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Central Jersey News from the Times of Trenton

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    Justus Sheffield does not turn 22 until next Sunday, but the Yankees number three prospect just got an early birthday present from the organization. The lefty, who has pitched well this year for the Trenton Thunder, will make his next start in Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre for the RailRiders. He continues his meteoric rise through the minor league system,...

    Justus Sheffield does not turn 22 until next Sunday, but the Yankees number three prospect just got an early birthday present from the organization.

    The lefty, who has pitched well this year for the Trenton Thunder, will make his next start in Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre for the RailRiders. He continues his meteoric rise through the minor league system, since he was acquired from the Cleveland Indians in the Andrew Miller trade, which may see Sheffield end the season in the Bronx with the New York Yankees.

    This season with Trenton, Sheffield was 1-2, with a 2.25 ERA. He threw 28 innings, and allowed 16 hits, walked 14, and struck out 39 batters. He has performed well for the Thunder since his call up for the Eastern League Playoffs at the end of 2016, and is now excited to be challenged by the next level.

    "I am excited," Sheffield said. "I am definitely a step closer, but it is not the final goal. I have to put in the work still, and keep it going."

    While many thought Sheffield's time in Trenton would be brief in 2018, as the pitcher was in the big league camp this spring, Sheffield was not sure when the move was going to be made. But it came after just five starts for the 15-10 Thunder, who are off to another good start.

    "Honestly. I had no clue," Sheffield said. "I was just coming out here, pitching every fifth day. So I didn't know how long, but I was glad to be a part of this team for the month that I was here, and I am just happy to go up.

    "I am ready. I think I have grown tremendously (in Trenton). It is kind of hard to say. I just feel like going through it, throughout the years, you are just learning stuff day by day. 

    "To summarize it up is tough, but day by day, I just try to get better on the mound. My main thing every year is to pitch deep into the game, and give my team a chance to win. 

    Ort's interesting career path continues; can he make Yankees in 2018?

    Thunder manager Jay Bell thinks he is ready to move up to Scranton, and possibly beyond if he continues on this path.

    "I think he is," Bell said. "I would love to see him touch the big leagues this year, if at all possible. He is a guy that has a really high ceiling, and hopefully he will continue to improve, and pay attention to the little details that will allow him to have success at the higher levels against consistently better players."

    While Sheffield is heading to Scranton, a player from the big league club is coming to Trenton Friday night for a minor league rehab assignment.

    Brandon Drury, who has been on the DL since April 7 with severe migraines and blurred vision, will continue to work back his way back. He was hitting .385 in 26 at-bats in Triple A.

    Former Thunder player Miguel Andujar has taken Drury's place in New York since he went on the DL, and is hitting .284, with three home runs, 11 runs scored, and 12 RBI.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    A third person was wounded in the January shooting in Trenton's Chambersburg neighborhood

    Authorities announced Friday they've charged three men with committing a January shooting that killed two men from Philadelphia and wounded a third person.

    One of the suspects, Tashawn Santiago, 25, was already in the county jail on unrelated case.

    Shaquille McNeil.jpgShaquille McNeil 

    Another, Cecil Blake, 31, was wounded in a Trenton shooting last month, records show, and currently in custody of Mercer County corrections officers at an undisclosed location.

    And officers arrested Shaquille McNeil, 24, at a friend's house in Trenton Wednesday evening, the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office said. The U.S. Marshals' NY/NJ Regional Fugitive Task Force tracked him down.

    The trio, all Trenton residents, are charged with being accomplices in the murders of Jerard Perdomo Santana, 25, and Ivan Rodriguez, 19, who were gunned down in a car at the intersection of Ashmore Avenue and Washington Street on Jan. 22 in the Chambersburg neighborhood.

    They also face accomplice to the attempted murder of a 25-year-old man, who the prosecutor's office said Friday suffered gunshot wounds to his left shoulder and left hand, and drove himself to the hospital.

    Prosecutors on Friday did not say why Rodriguez and Santana were in Trenton.

    Ten days before being shot to death, Santana recorded a Facebook live video while driving and listening to music with Rodriguez. Santana also made music under the name Elmii Problema, and released a Spanish rap album in late 2017 called Maxima Seguridad.

    The prosecutor's office said they've filed motions to detain the three suspects. Mercer County Homicide Task Force Detective Michael Hughes is the lead investigators in an ongoing investigation, the prosecutor's office said.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.


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    "These videos highlight that there may be weaknesses in teacher disciplinary procedures," the groups say.

     

    Two education advocacy groups are calling for an investigation by state lawmakers following the release this week of two videos that appear to show New Jersey teachers unions presidents explaining how they protect teachers who commit criminal acts.

    The directors of JerseyCAN and Better Education for Kids say in a letter sent Friday to state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Newark and chairwoman of the Senate Education committee, that the videos raise questions about how easy it is to manipulate the teacher disciplinary system. The groups say they want lawmakers to conduct hearings into the statements attributed to the union presidents in the videos.

    "These videos highlight that there may be weaknesses in teacher disciplinary procedures that unethical insiders can exploit to protect teachers accused of wrongdoing," the letter says.

