Sports briefs for March 14, 2013

Posted March 14, 2013, at 9:54 p.m.

Curt Smith signs with Minnesota Twins

PHOENIX — Former University of Maine baseball standout Curt Smith, who has been instrumental in the Netherlands’ run to the World Baseball Classic semifinals, has signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins.

Smith made the announcement Thursday as he and his teammates prepare for Monday’s WBC semifinal game in San Francisco against an undetermined opponent. The 26-year-old Smith is batting .375 with a home run and four RBI and a team-best .467 on-base percentage.

Smith was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 39th round of the 2008 draft. He has spent five seasons in pro ball, including four years in the minors.

Last year, Smith batted .261 with nine homers and 48 RBI for the Class AA Jacksonville Suns in the Miami Marlins organization. He committed only five errors in 480 chances (.990).

At UMaine, Smith was named the 2008 America East Player of the Year as a senior and finished with a .370 career batting average, 27 homers and 178 RBIs.

TD Beach to Beacon 10K registration begins March 14

CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Online registration for the 2013 TD Beach to Beacon 10K Road Race begins for the general public at 7 a.m. on Friday, March 15. A lottery (drawing on March 25) will follow for those who do not secure a spot through online registration.

Beginning at 7 a.m. Thursday, Cape Elizabeth residents will have 24 hours to fill 600 slots reserved for the host community. Runners register at the race website at www.beach2beacon.org.

In 2012, online registration for the general public was open just five minutes before all 4,000 slots were filled, while Cape resident registration filled in eight minutes. The entry fee is $45.

Vikings sign quarterback Cassel

Not having a backup quarterback capable of winning a big game was a fatal flaw for the Minnesota Vikings in the 2012 playoffs.

They attempted to address the problem on Thursday, signing former Kansas City Chiefs and New England Patriots starter Matt Cassel just hours after he was officially released by Kansas City.

Cassel had 19 turnovers in nine games last season, but has 58 career starts. If he doesn’t compete with 2011 first-round pick Christian Ponder for the starting job, Cassel would be considered an upgrade as the No. 2 quarterback.

Joe Webb, a converted college wide receiver, was forced to start the season-ending playoff loss at Green Bay when Ponder’s elbow flared up.

Lions’ Backus retires after 12 seasons

Detroit Lions offensive tackle Jeff Backus, the all-time franchise record with 187 consecutive starts, announced his retirement Thursday after 12 seasons.

Backus, 35, has played left tackle since being selected in the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft out of the University of Michigan.

His consecutive-start streak ended last season when he was inactive on Thanksgiving Day against the Houston Texans. He set the franchise record on Dec. 4, 2011, when he passed Hall of Fame cornerback Dick LeBeau with his 172nd.

Since the 1970 merger, Backus is also the first offensive lineman to begin his career and start his first 160 career games.

NHL announces realignment

The National Hockey League announced Thursday that its planned realignment will take place next season after receiving approval from the board of governors.

The NHL Players’ Association agreed to the new framework through the 2015-16 season with an understanding that it will review how it has fared after the 2014-15 season.

The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets will shift to the Eastern Conference, which will group the 16 NHL franchises in the Eastern time zone in the same conference. The 14 others will now play in the Western Conference. Also, the league will go from six divisions to four.

“The new alignment will place several clubs in more geographically appropriate groupings, and will intensify already-fierce rivalries throughout the league,” the NHL said.

The playoffs have also been altered, given the new division structure. Now, the top three teams in each division qualify for the playoffs with two wild cards coming from the remaining teams.

Two Ohio State football players accused of rape

Two unidentified Ohio State football players are being investigated for rape by the school’s police department, according to a 10tv.com report.

The station withheld their names since they haven’t been formally charged.

The alleged victim is an 18-year-old student. She told investigators that the rape occurred after the Buckeyes’ Oct. 20 win over Purdue. While “fooling around” with one player in a dorm room, she claimed that another player entered and said, “Let me get in on this.”

The report said: “The other player started touching her and made her to perform a sex act on him. She told investigators that she pushed him away and left.”

When interviewed last month, one of the accused players offered a different version of the events. Ohio State confirmed to 10tv.com that an investigation is being conducted, but declined further comment.

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