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ESG Day One: Western softball splits

Corrin Genovese made it apparent on Thursday she is going to have an impact on these Games.

The infielder from Williamsville North went 3 for 5 for the Western softball team in a 2-1 loss in nine innings to Long Island. In the second game against Central she was 2 for 4 with two RBI and two runs scored in a 7-2 victory.

Long Island won the game on a wild pitch in the ninth inning. LI had runners on second and third with two outs. The next batter struck, but the pitch sailed too high to be caught and the winning run scored.

Western was able to put that loss behind them in time to beat Central in its second game. After being no-hit for four innings, Western broke up the scoreless game scoring five runs in the fifth. Chelsea Plimpton pitched a five-hitter to get the win.

Western continues its bid to medal with two games today playing New York City at 9 a.m. and Hudson Valley at 11:30 a.m.

---Mary Jo Monnin

ESG Day One: Western hockey starts strong

In case you missed it in my crazy travelogue travel-blog, both Western ice hockey teams won their openers.

Marquel Slaughter was there and sent along these details:

The Western girls downed Hudson Valley, 5-0, thanks to two goals by Julianna Iafallo and one each from Emily Pfalzer, Kelly Seward and Ashley Ryan.

The boys beat Long Island, 4-2, in a come-from-behind win. Bryan Komasara of North Tonawanda tied it at 2-2 with a slap shot power play goal five minutes into the second period. Josh Kelich put Western ahead, 3-2, with 8:43 left and Alex Iafallo added an empty-netter. 

---Keith McShea

ESG Day One: Long Island beats Western in boys lacrosse, 10-4

Long Island's five goals in the third period proved to be too much for Western to overcome as it dropped the opening scholastic lacrosse match of the Empire State Games, 10-4. Reed, Coholan, Derek Dejoe and Ryan Yunker scored goals for Western.

After third quarter: Western trailed, 3-2, at halftime, but Long Island pulled away by scoring five goals in the third quarter and now has an 8-3 lead heading into the final period. Long Island scored all of its goals within the first six minutes of the quarter.

At halftime: Zach Reed and Greg Coholan scored two goals for Western, who trails heavily favored Long Island, 3-2, at the half the scholastic boys lacrosse match at Canisius College.

Long Island scored three consecutive goals in the first quarter before Reed scored with 2:49 left. Western's defense tightened in the second and Long Island didn't have a shot on goal until four minutes into the quarter.

---Rodney McKissic

Live from the ESG opening ceremonies

We're here at the University at Buffalo for tonight's opening ceremonies of the 32nd Empire State Games.

If you haven't checked it out already, our preview was in today's paper.

5:41 p.m. After fighting some traffic, we have arrived at the press box at UB Stadium. On the way up, the grills were heating up in the concession stands. People are roaming around Empire Village, enjoying the live music before the ceremonies begin. 

Some dark clouds are coming in, and there were a couple rolls of thunder. We will keep you updated on the weather, as well as all the other happenings here at the opening ceremonies.

6:00 p.m. One hour until opening ceremonies, and activity is starting within the stadium. Event staff has met and given instructions to volunteers. On the field, there are two video screens on either side of the main stage showing ESG video. It features video clips of different sports and messages from many of the sponsors. Behind the stadium, we can see some of the athletes gathering.

6:22 p.m. Fans are filing into the stadium as we draw closer to the ceremonies. It's windy outside, and there is a huge dark cloud looming over one end of the stadium. The rest of the skies are clear with only a few clouds. The hometown fans are out in full force. A few are sitting in front of the pressbox wearing t-shirts that read "The West is Best" on the back. 

6:33 p.m. Keith McShea checked out some of the pre-ceremony activity and just sent this in from his phone.There was a huge line of spectators lined up at the gate, extending all the way along the concrete walk to the stadium and back near the parking lots. Once the gates opened at 6, the line moved quickly into the stadium.

Also moving along was the huge darkening cloud that hovered over the stadium and something to do with those thunder rumbles earlier. The skies seem to be clearing up and the breeze that was whipping around has subsided a bit.

I walked through the Empire Family Village -- set up in the parking lot closest to the stadium entrance -- with photographer Mark Mulville.The tented area was getting good foot traffic from fans and some athletes, including the Adirondack men's hockey team.

