Mark Behan

Carlos Pena debuted with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays last weekend in a pair of games against the Toronto Blue Jays.

After not appearing in the team's season-opening series against the New York Yankees, Pena started and played the entire two games at first base against Toronto.

The good news is that Pena was a perfect 13-for-13 in the field. He had 11 put outs and two assists. The bad news, well, the Rays lost both games and Pena went hitless in the series, 0-for-7 with three strikeouts.

Like Pena, Haverhill's other professional baseball player, Tim Stronach, had a good-news, bad-news weekend.

After pitching last year with the New York Mets' Rookie League Team in Kingsport, Tenn., and after being impressive at spring training in the Mets' camp, Stronach, a Whittier Tech graduate, was promoted to the Mets Single-A team, the Savannah Sand Gnats (gotta love the nicknames). That's the good news.

On Saturday, the hard-throwing righthander made his Sand Gnats debut, pitching against the Asheville Tourists on "Sand Gnats Magnet Schedule Giveaway Night" at Savannah.

Unfortunately, these Tourists treated Stronach rather rudely, roughing him up for seven runs (four earned) in three innings. In his night's work, Stronach whiffed three Tourists, allowed six hits and walked two.

Here's hoping it's all good news the rest of the way for Carlos and Tim.

Whittier Tech athletic director and football coach Kevin Bradley (your loss, Methuen High) reports a whopping seven senior football players from the Wildcats 2006 championship team will continue playing football after they graduate from the Tech.

"It's amazing," said Bradley. "We have never had this many kids from one senior class go on to play at the next level. It shows how talented this team was and what great kids we had." You betcha.

Jay Pena, perhaps the best football player in Wildcats' history, earned a scholarship to the University of Delaware. We all know that. So where are Pena's talented teammates heading next fall?

Thane Sanford has earned a full scholarship to Phillips Academy Andover; Joel Penney will attend Wilbraham Munson Prep School; Shane McCartney will go to Worcester State; Andrew Gerard is heading to Mass Maritime; and Clint Clay and Chris Dube will be banging heads for Plymouth State College, Bradley's alma mater.

One of the biggest and most competitive early-season track meets in the area will be run this Saturday (April 14) at Haverhill High on the Anthony Sapienza Memorial Track. The 31st annual John Ottaviani Haverhill Invitational starts at 10 a.m. Close to 40 teams and several hundred athletes are expected to compete.

On April 19, 1958, the Boston Marathon was run on a Saturday (now it's held on a Monday, Patriot's Day) and in sauna-like conditions for April. The temperature that day reached 85 degrees as the top runners climbed Heartbreak Hill.

One of those top runners was the late great Tony Sapienza, for whom the Haverhill High track is named, and who finished fourth | yes, he finished fourth in THE Boston Marathon | in 2 hours 39 minutes 46 seconds. No one else from Haverhill has ever placed that high among finishers at Boston.

Good luck to the 12 Haverhill residents who will run the 111th Boston Marathon on Monday. When the going gets tough at 20 miles, I urge you to think of Tony Sapienza running on the same course 49 years earlier. It will inspire you.

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