Don't look now, but the Mets are undefeated

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Don't look now, but the Mets are undefeated

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The season is off to an unexpected start for the New York Mets. They're the ones getting big hits while their opponents make the crucial mistakes.Daniel Murphy singled home the winning run in the ninth inning and the undefeated Mets took advantage of a throwing error by reliever Henry Rodriguez to beat the Washington Nationals 4-3 on Monday night.Kirk Nieuwenhuis hit his first major league homer for the Mets, who are 4-0 for the first time since 2007. After a surprising sweep of Atlanta, New York rallied from a three-run deficit before a crowd of 23,970. Several fans filed out chanting "Undefeated! Undefeated!""Everybody is excited. We know that it's a long year, but we want to show our fans that maybe we are better than everyone expects us to be," manager Terry Collins said. "It's never about the effort with these guys."Coming off three straight losing seasons since Citi Field opened, the Mets were projected by most to finish last in the NL East this year. But they did upgrade the bullpen last winter and they received another excellent effort Monday from a retooled unit that ranked 28th in the majors in 2011 with a 4.33 ERA.Miguel Batista got out of trouble in the sixth, Ramon Ramirez escaped a seventh-inning jam with a double-play ball and Jon Rauch (1-0) worked two hitless innings for his first win with New York. Mets relievers are 2-0 with a 0.68 ERA in 13 1-3 innings.Pinch-hitter Mike Baxter drew a leadoff walk from Rodriguez (0-1) in the ninth and Ruben Tejada sacrificed with two strikes. Rodriguez looked at second, then threw low to first and the ball got by second baseman Danny Espinosa."I'm strong, so sometimes I throw sidearm and the ball moves," Rodriguez said.New third base coach Tim Teufel initially waved Baxter all the way around, but he threw up a late stop sign and Baxter slipped to the turf as he tried to slam on the brakes halfway down the line. He got back to his feet and scrambled back to third, barely beating Espinosa's perfect throw across the diamond."The only thing I wanted to make sure is, I didn't want to make that long throw, you know, throw behind him and have him get up and go straight (home)," Espinosa said. "So I wanted to make sure he had kind of a step to commit over there."Espinosa was shaken up after catching an elbow in the head from Tejada as he ran through the bag, but the Washington second baseman stayed in the game."It's just one of those crazy plays where if you just execute from the beginning, it's a little bit better. But things happen," Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman said.With first base open and David Wright on deck, the Nationals went after Murphy, who made a diving play at second base to end the top of the ninth. He fisted a looping single to right over a drawn-in infield that dropped in front of Jayson Werth.New York was 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position before Murphy came through. The Mets mobbed him near first base and a teammate pelted him in the face with a cream pie as he was interviewed on the field.Adam LaRoche extended his fast start with a pair of RBI singles for the Nationals. Washington fell to 2-2 in its first full season under Davey Johnson, who managed the Mets to their most recent World Series championship in 1986.Edwin Jackson squandered an early three-run lead in his Nationals debut and was pulled for a pinch-hitter after five innings. The right-hander signed an 11 million, one-year contract after helping St. Louis win the World Series last season.Looking for a bounce-back season, Mets starter Mike Pelfrey gave up 10 hits over 5 2-3 innings in his first outing of the year. But he struck out eight, matching a career high."If I can take that stuff out there every single time, it's going to be a good year," Pelfrey said.Nieuwenhuis was called up after newly acquired center fielder Andres Torres re-injured his calf on opening day. The 24-year-old outfielder had two hits in his big league debut Saturday and hit a two-run shot in the fourth inning Monday to tie it at 3."It could be the start of what might be a very good major league career," Collins said. "After he tied it up, the intensity in the dugout picks up."The drive to right, estimated at 385 feet, cleared the new fence at Citi Field and clanked off the old one, making it the second home run in four games (both hit by the Mets) that would have stayed in the ballpark under the previous configuration.Nieuwenhuis' parents were at the game, and he got the home run ball back as a souvenir. He plans to give it to his father -- even though it was his mother's birthday.Trailing 3-0 and booed as he stepped to the plate, the 6-foot-7 Pelfrey sparked New York's offense in the third. He ripped his fifth career double into the left-field corner and scrambled to third on Tejada's long flyout. Wright's two-out single made it 3-1.NOTES:Nationals LHP Tom Gorzelanny tossed 2 2-3 innings of scoreless relief in his season debut. ... New York 1B Ike Davis is 0 for 15.