Victor E. Bull was hanging out and posing for photos while fans got their picture taken with the ESG torch that has made the round of the area -- and the state -- during the torch tour.

And check this out -- the paint-splattered Rusin is the brother of Mark Rusin, the former Amherst standout athlete who swam in the Empire State Games and played football at Penn State. Here's a plug for Blair's art:

And a late tip -- don't bring an umbrella. A couple of frustrated fans were walking them back to their cars -- umbrellas are prohibited. 

The good news at the gate is that there is free Intense chocolate milk. You'll have to excuse me now. I'm thirsty." 

6:38 p.m. This just in from Keith McShea. Olympian Steve Mesler will be carrying the torch for Western. He grew up in Buffalo and won a gold medal in bobsledding at the 2010 Games. 
6:50 p.m. Only a few minutes away now. On stage, the Buffalo Chips, an all-male acapella group from UB, is performing "Fireflies" by Owl City. Behind the stage you can see all the athletes lined up and ready to march in at 7.
6:55 p.m. Fans are now in the upperdecks on both sides of the stadium.
7:02 p.m. The Buffalo Chips have left the stage, and a group of dignitaries have now been seated. Steve Tasker is serving as master of ceremonies and welcomed everyone to the ESG. He mentioned the games being canceled last year, but said, "We are back and stronger than ever." He also took time to thank all of the sponsors.
7:09 p.m. Going over a few housekeeping items, asking people to turn off cell phones and to remain seated during the fireworks.
The Masters division athletes processed in first. Adirondack region is coming in next. The athletes are slowly filling in the football field.   
7:14 p.m. Central region is next (looks like we are going alphabetical).  All of the athletes are wearing matching warm-up suits, and each region carries in a sign with their colors on it.
7:18 p.m. Hudson Valley is coming out now. Uniform colors for this weekend are : Adirondack- gold, Long Island-Gray, Central- light blue, Hudson Valley- green, New York City-orange, and Western will be wearing navy blue.
7:22 p.m. Long Island is next,followed by New York City. A few of the athletes did flips and tumbles as they led their team out on the track. City is a very animated group, jumping up and down and waving as they walk.
7:28 p.m. Western is now entering the stadium to a huge round of cheers. Steve Mesler is wearing his Olympic medal and walking at the head of the group.
7:34 p.m. Western is right in front of the stage. All the athletes are moving up to get close to the main stage, some are even running. The Buffalo Chips are back to sing the national anthem.
7:40 p.m. Former Congressman Jack Quinn took the stage to speak. He wished the athletes luck and told them to have fun.
7:43 p.m.  Marquel was with some of the Western athletes before the ceremonies. He spoke with Haley Welch, a women's hockey player from East Amherst. She will be playing through an injured foot. The doctor told her she couldn't run, but she could skate.
That's all Western needs from her.
7:53 p.m. There's been a series of speakers all saying the same thing. They thank the sponsors and wish the athletes luck. One nice feature is a sign language translator on stage, who they are showing in the corner of the large video screens so the whole audience can see her.  Carol Ash, Commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation, made a shout out to the athletes from Boston. Wrong state.
7:57 p.m. All the athletes pledged to follow the rules and maintain sportsmanship during the games, reciting the pledge along with a speaker on stage.
7:58 p.m.  Here comes the torch. It is being run around the track by a male and female athlete, Clare Crowley a Western Women's open basketball player and New York City boxer Daniel Gonzalez of Ozone Park, Queens. Crowley is the girls basketball coach at Williamsville North. It was brought to the the side of the stage for the final lighting. Many of the fans are on their feet cheering.
8:02 p.m. The stage is being cleared and prepped for Third Eye Blind. While they are working, they are showing a video of past ESG athletes and game footage.
8:10 p.m. Steve Tasker came back to get all the athletes cheering, calling them out by region. New York City was as loud or louder than Western. After he spoke, they began showing yet another video. Many of the athletes are beginning to sit down on the field.
8:18 p.m. Running a little ahead of schedule. Now everyone is left waiting for the music to start. Good thing they have those videos to keep playing.
8:28 p.m. The show is underway. Third Eye Blind is on stage, and fireworks will go off during the last two songs.
8:33 p.m. A good number of athletes left the field instead of staying for the entertainment. Some are walking out as they have begun to play.
8:45 p.m.  Here's a quote from Fred Smith, Empire State Games director, courtesy of Keith McShea. Smith said, "It was a wonderful evening. The weather held off for us, the crowd was enthusiastic - we had a great crowd. I couldn't be any happier about the kickoff Buffalo has given to the return of the Empire State Games."
Third Eye Blind is currently rocking their best known song, "Semi-Charmed Life".
8:58 p.m. The athletes seem to be enjoying themselves. A few kids even went crowd surfing. Third Eye Blind is currently playing "Never Let You Go", another one of their most poplar songs from the late 90's.
Attendance estimate from Fred Smith is 15,000.
9:12 p.m. They keep bringing me back to my childhood. Just played "Jumper", another big radio hit from 1997. Getting dark outside. Fireworks should be coming soon.
9:22 p.m. The fireworks are starting as Third Eye Blind is finishing up their set list. Great way to end the ceremonies and our coverage. Check back all weekend for more coverage of the 2010 ESG.