    The videos were both products of Project Veritas, a conservative group that produces undercover reports aimed at exposing bad behavior by groups associated with liberals. The teachers identified in them, Union City Education Association President Kathleen Valencia and Hamilton Township Education Association President David R. Perry, were both suspended following their release.

    Valencia and Perry have not made public comments about the videos, which were recorded by women identified as journalists for Project Veritas. The videos are similar: the women say they are relatives of teachers who did bad things and they want to know what will happen to them. The people identified as Valencia and Perry say they will protect the teachers, with Perry saying, "I'm here to defend even the worst people."

    The New Jersey Education Association on Tuesday criticized Project Vertias for "using dishonest and illegal tactics" and said there should be no coverage of its videos. On Friday the union said in a statement that it is launching a probe of its affiliate members.

    "To ensure that appropriate practices are followed, we are commissioning an independent review of the practices of our local affiliates and staff. The purpose of that review is to ensure that every staff member and local affiliate leader understands and clearly communicates the responsibility of all school employees to report any suspected abuse of children," the union said in its release.

    JerseyCAN and Better Education for Kids often advocate for education reforms opposed by teachers unions.

    In the Union City video, Valencia references a teacher who she says had sex with a student but was not charged criminally because the student had no proof. 

    Asked to comment, Hudson County Prosecutor Esther Suarez said in a statement that her office is working with Union City police to "establish the veracity of any allegations of sexual misconduct referenced in the video in order to determine if there was any failure in reporting."

    Terrence T. McDonald may be reached at tmcdonald@jjournal.com. Follow him on Twitter @terrencemcd. Find The Jersey Journal on Facebook.


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    Officials say computer errors from a redistricting years ago caused the snafu

    With Trenton's municipal elections this Tuesday, election officials on Friday worked to remedy a snafu in which about 21 homes on two city streets got the wrong sample ballots.

    That meant voter records listed them in the wrong city ward, and could affect who they voted for.

    Late Friday, Mercer County Superintendent of Elections Cathy DiCostanzo said her office's investigators had taken care of the issue - even though it's not her office's responsibility.

    DiCostanzo said two residents reported the issue to her staffers late Thursday, and even though it was not her office's issue, she has more employees than the other two agencies that deal with elections, and she knew her investigators could fix it.

    "It was the right thing to do," DiCostanzo said.

    None of it, she said, had to do with voter suppression or fraud, like some charged on social media.

    "If anything, we're trying to make sure these residents can vote," DiCostanzo said.

    Three, and possibly four, agencies can be involved in a local election - each municipality's clerk's office, the Mercer County Board of Elections, the Mercer County Superintendent of Elections, and the Mercer County Clerk's Office.

    Basically, DiCostanzo said, 21 homes on Furman and Federal streets which are in the South Ward received sample ballots for the North Ward.

    The city's election is for mayor and city council seats, four of which are ward-specific.

    The two streets were formally in the city's North Ward, and for some reason, a state computer system listed them in the North Ward. 

    Maintenance of these records, though, is one of the duties of the Mercer County Board of Elections, DiCostanzo said. That board also does redistricting and trains poll workers.

    But the ballots were printed at the request of the Trenton City Clerk, and that means the poll books election workers use would have the wrong information, DiCostanzo said.

    Realizing this, DiCostanzo's investigators visited each home Friday with a letter to explain the issue, and put notes in all the affected poll books so anyone who shows up to vote can do so - by using a provisional ballot.

    And investigators spoke to people in 15 of the 21 homes to explain it.

    And fortunately, DiCostanzo said, the polling places for the two affected ward subdivisions - North Ward 9 and South Ward 2 - are both at 640 S. Broad Street - the Mercer Country Administration Building. It's also where DiCostanzo's office is located.

    So one of DiCostanzo's employees will be dedicated to smoothing out any issues that might arise on Election Day.

    The computer voter records that caused the problem, which DiCostanzo's office had access to, have been adjusted correctly, she said.

    All the other offices - the county election board, and the city and county clerks' offices - are aware of the issue, DiCostanzo said.

    The office of the Superintendent of Elections', a state-appointed office DiCostanzo holds, main duties are custody of voting machines, and voter registrations.

    The Mercer County Clerk's Office, among other duties, prints ballots for some elections, counts votes cast by electronic machines and issues vote-by-mail ballots. They also post election results.

    The Trenton City Clerk is the chief administrative officer of all city elections, and chief registrar of voters in the city.

    Kevin Shea may be reached at kshea@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter@kevintshea. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

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    In a survey conducted by NJ Advance Media, six of the seven Trenton mayoral candidates said they back legalization of marijuana.

    Marijuana use is a burning question in this year's election cycle and the candidates for mayor in Trenton overwhelmingly support legalization of pot.

    In a survey conducted by NJ Advance Media, six of the seven candidates said they back legalization. The lone exception was Alex Bethea, who admitted that his position was not a popular one, but in his opinion, it is the right one. Saying "yes" to legalization were Darren "Freedom" Green, Reed Gusciora, Duncan Harrison, Annette H. Lartigue, Paul Perez and Walker Worthy Jr.

    That strong support for legalization reflects the growing acceptance of marijuana both for medical use as well as recreational use.

