blazers' Clyde Drexler:

"There's nothing like the NBA. In college, a team might have two or three outstanding players. In the NBA, every man on the floor is a great athlete."

* You're a genuine football nut if you can name five players in the World League besides ex-Maryland quarterback Stan Gelbaugh. Gelbaugh threw three touchdown passes in defeat for the London Monarchs over the weekend.

* The best goalie in the country at this point in the college lacrosse season may be Towson State's Jerry DeLorenzo -- who played for Syracuse last year and wasn't even slated to be Towson's starter when the season began.

Towson, which is 4-0 after its 13-8 win over C.W. Post Saturday, couldn't have won that one without DeLorenzo and his 12 saves. Coach Carl Runk's Tigers will need every weapon they have to beat Loyola at Minnegan Stadium this Saturday night.

* Don't worry about a rainout for the Orioles' long awaited opener in the new ballpark a week from today. The Prescription Athletic Turf field, invented by a Purdue professor and installed at a cost of $1.2 million, can pump out 75,000 gallons of water an hour. Rainouts will be rare indeed in the O's new digs.

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