---Amanda Bremer and Marquel Slaughter


ESG hoping for clear skies for tonight's opening ceremonies

I just called Empire State Games director Fred Smith about the plans for opening ceremonies tonight (7 p.m. at the University at Buffalo), since there have already been a few flashes of stormy weather and there is a 30 percent chance of rain as well as thunderstorms in the forecast this evening.

Basically, the show will go on. Since the chance for bad weather is relatively low -- and if showers come, as they have this morning, they have passed through quickly -- plans are to keep the ceremony at UB Stadium and wait out any delays that occur.

"We don't have an a indoor facility to move everyone," said Smith. "If we have lightning we'll get people to shelter -- the athletes will go inside Alumni Arena and the spectators will go in the concourse of the stadium and we'll try and wait it out. If it's a light rain, we'll go on.

"We have our fingers crossed and we'll say some prayers and hopefully we're not affected by the weather. And that goes not only for tonight but the entire week. It would be nice to see the sunny, dry weather we've had since we've been out here (as officials have prepared for the Games the last two weeks). If there is constant rain day after day, it does wreak havoc with our schedule since we are such a short tournament. But we're thinking positively and we think we'll be fine."

At the 2008 Games in Binghamton, the opening ceremonies were moved from Binghamton University's soccer stadium inside to BU's Events Arena. BU and organizers did a great job in relocating.

However, if memory serves, the weather then was much worse, call was made quite early (in the morning if not the night before) to move the ceremony and limit attendance, and the production was not on the scale of what is scheduled for tonight (with a headliner like Third Eye Blind).

---Keith McShea

Opening day for Empires, our preview, and a new Web site

Personally, I could have used a less-busy week to have us go to a new Web site. Like maybe a week when our area isn't hosting the Empire State Games in its return after a one-year layoff :-).

By now you've seen the new look -- generally I like it. Gotta love the bigger photos. I'm sure we'll be working out the kinks in several areas, so please be patient, but definitely let us know what you think.

All of the links that were based on our high school homepage are unfortunately gone with the change in our system. I'll try to put up a post with all of those links so all that information can be accessible.

Also, there are some problems with links on blogs from the last few days not working. Our apologies. That's a result of the switchover in sites and it is something we're working on.

As for the Empire State Games, our preview is online (that's the main story with other features linked there). See what I mean about the great big pictures? Definitely check out the sport-by-sport preview

ESG fans and organizers have to hope that the today's 30 percent chance of rain has already been taken care of with a few sparse storms this morning. Opening ceremonies are at 7 tonight at the University at Buffalo. The forecast, however, says there will be a 30 percent of rain and thunderstorms through the evening hours. 

As I waited out one of the storms in the parking lot at One News Plaza, I heard Janet Snyder and KISS 98.5 give the Games some big-time love. Snyder, who will be broadcasting at the Empire Family Village that begins at 3:30 at UB, gave away opening ceremony tickets to any ESG family members calling in.

She gave away three sets on the air, including to Williamsville South field hockey coach Mary Ferenczy, whose daughter, Alison, is on the Western field hockey team.

