It wasn't just about the Reds and Bengals. Skiers, coaches and boxing champs also figured in the top local sports stories of 2013.
Baseball fans in the Tri-State looked at 2013 as the year for their Cincinnati Reds. Big names and big contracts led to even bigger expectations for the team's loyal backers.
For many, it was World Series or bust. Sadly for Redleg Nation, it was the latter when the Reds fell to the Pirates 6-2 in a one-and-done National League Wild Card game.
In front of a black-clad crowd savoring its first postseason game since 1992, Pittsburgh's Russell Martin homered twice and Francisco Liriano was dominant for seven innings. Marlon Byrd also went deep and Andrew McCutchen had two hits and reached base four times.
Cincinnati starter Johnny Cueto struggled in his third start since coming off the disabled list. Cueto gave up four runs in 3 1-3 innings and appeared rattled by a raucous ballpark that taunted him by chanting his name.
Just like that, a 90-win season came to an end and cries for change erupted.
Despite three playoff appearances in four seasons, manager Dusty Baker's inability to get the Reds to the World Series cost him his job.
Baker, 64, was relieved Oct. 4, three days after his team lost the National League Wild Card game to Pittsburgh.
The final-week collapse sealed Baker’s fate, Reds GM Walt Jocketty said in an interview with 9 On Your Side Sports Director John Popovich.
“Basically it was something that we had been talking about - just the way the team had been playing the last few weeks,” Jocketty said after Baker was let go. “There were a number of other factors involved, but it was after losing the last six games and losing that playoff game when the final decision was made.”
The Reds lost five straight to end the regular season, including the final three games of the season to the Pirates, costing them a chance at home-field advantage in the wild-card game. The sixth straight loss is what ultimately sealed Baker's fate.
When Popovich asked if Jocketty thought the Reds hadn’t played up to their capabilities under Baker in 2013, the GM replied:
"The one thing I want to make clear is we’re very appreciative of what Dusty was able to do here in the last six years and getting us into the postseason, but I think we felt it was time for a change and go in a different direction because we just didn’t feel like there was enough from the players the last few weeks of the season. I think it was evident a change was probably needed. I think there’s certainly enough blame to go around."
Baker took over a rebuilding team in 2008 and led the club to three 90-win seasons and three playoff appearances in the last four years, their best run since Sparky Anderson managed the Big Red Machine to two World Series titles in the 1970s.
However, the lack of playoff success built pressure for change.
Pitching coach Bryan Price was named manager in late October.
Can Bengals Ditch 'Bungles' Moniker In Playoffs?
Tired of being called the "Bungles?" It's time to earn it, Bengals.
You haven't won a playoff game in more than two decades and have arguably your best team in history, so it's time to show up this postseason.
To the delight of fans, coach Marvin Lewis managed to guide a youthful roster into the playoffs in each of the past two seasons. Now, though, the expectations have changed. You're the AFC North champions and it's time to act like it.
No first-round flameouts. No more watching the NFL playoffs on TV. No more causing fans to grumble about your inability to win (or even get to) the Big Game.
The Bengals (11-5) haven't won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the longest current streak of futility and seventh-longest in NFL history. But they're favored to end the drought on Sunday when they host the San Diego Chargers (9-7), a team they beat 17-10 a month ago.
This team is in better shape than any of Lewis' previous ones to make a playoff run. The defense is ranked No. 3 in the league. The offense ranks 10th in the league -- and it's even better at home. They've scored 49, 41, 42, 42 and 34 points in the past five home games, according to the Associated Press.
"I feel better about this team going into the playoffs than I ever have," safety Chris Crocker told the AP. "When we show up and we want to play, we're hard to beat. We're really hard to beat...You don't just win 11 games by getting lucky."
Is this team lucky? Who Dey Nation hopes we won't find out the answer to this question until 2014.
Associated Press content was used in this portion of the story.
High School Football Is King In The Tri-State
There were several crowns handed out to Ohio football teams during the 2013 high school playoffs.
Moeller quarterback Gus Ragland accounted for eight touchdowns and 16 Division I state championship game records fell as fifth-ranked Moeller (14-1) held on for a wild 55-52 win over sixth-ranked Mentor (13-2) at Canton Fawcett Stadium. The Crusaders are back-to-back state champs and have won nine titles in program history.
Ragland was big for Moeller all year. His efforts earned him recognition as the Division I offensive player of the year in Ohio.
Loveland scored five touchdowns in the first half and took a 34-0 halftime lead on the way to a 41-23 rout of Cleveland Glenville to win the Ohio Division II championship and cap an undefeated season in the snow at Fawcett Stadium.
This was the first state title for a Loveland team in any sport, and Tigers fans came out in big numbers to show their support. The school sold 2,500 tickets for the game.
Clinton-Massie won its second straight Ohio Division IV football title when Bayle Wolf’s third touchdown run with 1:10 left lifted the Falcons to a hard-fought 27-21 win over Youngstown Mooney in a snowstorm at Paul Brown Tiger Stadium in Massillon.
In Kentucky, two teams made it to the state final round but were unable to close out the season with victories. Among them was perennial powerhouse Highlands, which saw its run of six straight championships come to an end. It took one of the most memorable finishes in finals’ history to snap it.
Collins, in only its fourth year of existence, upset Highlands 37-34 in front of 2,997 fans in the Russell Athletic/KHSAA Class 4A championship game in Bowling Green, Ky.