    Here in New Jersey, the number of people enrolled in the state's medical marijuana program has more than quadrupled in less than a year since Gov. Phil Murphy took office and expanded the qualifying medical conditions approved for cannabis treatment.

    Now there is growing pressure to make recreational use of pot legal in New Jersey, a goal that should warm the heart of Edward "NJ Weedman" Forchion, the local marijuana activist who set up a pot-themed restaurant and temple in Trenton and is now in jail facing witness tampering charges.

    7 candidates for Trenton mayor. 1 question about marijuana

    What was unthinkable two decades ago is now becoming a reality.

    It is not surprising that politicians, who often are in lockstep with the latest polls, are on the side of what the public is clamoring for.

    And there is a lot the public favors about marijuana.

    As a medical treatment, it seems to have qualities that make it useful in the treatment of chronic pain and anxiety and a growing list of other ailments.

    But there is still a lot of research that needs to be done to ascertain which cannabis compounds are suitable for safely treating a specific ailment and to determine what the impact of long-term use may be.

    What we do know, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, is that marijuana can have negative effects, such as impairing short-term memory, distorting perception and making it dangerous to drive.

    Just as important to the medical efficacy of marijuana is the social impact it has.

    By far, it is the drug that is most likely to result in a police record for a recreational user, and by far, African-Americans are most likely to be arrested for marijuana offenses.

    Many of the Trenton mayoral candidates pointed out the racial imbalance in pot arrests as a reason for decriminalizing it.

    In addition to the medical and social reasons for legalizing marijuana touted by the candidates, a third factor they cite is financial.

    As a regulated drug, much like alcohol and tobacco, it can be taxed and taxed some more for the greater good.

    But don't expect income from such a "sin tax" to be a panacea for the state's financial woes.

    In reality, there is not a lot a mayor can do when it comes to drug laws, which are mostly set on the state and national level. But a mayor can certainly set the tone on how drug laws are interpreted and enforced, and in that sense, the future mayor of Trenton can play a significant role.

    Voters must decide on Tuesday who that mayor is going to be.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

     

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    The New Jersey Education Association says it will commission an independent review of practices.

    IMG_1209.JpgDavid R. Perry, president of the Hamilton Township Education Association (Project Veritas.com)
     

    After two New Jersey teachers union leaders were suspended this week in response to the release of undercover videos in which they apparently sympathize with a fictitious teacher who abused a student, the statewide union has launched a probe of its affiliate members.

    The New Jersey Education Association said in a release Thursday afternoon it will commission an independent review of practices after teacher's union presidents from Hamilton and Union City said in the videos they would downplay and not report an incident of child abuse.

    The child abuse scenario presented by Project Veritas to the union presidents in the group's undercover videos was fake.

    "To ensure that appropriate practices are followed, we are commissioning an independent review of the practices of our local affiliates and staff. The purpose of that review is to ensure that every staff member and local affiliate leader understands and clearly communicates the responsibility of all school employees to report any suspected abuse of children," the union said in its release.

    "Based on that review, NJEA will undertake appropriate training to ensure that takes place in every local and in every instance. There is no place for any ambiguity about the responsibility of every adult, in every position within our public schools, to protect the wellbeing of all students."

    Hamilton Township Education Association President David R. Perry was suspended and the Hamilton Township school district opened an internal investigation within hours of the project's first video Wednesday. Kathleen Valencia, president of the Union City Education Association, was suspended after a similar incident Thursday.

    Despite the probe, the NJEA reiterated in the statement its initial stance, first articulated after the release of the Wednesday video, saying Project Veritas is a "political organization with a long history of releasing deceptively edited videos that later prove to have been dishonest and misleading." 

    Project Veritas has been criticized for using selective editing to create false impressions about what people in academia, government and social service organizations have said during undercover audio or video conversations.

    The union's primary concern, it said in the statement, is the safety and well-being of students.

    Allison Pries may be reached at apries@njadvancemedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @AllisonPries. Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    Many are questioning if teachers unions have gotten too strong in the wake of undercover videos of two union chiefs saying they protect teachers who commit criminal acts. Watch video

    After the release of two videos this week that appear to show two New Jersey teachers union presidents explaining how they protect teachers who commit criminal acts, education advocacy groups have called for a state investigation into practices.

    The directors of JerseyCAN and Better Education for Kids said in a letter sent to state Sen. Teresa Ruiz, D-Newark, and chairwoman of the Senate Education committee, that the videos raise questions about how easy it is to manipulate the teacher disciplinary system. 

    JerseyCAN and Better Education for Kids often advocate for education reforms opposed by teachers unions.

    "These videos highlight that there may be weaknesses in teacher disciplinary procedures that unethical insiders can exploit to protect teachers accused of wrongdoing," the letter says.

    Project Veritas, a conservative group that produces undercover reports aimed at exposing bad behavior by groups associated with liberals, released the undercover videos of the teachers this week.

    In the videos, the teachers, Union City Education Association President Kathleen Valencia, and Hamilton Township Education Association President David R. Perry, say they will protect teachers, with Perry saying, "I'm here to defend even the worst people."

    In the Union City video, Valencia references a teacher who she says had sex with a student but was not charged criminally because the student had no proof. Both teachers have been suspended.