Mary mentioned other top players Allie Ahern (Williamsville North) and Allison Brace (South), prompting Snyder to ask, "and do you have to be named Allison to be a good field hockey player?" Nice.

---Keith McShea

Research material: ESG

Get ready for an attack of the links. Here's a bunch I zipped through in preparation of the Empire State Games.

* A Wall Street Journal story on "Buffalo Rescues Empire Games."

* offers some ridiculously good coverage of ESG lacrosse.

* This is the architectural tourist stop where the rowing is being held.

* Review the ESG torch tour.

* Our cover photo took place at UB's Baird Point

* One cover subject was Kenmore West grad Hans Schroeder, who stars at Nazareth ... another was Orchard Park and Canisius College synchronized swimmer Jessica Grogan.

* Some great ESG softball info at a Canisius College softball blog. 

* Newfane native Brianna Steel's Tulsa University bio.

* Several members of the men's open soccer team play for FC Buffalo.

* A Division I women's hoop standout is Megan Shoniker of Rhode Island.

Out-of-town media ... 

* James Johnson, ace reporter from the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, has his take

* The ESG Hall of Fame reporter section continues with Greg Brownell of the Glens Falls Post-Star and Ken McMillan of the Middletown Times-Herald Record.

* THIS is why Brownell is a Hall of Famer. Check out his blog. He wrote a guide like I wanted to -- except there are only seven days in a week.

* MaxPreps' John Schiano has some great names from the past as well as some all-state names from this year. 

* SIlive's Tom Dowd on the return of the games and some nice background on New York City regional director Lou Vazquez. 

* Kevin Stevens of favorite site Binghamton has his preview in the Press & Sun-Bulletin.

* Quality local stuff from the Poughkeepsie Journal -- and maybe more quality use of the word "blurb."

* Phil Blackwell of has some Skaneateles athletes participating for Central. 

* This is how big Long Island's Sachem school district is -- it has a whole site covering it and a ton of athletes at the Games.

---Keith McShea

Video: Gold medalists ready for the return of the Empire State Games

Check out a special summertime edition of PrepTalkTV as we talk to some gold medalists about the return of the Empire State Games.

It also provides a sneak peak -- as there was on the front page of today's sports section -- of the cover of Wednesday's special section previewing the Games.

Also, News Business Reporter Matt Glynn did a great front page story summing up the Games' return from Wednesday's opening ceremonies to First Niagara's efforts to fund the events to the financial impact on Western New York.

---Keith McShea

Map your way around the Empire State Games

Here's a map I put together -- with the help of my good friends from Google -- of the open and scholastic sports sites for this week's Empire State Games. 

View ESG Buffalo in a larger map

I put it together to help plan our coverage and my travels this week. I'll have more links and info leading up to the Games and we'll have a ton of info in our preview edition on Wednesday.

---Keith McShea

Counting down to the Empire State Games

If I had hops like that pole vaulter, I might have a better angle on this photo. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)

The Empire State Games make their return from a one-year hiatus when opening ceremonies are held at the University at Buffalo on July 21.

The preparations have been going on for more than a year -- one of the latest signs is literally a big one: a billboard visible by motorists heading downtown on the 33.

The athletic action is July 22-25. For more information, stay tuned to the Prep Talk blog, check out the ESG summer games home page, the local site and the ESG facebook page.

* * *

The rosters were announced on July 7. There have already been several updates.

* * *

Also keep track of our countdown in the paper, which is appearing every day until opening ceremonies -- each day there is some basic info along with a different fast fact:

13 days to go (July 8): The 2010 Summer Games are just one part of what is officially known as the Gov. Hugh L. Carey Empire State Games, named for the governor who founded the Games in 1978. There are also Winter Games (every February in Lake Placid), Senior Games (last month in Cortland) as well as Games for the Physically Challenged (several times during the year).

12 days to go (July 9): This year marks the fifth time the Empire State Games will be held in Buffalo, putting it in second place among Games hosts behind Syracuse (12). Buffalo was the first city other than Syracuse to host the games (1985 and '86) and it also hosted in 1996 and 2003.

11 days to go (July 10): In high school sports terms, the Western Region includes all of Section VI as well as much of Section V (the Rochester area) and a portion of Section IV (Corning/Binghamton/Ithaca area). Western's counties are: Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Wyoming, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Yates and Steuben.