With Collins facing fourth down at the Highlands 12, no timeouts and only 13 seconds left, starting QB Lawson Page was forced off the field because his helmet came off on the previous play. So back-up quarterback Browning Becherer took center stage. Becherer took the shotgun snap and fired a bullet touchdown pass to Nathan Sames for the winning score with seven seconds left.
The Newport Central Catholic Thoroughbreds came up one game short in their bid to repeat as Kentucky Class 2A state champions. They were defeated by the DeSales Colts 34-26 at Feix Field, Houchens/LT Smith Stadium.
After scoring 34 or more points in eight straight contests and winning nine straight games, NewCath’s (10-5) offense sputtered at times.
After setting the all-time Kentucky mark for consecutive state championships and winning a record 11 states titles in 20 seasons, Highlands football coach Dale Mueller decided to call it quits.
Mueller, 59, said he would remain the athletic director and advanced placement physics teacher through 2014-15.
“I decided last December that this season was going to be my last season, and I told my family and I told the administration at Highlands that this was going to be last year,” Mueller said.
Mueller coached at Cincinnati Withrow and Sycamore before taking over the helm at Highlands in 1994. He finished his career with 309 total wins and a 250-36 record (.874) in Kentucky.
Highlands’ win in the state semifinals at Lexington Catholic made him the 19th coach in state history to reach the 250-win mark. The Bluebirds lost, 37-34, in the state championship on Dec. 7 to finish his final campaign 13-2.
Highlands had set the state record for consecutive championships in 2012 by winning its sixth straight. Mueller’s mark of 11 overall titles leads all Kentucky coaches, as he is one ahead of Louisville Trinity coach Bob Beatty.
“I’m 59 years old and I just don’t have the energy to do the job that I think you should do as a high school coach and still do the rest of my job as a teacher and a father and a grandfather,” Mueller said. “I just don’t have the energy I had when I was 40.”
Conference shakeup for UC, Xavier
Seven Catholic schools split off from the old Big East to form a basketball league, retaining the name and looking to add schools. Xavier was one of them.
In March, the Jesuit university officially announced its move to the rebranded Big East. In July, the city of Cincinnati celebrated the step up in competition by the boys and girls in blue with two special events in downtown -- one at Fountain Square and the other at Great American Ball Park during a Reds game.
While championed by some, the move was criticized by others, most of whom reside in Clifton.
Some feared the Musketeers wouldn't be able to continue their basketball success. Others feared the athletic programs at the University of Cincinnati would take an involuntary step backward.
With the move by Xavier, the University of Cincinnati was left in the awkward position of not knowing what its future would look like.
In May, UC announced it would be part of the American Athletic Conference. The league consisted of remaining members of the old Big East.
Besides UC, the American consists of Rutgers, Louisville, South Florida, Connecticut, Temple, Central Florida, Memphis, Houston and SMU.
Rutgers and Louisville will leave after 2013-14 and Tulane, Tulsa and East Carolina will join in 2014. Navy is set to become the 12th member in 2015.
Associated Press content was used in this portion of the story
Cincinnati Native Chane Behanan Dismissed From Louisville Year After Winning National Title
Just months after helping the Louisville Cardinals win a national championship over Michigan, Cincinnati native Chane Behanan was dismissed from the team.
"He just did not do the right thing over and over and over," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said of Behanan, who graduated from Bowling Green High School after transferring from Aiken High School.
Pitino didn't specify Behanan's wrongdoing.
"I want to apologize for letting down my family, teammates, coaches, [athletic director] Tom Jurich, this university and the Louisville fans," Behanan said in a statement released by the university.
He also tweeted that he "will forever miss this place" and that it was "good while it lasted."
Behanan began the season on suspension and was not permitted to practice or even to live in the dorms with his teammates.
At the time, Pitino said the 6-foot-6, 250-pound forward was "more interested in Chane the man than Chane the basketball player."
He ended up missing one game before returning. Jurich warned him this was his final chance to remain on the team, multiple sources reported.
Behanan apparently exhausted that chance a dozen games later. He was informed roughly 24 hours after the Cardinals had fallen to rival Kentucky that he would no longer be wearing a Louisville uniform due to a violation of an unspecified team rule.
Associated Press content was used in this portion of the story
Local Skier Likely To Serve As Standout On U.S. Winter Olympic Team
Local skier Nick Goepper made himself a virtual lock for the U.S. Olympic team with his second-place finish at the U.S. Grand Prix slopestyle skiing contest.
Goepper, who grew up skiing at Perfect North, the 300-foot "mountain" in Lawrenceburg, Ind., scored 89.2 - 3.6 shy of winner Andreas Haatveit of Norway.
Just one week earlier he won an Olympic selection event. Combined with this second-place finish, it would be nearly impossible for him not to qualify.
Adrien Broner Loses Title, Wins in Court of Law
Heavily favored Adrien Broner was overpowered by Marcos Maidana in a late December title fight in San Antonio. The punishing defeat cost the Cincinnati native his WBA welterweight championship.
The 24-year-old Cincinnati native was knocked down twice en route to a unanimous decision loss at the Alamodome. It was his first loss in 28 fights.
Broner ran out of the ring after the judges' scores of 115-110, 116-109 and 117-109 were read off.
"I'm OK. I'm still the three-time world champion in three different weight classes," Broner said after the fight. "Tonight, Maidana was just the better man, but we fought a hell of a fight. I hope the fans got what they deserved. ... I'm still going to live like we won the fight. I'm still going to party."
While it's not much of a consolation prize, Broner was victorious in a court of law several days later.
Attorney William Welsh said the man who accused Broner of punching him in the face in May 2012 did not show up for the trial. Welsh contends the alleged assault never took place.
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