    Project Veritas has been criticized for using selective editing to create false impressions about what people in academia, government and social service organizations have said during undercover audio or video conversations.

    The New Jersey Education Association dismissed the videos.

    Many are saying this shows that the teachers unions will do anything they can to protect their teachers and that it's not about the students.

    Do you think the unions have too much power?

    Vote in our informal and unscientific poll and tell us why in the comments.

     

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.


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    The nonprofit SPCA used to be the ones to help cats, dogs and other animals in bad situations. Now it'll be your friendly neighborhood cop and they haven't been trained for that job yet.

    Howell dogs 9/29/2016Authorities seized 12 dogs and two horses from the rear of a residence in Howell Township on Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016. (Photo courtesy of the Monmouth County SPCA) 

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    Peach trees blossom at Terhune Orchards.. Watch video

    Driving on Cold Soil Road in Lawrence and Princeton, can there be any doubt that love is in the air?

    That's because the peach blossom is a symbol of (among other things) romance, and at Terhune Orchards, thousands of peach trees covering 10 acres have burst into bloom.

    "Peaches are the first really big blooming trees in the state," according to Pam Mount, who owns Terhune along with husband Gary Mount.

    The trees have been carefully pruned all winter and will continue to be pruned to maintain the right balance of branches and blossoms.

    ter587.00_02_49_46.Still018.jpgThe peach trees are flowering at Terhune Orchards along Cold Soil Road, where they grow 28 varieties of peaches which become available from July to September. (Michael Mancuso | NJ.com) 

    "You have to even them out over the whole tree" adds Mount ..."to have them (the peaches) all grow nice and big and juicy."

    Based on the number of initial blooms, Mount says she expects an excellent crop of peaches this year.

    The Mounts bought Terhune Orchards in 1975 and have grown their enterprise from several different types of trees on 55 acres to currently raising over 40 crops on 185 acres, adding a winery along the way.

    Michael Mancuso may be reached at mmancuso@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @michaelmancuso Find NJ.com on Facebook


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    But fret not Trenton and Yankees fans, the spot has been filled by a pitcher that is also on that list of top prospects in the system.

    With number three prospect Justus Sheffield off to Triple A, there was a spot open in the Thunder rotation.

    But fret not Trenton and Yankees fans, the spot has been filled by a pitcher that is also on that list of top prospects in the system.

    Jonathan Loaisiga, the Yankees number 12 ranked prospect, dominated early in the 2018 campaign at Tampa. He was 3-0, with a 1.35 ERA in four starts for the Tarpons, before he was moved up to Trenton Thursday night.

    The 5'11" righty wasted little time making an impression on manager Jay Bell, and the fans in attendance Thursday night, with a five inning stint in the 3-1 Thunder win over Harrisburg. Loaisiga allowed six hits, and one earned run, but left the game before he could figure in the decision.

    "I couldn't have been happier," Bell said. "You look up there and you see him throw five innings, and fall pretty short of his pitch count. I think he had a 90 pitch hard limit, and he threw 82 pitches. 

    "He pitched really, really well. I was very impressed. He pounded the strike zone, and threw all of his pitches for strikes, and did a fantastic job. For him to come up and do what he did was extraordinary"

    Yankees 3B Drury rehabs in Trenton Friday; Sheffield heads to Scranton

    "I am glad that I got this opportunity," Loaisiga said through defensive/first base coach Raul Dominguez. "I feel great today. Sometimes I tried to do too much, that is why I was sometimes wild. I was a little nervous in the bullpen, but as soon as I started the game, I was fine."

    It was just one start, but Loaisiga can already tell that Double A is more challenging than High A.

    "I can see the difference," Loaisiga said. "A lot of the hitters don't chase many pitches. They have better strike zone discipline. The strike zone is tighter as well.

    NOTES:

    The Thunder came into Saturday night's game with Harrisburg tied with New Hampshire for first place, at 16-10 (New Hampshire is 15-9). They were 9-3 in their last 12, and have played well on the road so far, with a 7-4 record.

    Trenton has lost just one series all season, to the Fisher Cats April 9-11. The Thunder can win another series with a win either Saturday or Sunday against the Senators, before Reading comes in Monday-Wednesday for the first time this year.

    Relegation battle springs to life in final weeks of Premier League season

    Erik Swanson leads the Eastern League with five wins, a 0.65 ERA, and is second in WHIP at 0.87.

    Brandon Drury went 1-for-3 in his rehab start at third base Friday night, and should be in the lineup for the Thunder for at least the rest of the series. There is no update on how long the player will be in Trenton, as he tries to play his way back into contention to come off the DL.

    "I am feeling better, but I still have room to improve to be where I want to be," Drury said. "But we are getting some answers now, about what we have to work on to get better. I am back and forth between here and Greenwich, getting my treatment.

    "At this point, I am kind of waiting, and doing what I can to control what I can control, as far as getting back on the field in the big leagues. I am feeling improvement for sure."

    Drury is hitting .379 in 29 minor league at-bats this season.