10 days to go (July 11): There are six regions that compete at the Empire State Games: Western, Central (including Syracuse, Binghamton, Ithaca), Adirondack (including Albany up to the North Country), Hudson Valley (including Poughkeepsie and Westchester County), New York City and Long Island.

Nine days to go (July 12): Empire State Games competition is divided into two categories: open and scholastic. For the most part, scholastic consists of high school athletes (technically it is for those athletes who are 17 years old as of Aug. 31) while the open divisions are for college-aged and older athletes.

Eight days to go (July 13): This year's Games have an overwhelming amount of events at or near the University at Buffalo, which also hosts the opening ceremonies. UB hosts track and field, volleyball, field hockey, tennis, diving, archery and canoe/kayak. Across the street at the Audubon Recreation Complex will be both boys and girls ice hockey, softball and baseball. All soccer games will be just up the road at the North French Soccer Complex.

Empire State Games director Fred Smith, Western Region director Doug Ames and Local Organizing Committee chairman Ralph Galanti are joined by Western athletes at Tuesday's press conference downtown at The Hatch. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)

Seven days to go (July 14): While much of the competition is based at or near the University at Buffalo, there are major events at Canisius College, Niagara University, Buffalo State and Erie Community College's city campus. Canisius will host men's basketball and men's scholastic lacrosse while Niagara will be the venue for women's basketball and women's scholastic lacrosse. Buffalo State hosts wrestling, gymnastics, synchronized swimming and judo. ECC's Flickinger Center will be the location for swimming and boxing.

Six days to go (July 15): The Western Region has dominated the Empire State Games medal count. It has taken home the most medals in 28 out of 31 Games. At the last Games -- hosted by Binghamton in 2008 -- Western won the overall medal count with a total of 222 while Long Island was second with 200; Western also won the most golds with 79; Long Island and Adirondack were next with 66 each.

Five days to go (July 16): The last time the Games were held in Buffalo, the Western Region romped to a huge medal advantage. Western had the most medals in all three categories -- gold, silver and bronze -- and finished with more than 100 total medals than the runner-up. Western had 287 to Hudson Valley's 170. Western won team golds in baseball, basketball (women's open), ice hockey (men's scholastic), men's rugby (now a masters sport), soccer (scholastic men's and women's) and volleyball (men's and women's scholastic and women's open).

Four days to go (July 17): The most dominant team in Empire State Games history? Western synchronized swimming. In 31 years, Western has 31 golds in team competition. Western has often swept every medal in the competition, as it did in the 2008 Games. Orchard Park's Jessica Grogan led the medal haul that year with four golds: figures, solo, trio and team. Grogan will compete again this year.

Three days to go (July 18): We didn't have a fast-fact in Sunday's paper, instead we had an expanded info box that ran with my story on Lou Reuter (also check out a video). 

Here's the handy-dandy clickable sport-by-sport Web version of the roster of local athletes participating for Western.

Two days to go (July 19): Some of the athletes who have competed in the Empire State Games include: boxing's Mike Tyson and Joe Mesi, basketball's Christian Laettner and Chris Mullin, wrestling's Jeff Blatnick and hockey's Patrick Kane and Tim Kennedy.

Here's a map we put together for the Games.

One day to go (July 20): one After the astounding 31-year gold-medal run by the Western synchronized swimming team, the next-best current gold medal streaks are located on the women's volleyball courts. The Western women's scholastic volleyball team has won seven straight golds, while the New York City women's open team has won five straight. The second-longest streak on the all-time list belongs to another volleyball team -- Western men's scholastic won 11 straight golds from 1996 to 2006.

As this countdown comes to an end with Wednesday's start of the Games, soon a new countdown will begin as Rochester prepares to host in 2011.

Here's a front page story by News Business Reporter Matt Glynn on return of the Games, their financial impact and First Niagara's efforts to fund them.

Check out a video of ESG gold medalists talking about the return of the Games -- it's also a sneak peak of the cover of Wednesday's Games preview issue. Wednesday's paper will include a sport-by-sport guide, a map, schedule and other details about the Games.

---Keith McShea
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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

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