W.Va. Senate rejects amendment expanding free tuition bill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The West Virginia Senate has rejected an amendment that would have included four-year colleges in a bill to provide free tuition at community and technical colleges to state residents.
The Republican-led Senate rejected the amendment along party lines Tuesday. The amendment was proposed by Democratic Sen. Roman Prezioso of Marion County.
Republicans were concerned the House of Delegates would reject the bill if the cost of the program increased by adding four-year colleges.
GOP Senate President Mitch Carmichael is the bill’s lead sponsor. He says there will be opportunities later to look at expanding the program but says “we can all destroy a great idea by adding to it.”
Some Democrats said there should be no dollar ceiling on funding education opportunities.
A similar bill passed the Senate last year but died in the House Education Committee.

West Virginia city to add LGBTQ to list of protected groups

BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — Another West Virginia city has voted to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to its list of protected minorities.
The Register-Herald reports the Beckley Common Council voted 4-2 Tuesday to add LGBTQ discrimination protections to the city’s code.
Mayor Rob Rappold asked the city council in November to consider an ordinance prohibiting housing and employment discrimination against those who identify as LGBTQ. A similar measure was proposed in 2014 and tabled amid community opposition.
Councilwoman Janine Bullock opposed the measure Tuesday and motioned for the council to consider allowing religious business owners and employers to be exempt from the policy. Churches already are exempt.
City attorney Bill File said Bullock’s motion needed to be seconded for the council to consider it. No one seconded the motion.
Information from: The Register-Herald, http://www.register-herald.com

W.Va. firefighter charged with DUI after responding to call

EAST BANK, W.Va. (AP) — A West Virginia firefighter has been charged with drunken driving after responding to a call in his personal car and hitting a police cruiser.
WCHS-TV reports 28-year-old David McGuire of East Bank was charged Tuesday.
According to a criminal complaint, Kanawha County Sheriff’s Cpl. Stephanie Adams was responding to a call when a car backed down a street and struck her parked cruiser. Deputies say McGuire showed up to offer help. He lives on the street and is an East Bank volunteer firefighter.
Adams says she detected alcohol on McGuire’s breath. McGuire’s blood-alcohol level was 0.163 percent, which is double the legal limit for motorists.
Fire Chief Thomas Tucker says the fire department was never dispatched to the call and doesn’t condone what McGuire did.
McGuire was held in the South Central Regional Jail on $500 cash bond.
Information from: WCHS-TV, http://www.wchstv.com

Deputies making welfare check at W.Va. home find 2 bodies

SISSONVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — Authorities in West Virginia are investigating the discovery of the bodies of two women near Charleston.
News outlets report the bodies were found Tuesday at a home in Sissonville.
Kanawha County sheriff’s deputies say they were asked to check on the home’s residents by a bank after deposits were made in a dormant account. Deputies say the bodies may have been there for weeks.
The victims’ names weren’t immediately released. The deaths are under investigation.

2 abandoned bobcat kittens get permanent home at W.Va. zoo

WHEELING, W.Va. (AP) — Two bobcat kittens found abandoned in West Virginia have been given a permanent home at the Oglebay Good Zoo.
The zoo in Wheeling says in a news release the two female kittens named Bobbi and Gina were found in rural Marshall County. They now are in the nursery at the zoo’s veterinary and quarantine hospital.
The zoo says it’s offering guests the chance to visit the kittens. Guests must be at least 8 years old to participate. Visits can be reserved by calling 304-243-4100.