    Trey Amburgey was activated from the 7-Day DL Saturday before the game with the Senators, while Cesar Diaz was transferred to Extended Spring Training in the corresponding move.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    Garden State residents can register to vote at age 17 but cannot vote until they turn 18. Watch video

    The high school students in your family may come home from school with more than crumpled-up candy wrappers and the day's math assignments stuffed into their backpacks.

    They also may be toting black wrist bands bearing the slogan #MyVoiceMyVoteNJ, as well as voter registration forms that will allow them to have a voice in upcoming elections.

    Forty-five high schools around the state are participating in a campaign designed to encourage young people to become involved as soon as they are legally eligible to do so.

    The laudable project represents a partnership among the New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, the League of Women Voters and the N.J. Social Studies Supervisors Association.

    It capitalizes on momentum building nationwide after the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., in which 17 people died.

    N.J. could soon make it easier for students to vote

    Since the shooting, young survivors have fanned out across the country to advocate for stronger gun-safety laws, as well as to encourage more robust participation in the democratic process by their peers.

    "We believe it is important - in fact, imperative - to honor our students' voices, to let them know that we are listening and that we value what they are saying," the principals' association wrote in announcing the registration drive that runs through May 11.

    The registration drive is largely the brainchild of association executive director Patricia Wright, who designed a banner and began soliciting participation by the state's high schools.

    Winning student buy-in was crucial.

    Risa Clay, principal at Red Bank Regional High School, says young people may be more likely to vote if they are interacting with friends and classmates who share their everyday concerns.

    At Cresskill High School, social studies teacher Sean Conlin is impressed that the student leaders are making a point of staffing sign-up tables with representatives of diverse political and socio-economic backgrounds.

    Garden State residents can register to vote at age 17 but cannot vote until they turn 18. Last month, the Assembly approved the New Voter Empowerment Act, designed to allow 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election if they've reached their next birthday before the next general election.

    The measure, which we support, still requires the backing of the full senate before it becomes law.

    Gun safety is a prime issue for students in this election cycle, to be sure, but there are additional areas of concern for this age group: Will they have safe air to breath and water to drink when they get older? How will they pay for college? Will jobs be available once they graduate?

    Students learned a crucial lesson after Parkland: that elections have consequences. The #MyVoiceMyVoteNJ reminds them - and us - that participation in those elections is more than an abstract idea.

    Hooray to the schools that signed on to this campaign. For those that didn't, there's another one planned for the fall.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

     

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    The two-day Power in the Pines Open House Air Show is being hosted at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst.


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    He is 5-0, with a 0.65 ERA, both of which lead the Eastern League. He is second in WHIP at 0.87 as well.

    With all the fanfare surrounding the Trenton Thunder pitching staff this season, the starter that has taken the league by storm is one that is not a top 15 prospect like the rest.

    Erik Swanson has been lights out for the Thunder to start the 2018 campaign. In five games (four starts), the righty has posted some ridiculous numbers. He is 5-0, with a 0.65 ERA, both of which lead the Eastern League. He is second in WHIP at 0.87 as well, with 35 strikeouts, 15 hits allowed, and just eight walks, in 27.2 innings.

    With Justus Sheffield (number three prospect) gone, and Domingo Acevedo (number eight prospect), Jonathan Loaisiga (number 14 prospect), and Dillon Tate (number 11 prospect) in Trenton, Swanson is surrounded by a lot of talent. But it is Swanson that has started to open the eyes of some people in the organization, and who may soon be an addition to that prospect list.

    "I am just going to try to continue what I am doing," Swanson said. "I am getting ahead of hitter early with my fastball. I am commanding that fastball, and I am able to put those guys away when I need to. I have to continue to work on that.

    "My goal is to go out there and give our team a chance to win every day, and it is obviously a plus if I can pitch well and get a win."

    Swanson got the win Friday night against Harrisburg, as the Thunder scored eight runs in the first three innings for the righty. That was more than enough, as Swanson settled in to dominate the Senators. He allowed just four hits in seven innings of work, and threw 93 pitches (63 for strikes).

    "It takes a little weight off my shoulders to get that early support," Swanson said.

    Stoke relegated, Southampton heartbreak, on penultimate PL weekend

    For as easy as it has looked for Swanson out there, he still has some things to work on to get better.

    "I would not say it has been easy," Swanson said. "Obviously, the stat line may look like it has been easy, but I have definitely had my struggles. Sometimes I have not been able to throw my pitches the way I want to throw them. I think I have been walking too many guys here.

    "But you have to remember that everybody is human, and is going to have those rough outings, those bad outings. It is not a matter of if, but when. But whatever you can do to minimize those, whether it is the work you put in the middle of the week to get you there. 

    "I just try to go abut my weeks the same way, and whenever it comes time to get on the mound, I just do what I do.

    Swanson has been working on a new pitch over the last couple starts, which can only help him get better.

    "A pitch I am working on now is my slider," Swanson said. "It is a new pitch to me, as of two starts ago. That is something they are wanting to see progress, and I want to see progress. I have been very happy with it, the way it has been the last two outings.

    "I still need to do a few things to shape it up a little better. The work I am doing during the week, whether it is throwing on flat ground, playing catch, or throwing a side, I am definitely taking extra repetitions with that. I am really trying to shape it the way I want.

