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Sept. 29, 2011 at 11:00 PM
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Baseball playoffs open Friday

ARLINGTON, Texas, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- With only one day to recuperate from an emotional end to the regular season, the Tampa Bay Rays open the 2011 playoffs Friday against the Texas Rangers.

Baseball's post-season begins with the sport riding a high brought on by the dramatic conclusion to the regular campaign, during which both Tampa Bay and St. Louis became playoff teams after seeming to be out of the picture a month ago.

Now the race for the World Series title opens with the cast of characters including two franchises that have never won the championship of their sport (Milwaukee and Texas) and another that has captured its first division title in 24 years (Detroit).

The four division series will be best-of-five -- the American League action beginning Friday and the National League getting under way Saturday.

First up will be Tampa Bay at Texas, starting at 5:07 p.m. EDT.

The Rays made up a nine-game deficit on Boston during September and won the AL wild-card berth Wednesday with a shocking comeback against the New York Yankees. Now the Rays must take on the defending American League champion Rangers and the No. 1 offense in the majors.

It will be a rematch of a first-round series from last year, one in which the home team lost every game. The Rangers won that series on their way to their first World Series, where they fell to San Francisco.

Texas will start C.J. Wilson, who went 16-7 in the regular season. Late on the eve of the opening game of the playoffs, the Rays still had not announced their starting pitcher for Game 1.

The New York Yankees will host Detroit beginning at 8:37 p.m. Friday and the pitching matchup in that one should be terrific.

New York will go with CC Sabathia (19-8) and Detroit will send Cy Young Award favorite Jason Verlander (24-5) to the mound. Sabathia and Verlander last faced each other on the opening day of this season and neither figured in the decision of what turned out to be a 6-3 win for the Yankees.

On Saturday, the National League lineup will find Milwaukee hosting Arizona and Philadelphia, the winner of 102 regular-season games, at home against St. Louis.

The American League Championship Series will open Saturday, Oct. 8 and the National League will start the following day. The World Series is scheduled to begin Wednesday, Oct. 19 in the home park of the National League champion.

Rookie shares lead on PGA Tour

LAS VEGAS, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Rookie William McGirt, without a Top-20 finish all year, shared the lead Thursday after 18 holes of the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

McGirt and Jhonattan Vegas both shot an 8-under 63 at the TPC-Summerlin course, a layout that historically has yielded some of the lowest scores on the PGA Tour.

McGirt is in 137th place on the tour's money list and needs to move up to at least No. 125 to keep his playing privileges for next year. His best finish this season has been a tie for 22nd at the Phoenix Open.

Vegas was the surprise winner this year at the Bob Hope Classic and he followed that up by tying for third the next week at Torrey Pines in San Diego. He has faded since then but his victory ensures he will be on the circuit for the next two years.

Nathan Green and Charlie Wi shared third place at 64 and 11 more players were at 65 Thursday. Among that group was Nick Watney, one of two players in the field who competed last week at the Tour Championship.

Former British Open champion David Duval, who has made the cut just three times in his last 11 tournaments, was part of the crowd at 66.

McGirt has missed the cut 13 times in 28 events this year. He grabbed his share of the lead by making six birdies during an eight-hole stretch on the back nine.

This is the first of four tournaments that make up what the PGA Tour calls the Fall Finish. The events give players such as McGirt a final chance to keep their tour card for the following year.

NCAA places Cincinnati on probation

INDIANAPOLIS, Sept. 29 (UPI) -- The NCAA announced Thursday it had placed the University of Cincinnati athletic program on two years' probation for self-reported violations.

The violations were committed by the football and women's basketball programs and involved what enforcement officials said were 220 telephone calls to prospective recruits that were not allowed under NCAA rules. Most of those involved a former assistant coach of the women's basketball team.

The probation will run through Sept. 28, 2013. The NCAA also issued a public reprimand.

Cincinnati had previously penalized itself by limiting the number of staff members on the women's basketball team who can recruit, prohibiting the head coach from making calls to unsigned recruits and prohibiting the football coaching staff from having telephone contact with recruits during four different time periods in 2011.

In a statement released by the school, Cincinnati officials said the violations were reported as soon as they came to the attention of the compliance department. The phone calls were discovered during a regular audit and the assistant women's basketball coach involved was dismissed.

Michigan State's Roe gives up basketball

EAST LANSING, Mich., Sept. 29 (UPI) -- Delvon Roe, a member of the Michigan State basketball team the last three seasons, said Thursday he would not play during his senior year.

A degenerative knee condition that caused him to play in pain forced Roe to give up the sport. He played in 109 games with the Spartans and started 73 of them, helping Michigan State win back-to-back Big Ten titles and twice reach the Final Four.

"I started playing basketball because I loved the game, but the pain has taken that away and forced me to always think about just getting through the next few minutes or the next game," Roe said. "I don't want to just 'get through' anymore. I've played on a leg and a half for most of my career and that's not fair to my teammates as they go through the daily grind."

"I feel bad for Delvon because I know how much basketball means to him," Coach Tom Izzo said. "It's a shame that most Spartans never got to see the player I recruited. And yet he found a way to contribute and be a valuable part of two Final Fours and Big Ten Championships just by his will and desire."

Roe will remain on scholarship and is on pace to graduate this spring.

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