1 point away, Serena stunned by Pliskova at Australian Open

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Four times, Serena Williams was only one point — a single point — from closing out a victory in the Australian Open quarterfinals.
On the first such chance, at 5-1, 40-30 in the third set, she turned her left ankle awkwardly. The owner of the best serve in the sport would lose every point she served the rest of the way.
And so it was that a startling reversal and result would follow Wednesday at Melbourne Park, with Williams dropping the last six games of a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 loss to No. 7-seeded Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
“I can’t say that I choked on those match points,” Williams said. “She literally played her best tennis ever on those shots.”
The 37-year-old American didn’t call for a trainer during the match and later wouldn’t blame the ankle for the way everything changed down the stretch, saying afterward that it “seems to be fine.”
But instead of Williams moving closer to an eighth championship at the Australian Open and record-tying 24th Grand Slam title overall, it is Pliskova who will continue the pursuit of her first major trophy.
“I was almost in the locker room,” Pliskova told the Rod Laver Arena crowd, “but now I’m standing here as the winner.”
Normally, Williams is the one manufacturing a comeback. This time, it was surprising to see her let a sizable lead vanish. Only twice before in 380 Grand Slam matches had Williams lost after holding a match point, at the 2010 French Open and 1999 Australian Open.
In Thursday’s semifinals, Pliskova will face No. 4-seeded Naomi Osaka, who advanced by beating No. 6 Elina Svitolina 6-4, 6-1. The other women’s semifinal will be two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova against unseeded American Danielle Collins.
In men’s action Wednesday, No. 28 Lucas Pouille of France reached his first Grand Slam semifinal by beating 2016 Wimbledon runner-up Milos Raonic of Canada 7-6 (4), 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4. Pouille, who is coached by two-time major champion Amelie Mauresmo, had been 0-5 for his career at the Australian Open until last week. His next opponent will be 14-time major champion Novak Djokovic, who moved on when 2014 U.S. Open finalist Kei Nishikori stopped playing while trailing 6-1, 4-1.
Nishikori was treated for leg problems by a trainer.
Williams’ surprising departure scuttled what would have been a much-anticipated rematch against Osaka, who beat her in the chaotic U.S. Open final last September.
This defeat is the earliest in Australia for Williams since 2014, when she exited with a fourth-round loss to Ana Ivanovic. Since then? She won the tournament in 2015, lost in the final in 2016, and won again in 2017 while pregnant, before missing last year’s edition a few months after the birth of her daughter.
As for chasing Margaret Court’s all-time mark of 24 Slam trophies in singles, Williams said: “It hasn’t happened yet, but I feel like it’s going to happen.”
The match against Pliskova was played under a stifling sun, with the temperature around 80 degrees (25 degrees Celsius). Williams — coming off an intense three-set victory over No. 1 Simona Halep in the fourth round — often stepped into the patches of shade behind each baseline.
She did not start well, not well at all. Her mistakes were mounting and deficit was growing.
In the first set alone, Williams made more than twice as many unforced errors as her opponent, 11-5, a pattern that would continue throughout. By the end, the margin was 37-15.
Looking increasingly frustrated, Williams would yell at herself after mistakes or gesture as if to say, “That’s NOT how I should be hitting the ball!” Add it all up, and Pliskova led by a set and a break at 3-2 in the second.
Only then did Williams get going. From there, she immediately earned her first break point of the match and converted it to get to 3-all, beginning a run in which she claimed nine of 11 games.
“You don’t really feel,” Pliskova said, “like you’re going to win this match.”
Serving for the victory at 5-1, 40-30, Williams was called for a foot fault — reminiscent of an infamous such ruling at the U.S. Open a decade ago. During the ensuing point Wednesday, Williams twisted her left ankle and dumped a forehand into the net.
She grabbed at her foot afterward, then double-faulted and would go on to cede that game.
Not a big deal, right? She still had a sizable lead.
Except that three more match points would follow while Pliskova served, and she saved each one.
“There’s nothing I did wrong on those match points. I didn’t do anything wrong. I stayed aggressive,” Williams said. “She just literally hit the lines on some of them.”
Williams would again serve for the match at 5-3 — and again get broken. The owner of the most feared and respected serve in women’s tennis was broken for a third time in a row at 5-all, and Pliskova was on her way.
“She got a little bit shaky in the end,” Pliskova said. “So I took my chances. And I won.”
Osaka will carry a 12-match Grand Slam winning streak into the semifinals.
The 21-year-old from Japan moved closer to a second consecutive major championship by parlaying her aggressive and powerful style into a 31-11 edge in winners against Svitolina.
“For me, right now, I just try to keep looking forward. So I’m not really satisfied. Like, I am happy that I’m here, but at the same time, I want to keep going,” said Osaka, who never had been past the fourth round at the Australian Open. “There is more matches to win.”
Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at https://twitter.com/HowardFendrich
More AP tennis: https://apnews.com/apf-Tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Vonn’s skis are waiting for her if she decides to race again