    "But I am also trying to get comfortable so that I can throw that pitch in every count, and I am feeling comfortable with it like that. I threw it (Friday) in some hitters' counts. It is a pitch that can pan out, and be a good one for me."

    NOTES:

    The Yankees made a number of moves prior to the game Sunday that dealt with the Thunder.

    Pitcher Joe Harvey and infielder Bruce Caldwell were transferred to Triple A Scranton Wilkes-Barre, and were replaced on the roster by infielder Vince Conde and pitcher Matt Frawley.

    Ryan Bollinger, who was transferred from Scranton Friday, made his first career start with Trenton Sunday. He picked up the win, as the Thunder finished the four-game sweep of Harrisburg with a 4-0 win.

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean


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    Ferguson won 38 trophies with Manchester United, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns.

    WEST BROM STILL ALIVE, BUT STOKE IS NOT

    A month ago, if someone would have said that West Bromwich Albion would still be able to escape the relegation battle with a week to go in the season, you would have said he or she was crazy.

    But here we are, with the final day of the 2017-18 Premier League season next Sunday, and the Baggies are still alive for the greatest of great escapes. 

    Go back to match week 33, and West Brom sat at the foot of the table, with just 21 points, 10 points behind 17th place Crystal Palace. Now, WBA has 31 points with one match to go, and have climbed up to 19th. A whole lot of things still have to go in their favor, but the Baggies, with a win next Sunday at Crystal Palace, has a chance to stay in the league.

    West Brom beat Tottenham 1-0 Saturday, with a goal in extra time, and have wins over Newcastle, Manchester United, and draws with Liverpool and Swansea in its last five games.

    To stay alive, WBA needs there to be a draw in the Southampton (17th, 33 points) vs. Swansea (18th, 33 points) match Tuesday. Those two teams sit directly above the Baggies.

    Southampton nearly had a pivotal win Saturday, but conceded a 96th minute goal to Everton's Tom Davies, in a 1-1 draw. The Saints can all but assure another season of Premier League football with a win over Swansea, or a victory on the final day against Manchester City.

    Stoke City (20th, 30 points) was the first team to be relegated, with its 2-1 loss to Crystal Palace Saturday. Huddersfield (16th, 36 points), despite its 0-0 draw with champion Manchester City, can still be relegated. 

    PREMIER LEAGUE RESULTS

    Brighton 1-0 Man. United

    Stoke 1-2 Crystal Palace

    Bournemouth 1-0 Swansea

    Leicester 0-2 West Ham

    Watford 2-1 Newcastle

    West Brom 1-0 Tottenham

    Everton 1-1 Southampton

    Man. City 0-0 Huddersfield

    Arsenal 5-0 Burnley

    Chelsea 1-0 Liverpool

    Tuesday

    Swansea vs. Southampton, 2:45 p.m. EDT

    Wednesday

    Chelsea vs. Huddersfield, 2:45 p.m. EDT

    Leicester vs. Arsenal, 2:45 p.m. EDT

    Man. City vs. Brighton, 3 p.m. EDT

    Tottenham vs. Newcastle, 3 p.m. EDT

    Thursday

    West Ham vs. Man. United

    Relegation battle springs to life in final weeks of Premier League season

    TOP FOUR BATTLE TIGHTENS 

    Chelsea's 1-0 win over Liverpool Sunday, combined with West Brom's 1-0 win over Tottenham, has cut the gap between third place and fifth to just three points.

    But Liverpool, which currently sits in third place on 72 points, has played 37 matches, while the two team behind the Reds have played 36. Liverpool ends the season with Brighton at home next Sunday.

    Tottenham sit on 71 points, and play Newcastle Wednesday and Leicester Sunday, both at home. Chelsea will host Huddersfield Wednesday, then travel to Newcastle next Sunday.

    It looked like Chelsea's UEFA Champions League chances were dead and buried a month ago, but with two wins, the Blues could bump one of the two teams out of the top four.

    Liverpool could qualify as well if it beats two-time reigning champion Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League Final May 26 in Kyiv, Ukraine (2:45 p.m. Fox and Fubo.tv). 

    ARSENAL GIVES WENGER A FITTING SEND OFF AT THE EMIRATES

    Arsenal routed Burnley 5-0 Sunday, in Arsene Wenger's final match in charge at the Emirates. The Gunners solidified sixth spot in the Premier League, which allows them to advance directly into the 2018-19 UEFA Europa League, and bypass the qualifying rounds which Burnley will have to play (Burnley enters in the second qualifying round.)

    It was a fitting send off to Wenger, who is in the final week of his Arsenal career as manager. He is the longest serving manager in Europe, with 22 years in charge of the Gunners. The match was also the final one at home for Per Mertesacker, the Arsenal captain who will retire after next weekend to take over the Arsenal academy.

    SIR ALEX FERGUSON RUSHED TO HOSPITAL

    The greatest manager in Premier League and English football history, Sir Alex Ferguson, was rushed to the hospital Saturday with a brain hemorrhage. He is recovering in intensive care.

    Ferguson won 38 trophies with Manchester United, including 13 Premier League titles and two Champions League crowns. He also won 12 trophies in Scotland, for a grand haul of 50 pieces of silverware.

    CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FINAL PARTY SET FOR SATURDAY MAY 26

    Come out to the Old Town Pub in Bordentown on Saturday, May 26, with myself and the crew of Box to Box Football, to watch the UEFA Champions League Final.

    Can Real Madrid win its third straight title, or will Liverpool give England its first title since 2012?

    Contact Sean Miller at seanmillertrentontimes@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheProdigalSean His weekly podcast, Box to Box Football, can be found on iTunes here https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/box-to-box-football/id1208561351?mt=2


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    Dogs and cats throughout the state await adoption.

    Petfinder, the for-profit internet company that operates the largest online pet adoption website serving all of North America, put this list together of common adoption myths in the hope that more people will adopt dogs and cats from shelters and rescues.

    * "I don't know what I'm getting."

    There is likely more information available on adoptable animals than pets for purchase in pet stores. Many of the pets from rescue groups are in foster care, living with their fosterer 24/7; information on their personality and habits is typically vast. Even shelters have a very good idea about how the dogs and cats in their care behave with people and other animals.

    * "I can't find what I want at a shelter."

    Not only are their breed-specific rescue groups, but some rescues and shelters maintain waiting lists for specific breeds. There are even means on Petfinder.com to be notified when certain breeds are posted for adoption.

    *"I can get a pet for free from a friend or acquaintance; why pay an adoption fee?"

    The 'free pet' from a source other than a shelter or rescue group isn't necessarily free. Adoption fees usually cover a number of services and treatments including spay/neuter and veterinary checkups. Covering these costs on your own would call for spending the following estimated amounts:

         * Spay/neuter: $150-$300

         * Distemper vaccination: $20-$30, twice

         * Rabies vaccination: $15-$25

         * Heartworm test: $15-$35

         * Flea/tick treatment: $50-$200

         * Microchip: $25-$50

    * "Pets are in shelters because they don't make good pets."

    Here are the main reasons animals end up in shelters or with rescue groups:

         * Owners have to move, pets not allowed

         * Allergies

         * Owner having personal problems

         * Too many, no room for littermates

         * Owner can no longer afford a pet

         * Owner's health does not allow for pet care

    While no one can say that every pet adopted from a shelter or rescue will work out perfectly, it's important to remember that misinformation about these homeless animals often keeps them from finding loving homes.


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    It doesn't matter that the source of union official video is a nihilistic troll. If the NJEA cares about kids, they cannot ignore it. Watch video

    Typically, it's pointless to call attention to anything James O'Keefe manufactures with his hidden camera unless he films his pet viper doing something whimsical, because he tends to use deceit, amateurishly selective editing, and general wing-nuttery to launch himself into mainstream discourse.

    But the footage his Project Veritas spies collected in their visits with NJEA local leaders in Hamilton and Union City deserve further scrutiny, and both districts need to examine whether any student faced any form of abuse from a teacher.

    Fortunately, the NJEA agrees - otherwise it wouldn't have suspended the two union leaders who were stung.

    The president of the Hamilton Education Association, Dr. David Perry, is seen on video sharing his leniency with union members: He speaks of turning a punch into a shove in a report about abuse; about saving the job of a serial drug abuser five times; and he suggests that his job entails defending "the worst people."

    The president of the Union City Education Association, Kathleen Valencia, refers to students as "dirtbags," and speaks of a teacher who had sex with a teenage girl who will keep his job because no charges were filed. 

    O'Keefe has pernicious aims. Luckily, he's inept | Editorial

    While both videos are alarming, they are composed of snippets - many of them pretexted by hypothetical scenarios rather than questions.

    The NJEA issued a statement reaffirming its pledge to protect children from abuse and to report any allegations of it, and announced that it will commission "an independent review of the practices" at their local affiliates."

    The second half of its statement reiterated that work from Project Veritas is rubbish. Indeed, O'Keefe can rarely be taken seriously, and to call him and his theater ensemble "guerrilla journalists" is like calling Koko the sign-language gorilla a linguist.

    But he only has to be right one time, no matter how he frames his narrative. And if real abuse is exposed, the NJEA, if true to its creed, should thank him.

    Bookmark NJ.com/Opinion. Follow on Twitter @NJ_Opinion and find NJ.com Opinion on Facebook.

     

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    The now 40-year-old approved false claims against the state filed by friends and relatives, and she received some of the cash

    A former claims investigator for the state Department of Treasury has been sentenced to three years in prison for stealing $78,000 by processing or approving false claims in the names of her friends and family. 

    hargrove.jpgStephanie Hargrove 

    Stephanie Hargrove, 40, of Willingboro, had worked as a principal claims investigator for the Division of Risk Management. She pleaded guilty to second-degree theft by unlawful taking in September 2017. 

    As part of her sentence, Hargrove also has to pay restitution and can never again hold a public job. 

    For five years, Hargrove processed or approved false claims filed against the state government in the names of friends, relatives or others she knew.

    Hargrove, who personally received at least some of the money, used false supporting documents for various claims, including claims charging the Motor Vehicle Commission with improper record-keeping that resulted in vehicles being towed in error.

