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  • 13 May
    North Carolina Central is looking to take another step in what has been a banner season, but tradition-rich Grambling State is standing in the way.The teams meet Saturday in the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta.This is the first postseason appearance in the Division I era for N.C. Central, which was the outright champion in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference after sharing the title the previous two seasons.We have a chance to make some history, N.C. Central coach Jerry Mack said. We have a chance to go out there and play one more game and everybody knows this will be the last game of 2016.The Eagles (9-2), who are from Durham, N.C., have won nine consecutive games since opening the season with a loss to cross-city opponent Duke and then falling the following week at Western Michigan, which remains undefeated.The credentials are impressive for Grambling (11-1) as well after winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference. Only a 10-point loss at Arizona prevented an unblemished record for the Tigers.These Football Championship Subdivision teams give up the chance to participate in the FCS playoffs to play in the Celebration Bowl.Were pleased with being able to represent the SWAC for the Celebration Bowl, said Grambling coach Broderick Fobbs, who has directed his first SWAC title team. We have the ability to win in different ways, scoring in different ways and stopping people different ways. Thats the definition of a champion.N.C. Central didnt have to share the MEAC title because it defeated arch-rival North Carolina A&T to end the regular season Nov. 19.Its what we work for, what we strive for every year, Mack said. We finally got outright champs. Words cannot express how proud everybody is.Mack said that playing in the Celebration Bowl gives the university a chance to enhance its brand on a bigger stage. He said the Eagles were motivated by seeing N.C. A&T generally receive more attention.We felt like we had been disrespected a lot during the course of the year, he said. (Now we have another) chance to showcase our talents. ... We still have work for our final destiny and thats to be No. 1 (among historically black colleges and universities).Grambling is a 25-time champion of the SWAC, defeating two-time defending champion Alcorn State in this years conference championship game Dec. 3 in Houston.With Saturdays Celebration Bowl in the Georgia Dome, it will mark the third game in a row in an NFL venue for the Tigers. They played in the Superdome in New Orleans in beating Southern in the annual Bayou Classic and then played the SWAC title game at NRG Stadium in Houston.In the SWAC title game, the Tigers overcame a sluggish start.Weve won many different ways, Fobbs said. Weve been very dominant early. Weve been in close battles and to win at the end. Then there have been times when weve been down and had to come back.Mack said the SWAC tends to be more pass-oriented that the MEAC, and he is aware that Grambling has the personnel to back that up. Grambling quarterback Devante Kincade has thrown for more than 2,800 yards.The Tigers also have big-play capability from running back and return specialist Martez Carter, who was the Most Valuable Player in the SWAC championship game with 348 all-purpose yards.With nearly a month between games for the Eagles, there has been ample opportunity to consider tweaks that might be beneficial.Just fine tune our systems that are already in place, Mack said. Any wrinkles that we want to put in. Weve had plenty of time to look at the game plan and see what needs to be fixed. NFL Stitched Jerseys .C. -- Al Jefferson joked that he feels he can score from anywhere on the court. Cheap NBA Jerseys China . 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MINNEAPOLIS -- Its been a rough go of it for Ervin Santana in his first season-and-a-half with Minnesota.On Wednesday, he finally resembled the pitcher the Twins thought they were getting when they signed him to a $55 million, four-year deal.Santana struck out eight and walked none in a two-hitter that led the Twins over the Oakland Athletics 4-0.Santana (3-7) needed just 100 pitches for his eighth shutout and 15th complete game, helping the Twins take two of three from the As. Joe Mauer had three hits and an RBI.Every time you do it with a new team, its even better, said Santana, who was suspended for 80 games last year after testing positive for a banned performance-enhancing substance. It builds more confidence for me and for the team.Sonny Gray (3-8) gave up one run, six hits and four walks in six innings, losing his seventh straight decision, the longest active skid in the American League. Billy Butlers two-out double in the fifth and Stephen Vogts leadoff single in the eighth were Oaklands lone hits.I havent had many decisions in a year and a half of letting a guy go out there to try get a shutout, Twins manager Paul Molitor said. But he was dominant.Minnesota got off to a historically bad start and quickly got buried in the AL Central. But the Twins have won four of their last five games and each of their last three series at home.The bleary-eyed clubs were back at it on Wednesday less than 12 hours after finishing a rain-delayed game that started at 9:52 p.m.I know it was a long night last night, Santana said. I just came today and tried to put zeros on the board.Both teams appeared to be swinging heavy bats, and Minnesota stranded 12, going 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.Santana frustrated Oaklands hitters all afternoon. Josh Reddick slammed his bat in anger after popping out to the catcher in the fourth inning and Khris Davis did the same after a strikeout in the seventh.We had some good at-bats off him at times and we had some non-competitive at-bats, Voogt said.dddddddddddd When a pitcher has his stuff and you dont have consistent at-bats against him its going to be hard to win. He was very, very good today.As sharp as Santana was, he didnt have much cushion for most of the afternoon because the Twins kept leaving runners on base against Gray. They left nine on in the first six innings before finally scratching two more runs across.Danny Santana had three hits, including a double, a triple and a run scored for Minnesota.SANTANAS GEMIt was Santanas first complete game since a one-hitter for the Angels against Arizona on June 16, 2012. It was the first shutout by a Twins pitcher since Andrew Albers in 2013.SPEEDY NUNEZTwins All-Star Eduardo Nunez stole his 20th base this season in the third inning. That made him the first Twins player to swipe at least 20 bases before the All-Star break since Carlos Gomez had 21 in 2008.As BULLPENOaklands bullpen entered with a 5.63 ERA in its 22 games. Opponents were hitting .312 off of As relievers, and they had another rough day on Wednesday.Marc Rzepczynski was charged with two runs on one hit and didnt record an out in the seventh inning. And John Axford didnt give him any help when he walked Max Kepler with the bases loaded and gave up a sacrifice fly to Eddie Rosario to give Santana some breathing room.TRAINERS ROOMAthletics: RHP Fernando Rodriguez was played on the disabled list after an MRI revealed a strained rotator cuff. Manager Bob Melvin said there is no timetable for a return, but he would not need surgery.Twins: SS Eduardo Escobar was available after missing the last two games with a strained hamstring.UP NEXTAthletics: LHP Rich Hill (8-3, 2.31) will start the series opener at Houston on Thursday.Twins: Minnesota opens a four-game series in Texas on Thursday, sending RHP Tyler Duffey (4-6, 4.62) to the mound against RHP Chi Chi Gonzalez (0-1, 9.53). ' ' '