Prairie Ridge OL Jeff Jenkins commits to Iowa

Prairie Ridge OL Jeff Jenkins commits to Iowa

Prairie Ridge junior offensive linemen recruit Jeff Jenkins (6-foot-4, 260 pounds) made an unofficial Sunday Junior Day visit to the University of Iowa and came away verbally committed to the Hawkeyes.

"I didn't want to wait," Jenkins said. "I knew I wanted to be a Hawkeye when I met the coaches at Iowa and got on campus."

Jenkins, an All-State linemen for the 2016 Class 6A state champion Wolves, received a scholarship offer from Iowa back on Jan. 13. He pointed towards the Hawkeyes history of developing NFL caliber offensive linemen as one of several keys in his early decision.

"Iowa has a great tradition of offensive linemen," Jenkins said. "I was also just really impressed with the coaches at Iowa along with the facilities and everything that they have to offer. I just knew that I couldn't pass up the opportunity at Iowa. I knew it was home."

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

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USA TODAY

Northwestern holds off Ohio State for fifth Big Ten win, first win in Columbus in 40 years

It's not something that's been said often over the decades, but Northwestern is one of the best teams in the Big Ten.

That's the story the standings tell, and with another week of the 2016-17 season in the books, the Wildcats sit at 5-2 in conference play, good for the second-best mark in the league.

That fifth conference win came Sunday afternoon with a 74-72 defeat of Ohio State. It was the first time Northwestern won in Columbus since 1977.

This is the first 5-2 start to Big Ten play for the Cats since 1968. So is this the first time ever the Cats get an invite to the NCAA tournament?

Of course that remains to be seen, but Chris Collins' squad sure seems to be setting itself up for inclusion in the field of 68. Sunday's win was just the latest to come away from Evanston, and in seven conference games, four of the team's five wins have come in road games, including three straight at Nebraska, Rutgers and Ohio State.

Northwestern had to find a way to win Sunday. A couple surges in the first half took the Cats from modest deficits to a lead that grew as big as eight. The halftime advantage was five, but that slipped away quickly as Northwestern shot poorly after halftime. Ice cold is a better descriptor, the Cats struggling to get their field-goal percentage above 30 percent over the final 20 minutes. It got there eventually, the team finishing shooting 32.3 percent in the second half, but it was the work from the free-throw line that made the win possible. Over the final 20 minutes, Northwestern was 14-for-16 from the charity stripe, including going 11-for-12 over the final minute and a half.

The key stretch came when a Scottie Lindsey 3-ball broke a 56-all tie with four and a half minutes to play. Ohio State countered with a bucket, but freshman point guard Isiah Brown turned in back-to-back scores of his own, the second a breakaway layup off a steal. That made it a five-point lead, and though the gap shrunk over the game's final three minutes, Northwestern's free-throw shooting allowed the Cats to hold that lead the rest of the way.

Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot themselves in the foot at the free-throw line. They were 12-for-23 on the game, and all but one of the attempts came in the second half, making for 10 missed free throws over the game's final 20 minutes. Northwestern committed a lot of fouls, but Ohio State couldn't capitalize, something that has to be quite painful for the Buckeyes, considering they had edges in other statistical categories. They shot 45.6 percent from the field compared to the Cats shooting 37.5 percent. Ohio State also had 16 second-chance points and 28 points in the paint. But Northwestern had 17 points off 13 Ohio State turnovers.

Lindsey finished with a game-high 21 points and has scored in double figures in every game this season. Bryant McIntosh had 17 points, and Vic Law had 10. Jae'Sean Tate scored 14 points for Ohio State, with JaQuan Lyle adding 13, Trevor Thompson scoring 11 and Cam Williams putting in 10.

The win was Northwestern's fourth straight and boosted its overall record to 16-4 to go along with the 5-2 mark in the conference. The Cats next play Nebraska on Thursday.

The loss snapped a modest two-game win streak for Ohio State and dropped the Buckeyes' record to 12-8 overall and 2-5 in the Big Ten. They next play Minnesota on Wednesday.