    Other claims were filed against the Department of Children and Families falsely alleging foster children damaged the homes of their host families.

    The fraud was uncovered by treasury officials, who referred the case to law enforcement, authorities said. 

    Hargrove was suspended from her $70,000 a year job after she being charged in April 2017.

    Her attorney, Robin Kay Lord, didn't immediately return a message from NJ Advance Media seeking comment. 

    Jeff Goldman may be reached at jeff_goldman@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @JeffSGoldman. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

     

    0 0

    With divisional and county tournament titles on the line, there are a bevy of must-see, can't miss high school baseball games this week.


    0 0

    It's a big week as teams prepare for the postseason.

    games2watch016.JPGIt's a huge week in high school softball. The cutoff to qualify for postseason play is Thursday, while many county and conference tournaments are coming to a close or making their way towards a conclusion. Check out some of the top games around the state in an exciting week. 
    games2watch016.JPGIt's a huge week in high school softball. The cutoff to qualify for postseason play is Thursday, while many county and conference tournaments are coming to a close or making their way towards a conclusion. Check out some of the top games around the state in an exciting week. 

    0 0

    New Jersey's top state lawmaker told NJ Advance Media he called for a hearing on the matter.

    The state Senate announced Monday it will hold hearings to investigate videos appearing to show local leaders of New Jersey's top teachers union talking about protecting teachers accused of abusing students.

    State Senate President Stephen Sweeney, the state's top lawmaker, told NJ Advance Media on Monday morning that he asked the chairs of the Senate education and labor committees to convene a joint hearing.

    The hearings were announced an hour later, but the committee chairs said they have not yet set any dates. 

    "It is absolutely unacceptable," Sweeney, D-Gloucester, said about the videos in a phone interview. "It's offensive to listen to the way the leadership -- I'm not talking about the state leadership, I'm talking about the local leadership -- handled that."

    Sweeney added that if the leaders have "devised a way to get around reporting properly incidents in schools where kids have been physically assaulted, it's a problem."

    "It's a real problem," he said. "And I think it's enough of issue when you have local leadership bragging about how they get around things, and how they can fix things, that it needs to be reviewed to make sure it stops." 

    Editorial: NJEA footage demands scrutiny

    The videos were released by Project Veritas, a controversial conservative nonprofit run by James O'Keefe, a New Jersey native and Rutgers University graduate. The group goes undercover to record liberal organizations and individuals in an effort to expose bias. But critics say the group uses deceptive methods and note their videos are heavily edited. 

    The most recent videos feature snippets of interviews with the local teachers union presidents in Hamilton (Mercer County) and Union City. The local unions are branches of the New Jersey Education Association, the largest teachers union in the state.

    David Perry, head of the Hamilton Education Association, is shown saying his own job sometimes involves defending "the worst people." 

    In another video, Kathleen Valencia, head of the Union City Education Association, calls students "dirtbags" and mentions how a teacher who had sex with a teenage girl will not be fired because no charged were filed. 

    Perry and Valencia also discuss how the union hypothetically would help teachers who physically abused or threatened students. 

    Both union officials have been suspended. And the NJEA said in a recent statement that it is commissioning "an independent review of the practices of our local affiliates and staff."

    The union said it "does not, in any instance, condone the abuse or mistreatment of children or the failure to properly report allegations of abuse."

    The NJEA also criticized Project Veritas as "a political organization with a long history of releasing deceptively edited videos that later prove to have been dishonest and misleading."

    Sweeney dismissed that, saying "they can attack the videos and who did the videos all they want."

    "But those words were real, those actions were real, and they need to be dealt with," he told NJ Advance Media. "And the NJEA doing their own independent investigation is the fox watching the henhouse."

    In response to Sweeney's comments, Steve Baker, a spokesman for the NJEA, said the union's review is to "ensure that every staff member and local affiliate leader understands and clearly communicates the responsibility of all school employees to report any suspected abuse of children."

    Baker added that the union "welcomes the opportunity to discuss these important issues further with legislators in order to ensure that all public education advocates are working together to ensure the safety and wellbeing of New Jersey's students."

    Sweeney and NJEA have bad blood. The union spent millions to try to unseat the Senate president in last year's election. In all, the race cost $18.7 million, making it the most expensive legislative campaign in American history.

    But Sweeney rejected that calling for a hearing is an act of revenge.

    "Revenge? There's no revenge. Come on," he said

    "They attacked who did the video," Sweeney added. "The person who did the video doesn't have the greatest reputation. We all agree. But that video was real. They know it's real, and that's why they suspended those members."

    "This is me doing my job as a legislative leader," he continued. "We hold hearings on things when we see things that are troubled."

    Sweeney said a hearing is needed especially in the wake of Gov. Phil Murphy signing a law giving New Jersey's school administrators sweeping new powers to warn other districts about teachers accused of sexual abuse.

    The law was enacted months after  NJ Advance Media published an extensive investigation into the issue. 

    Radio station New Jersey 101.5-FM was the first to report that Sweeney wanted a hearing, citing a source close to the lawmaker.

    Brent Johnson may be reached at bjohnson@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @johnsb01. Find NJ.com Politics on Facebook.


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