By ANDREW DAMPF, AP Sports Writer
Lindsey Vonn’s skis are waiting for her — whether she decides to continue racing or not.
While Vonn ponders her future, her ski technician has set up shop in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, where World Cup downhill and super-G races are scheduled for this weekend.
Heinz Haemmerle tells The Associated Press he “just arrived in Garmisch and set up my ski room. Then we see what’s coming out.”
Rainer Salzgeber, the racing director for Head skis, adds that the company is preparing as if Vonn will race in Garmisch and then the world championships in Are, Sweden, next month.
Salzgeber says “for Heinz right now it looks like this. But how it will end up in the next couple of days or hours I do not know.”
Haemmerle says he expected Vonn to arrive in Garmisch later Wednesday, with the first of two downhill training sessions scheduled for Thursday.
Vonn has left everyone guessing over her next move after announcing on Sunday that she was considering immediate retirement due to severe pain in both of her knees.
Vonn finished no better than ninth in three races in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, last weekend.
More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
Andrew Dampf on Twitter: www.twitter.com/AndrewDampf

Next year it’s Jeter’s chance to join Rivera in the Hall

By NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer
Mariano Rivera sailed into the Hall of Fame without a single dissenting vote. Next year, it’s Derek Jeter’s turn — and don’t expect much opposition then, either.
Jeter headlines the group of candidates who will be newly eligible for the Hall next year , and now that Rivera has become the first player elected unanimously , it won’t be a surprise if another transcendent New York Yankees star does the same. With 3,465 hits to his credit — not to mention five World Series titles — Jeter shouldn’t have much to worry about when the results are announced.
Whether he goes in unanimously is another matter. After his longtime teammate broke ground as the first player selected on 100 percent of the ballots submitted, some baseball writers might be more willing to vote strategically: Nobody is allowed to pick more than 10 players, so for some it could make sense to leave off a certain inductee if a vote would mean more for a player on the bubble.
But nobody left off Rivera this time, and Jeter’s stature in the sport is similar.
Here are a few other things to watch in the next Hall of Fame vote:
Jeter may be the only first-ballot Hall of Famer next year, but there are a handful of other new candidates who distinguished themselves as well. Cliff Lee won a Cy Young Award and Jason Giambi has an MVP. Alfonso Soriano accomplished a rare 40-40 season in 2006.
Edgar Martinez made the Hall this year in his last chance on the ballot. Fred McGriff did not. Next season, it’s Larry Walker who will be up for the 10th and final time. Walker’s vote percentage shot up this year from 34 to 55. He’ll need another increase like that to get in.
Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, their candidacies held back by links to performance-enhancing drug use, appear to have hit a wall. In their seventh year on the ballot, Clemens received 59.5 percent of the vote and Bonds received 59.1. Last year, Clemens was at 57.3 percent and Bonds was at 56.4.
In theory, there’s enough time to make up the remaining ground — Martinez was below 50 percent three years ago — but views on Bonds and Clemens appear pretty entrenched.
Four players were elected this year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, and with only Jeter standing out among the newcomers, the ballot might feel a bit less crowded next year. That could be good news for players like Walker, Curt Schilling (61 percent this year) and Omar Vizquel (43 percent). Walker has only one chance left, but Schilling and Vizquel have an opportunity to make progress in 2020 and then again in 2021, when the group of newcomers appears less formidable.
If you’re looking for an under-the-radar candidate who looks pretty impressive through the lens of advanced stats, Bobby Abreu is eligible in 2020. Abreu was just a two-time All-Star, but he finished with a career on-base percentage of .395. According to Baseball-Reference.com, Abreu was worth 60 wins above replacement for his career — roughly the same as Vladimir Guerrero, who went into the Hall of Fame in 2018.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Column: Hall of Fame is becoming a crowded place

By TIM DAHLBERG, AP Sports Columnist
Edgar Martinez got in just as his chances were running out, meaning baseball’s Hall of Fame will have yet another designated hitter. Three pitchers are in the newly elected class, too, including one whose credentials weren’t good enough in the decade his name came before baseball writers.
Harold Baines will also be inducted with Lee Smith this summer, but don’t blame writers for that. A 16-member veterans committee that included Baines’ biggest backer — White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf — decided last month that Baines and Smith should go in because, well, the Hall of Fame apparently needs more players.
It now has more, a half dozen more if you’re keeping score at home. The most hallowed of halls is becoming a very welcoming place, thanks to an accommodating committee and members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who are swayed more and more by the advanced metrics that define the game today.
In keeping with full disclosure, I’m one of those 425 writers. My ballot went public Tuesday along with others who didn’t disclose their picks in advance, as about half of those voting did.
Along with everyone else, of course, I voted for Mariano Rivera. There was no reason not to pick baseball’s greatest closer, and he was rewarded with the first unanimous ballot since Hall of Fame voting began in 1936.
Rivera’s the best of the best, with five World Series titles and more saves than anyone who has ever pitched. His advanced metrics are off the charts, but here’s a stat I like best: Rivera retired the side in order in 229 of his 491 three-out saves, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Good cases can also be made for the other inductees, who all have one stat or another that signify greatness. But at the same time baseball purists have to wonder just what defines a Hall of Famer anymore.
The case of Baines is exhibit A among those who argue for a less inclusive hall. Baines played 22 years in the bigs, mostly as a designated hitter, but never reached the 3,000-hit mark that so often defines Hall of Fame players.
More tellingly, he never finished in the top eight vote getters for MVP consideration any year he played.
Baines is as marginal as it gets, and Mike Mussina’s credentials were questioned by some, too, though his 270 career wins are tied for 33rd with Burleigh Grimes on the all-time list.
The trend today seems to be to add players in bunches. And that’s not necessarily a good thing for a hall that was once reserved for only the best of the best.
Baines’ place in the hall can be debated, as can a plaque for any player not named Ruth, DiMaggio or Koufax. And it will be debated, because baseball’s Hall of Fame remains the gold standard for all sports and baseball fans love to argue about who should be in it.
Still, six players this year, six last. In last three years, 15 players have made the Hall of Fame, bringing the total to 234 former major league players, and 331 members overall.
It may not be too many, but it’s becoming too much. And it shows no signs of slowing down, even with a lack of star power in upcoming classes (Derek Jeter will almost surely be the only new player elected next year).
That’s partly due to the influence of advanced stats that can be used to promote candidacies, along with an influx of voters from a younger generation of BBWAA members. We saw that with Martinez, who was the beneficiary of an election campaign that got him in on his last year of eligibility.
It’s also partly due to voters loading up their ballots. The ballot allows for 10 votes and the average number of players named on early public ballots was 8.7.
You can’t tell me there were 10 players deserving of the Hall of Fame this year or any other. I personally voted for six, and thought that was high.
Still, I can live with most of the selections, though I wouldn’t have voted for Baines or Smith. They got in because of a veterans committee that offers second chances to players the baseball writers reject for 10 years.
But I’m a bit worried about next year. That’s when voters will put their X next to Jeter’s name and then go searching for others to fill out the Hall of Fame class.
That likely means more votes for Barry Bonds (59.1 percent) and Roger Clemens (59.5), who will be in their eighth year of eligibility. Thankfully, other known PED users haven’t yet gotten the magical 75 percent, but the trends are moving in their direction.
It also means Curt Schilling (60.9 percent) will receive more votes, and I don’t view him as a Hall of Famer for more than one reason.
There’s nothing wrong with a good debate over who should be in and who shouldn’t. That’s part of the fun of the best hall in any sport.
But there’s no debate that the last thing any baseball fan should want is a bloated Hall of Fame.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org or http://twitter.com/timdahlberg

Williamson scores 25, No. 2 Duke shuts down Pitt 79-64

By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) — There are plenty of words Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski can use to describe his star-laden roster. Nervous is not one of them.
“My guys are not nervous,” Krzyzewski said. “I’m nervous. But they are not. They love crowds. They love to compete.”
No matter who’s watching. With the coach who helped recruit the current Blue Devils on the other bench and one of the greatest rappers in history sitting courtside, star freshmen Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett did what they’ve done seemingly since the day they stepped on campus last fall: They dominated.
Williamson hit his first 10 shots on his way to 25 points, Barrett scored 26 and the second-ranked Blue Devils had little trouble in a clinical 79-64 victory over Pittsburgh and former Duke assistant Jeff Capel on Tuesday night.
Capel helped bring Barrett and Williamson to Duke before leaving last spring to rebuild the Panthers. While Pitt appears to be on its way back, Capel understands the gap between his club and his alma mater remains massive.
“Zion, I don’t know if I’ve seen anything like it,” Capel said. “I looked up at one point in the first half and he had 17 and my assistants told me he hadn’t missed a shot.”
That’s because he hadn’t. Williamson — hardly rattled by the site of Jay-Z sitting in the front row of the packed Petersen Events Center — went 9 for 9 in the first half and finished 11 of 13 overall while adding seven assists and seven rebounds. Williamson insisted he wasn’t keeping track of his hot start. He didn’t have to. His teammates were doing it for him.
“I said (at halftime), ‘I got like 10 points right now, I’m not really doing nothing,'” Williamson said. “I come in here and they tell me what I got and I was like, ‘Dang.'”
Williamson admitted he noticed Jay-Z — whose representatives reached out to Pitt a few weeks ago about stopping by — and pointed out the rapper’s song “A Dream” is on his pregame playlist.
“That was like a dream come true,” Williamson said. “To me, he’s the GOAT” — greatest of all time.
Once the ball was tipped, Williamson and the Blue Devils hardly looked star-struck even without guard Tre Jones, who remains out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. The Blue Devils (16-2, 5-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) withstood an early surge by the Panthers and then hit the gas about midway through the first half, turning a brief 16-15 deficit into a 44-25 lead at the break.
“That’s to be expected at all away games, people are just going to bring the energy,” Williamson said. “Just got to be mature and take their best shot. I think once we did that, we were able to control the game.”
Trey McGowens led Pitt with 14 points, and Jared Wilson-Frame and Terrell Brown added 12 each. But the Panthers (12-7, 2-4) simply couldn’t match Duke’s size or firepower and never got closer than 15 over the final 22 minutes.
Capel said it felt “surreal” to be in the same building with the Blue Devils but not sitting on the bench next to Krzyzewski. Capel spent seven years as Krzyzewski’s top assistant before joining the Panthers last April, helping Duke become a prime landing spot for the top high school talent in the country.
Capel hopes to one day bring in that kind of talent to Pitt. He might, but not quite yet. The gulf between the two programs was evident once the early adrenaline wore off and Williamson went to work.
Pitt managed just nine points over the final 13:23 of the first half. McGowens and freshman guard Xavier Johnson were unable to find any creases in Duke’s zone to get to the basket — a staple of their attack during early conference wins over Louisville and Florida State. Johnson finished with a season-low eight points and didn’t even get to the line, while McGowens took just one free throw.
“Look, they’re better than us,” Capel said. “They’re more talented than us. I think that’s what it was. I don’t think it was just the zone. I think it was their talent.”
Capel said the last time he watched an opposing freshman score as easily as Williamson came a decade ago when he was coaching Oklahoma against Texas. The Longhorns had a freshman in early 2007 named Kevin Durant. Capel remembers looking up and seeing Durant with 20 points halfway through the first half.
“I said (that night), ‘There’s nothing we can do about this,'” Capel said. “It’s kind of the same with Zion. He’s very unique. He’s very, very unique.”
Duke: The Blue Devils can guard when they want to even without Jones. The team that leads the nation in blocked shots swatted seven — right around Duke’s season average — and found an extra gear when it was required.
Pittsburgh: Capel believes the Panthers are on a path that will return them to prominence. A talent upgrade is a must. For all the fight Pitt showed, the Panthers aren’t big enough or deep enough to hang with the ACC’s top tier.
Duke: Host Georgia Tech on Saturday.
Pittsburgh: Visits Louisville on Saturday. The Panthers beat the Cardinals 86-83 in overtime at home on Jan. 9.
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