Middlesbrough are close to bringing former England midfielder Stewart Downing back to the Riverside Stadium from West Ham. Boro have been in talks with the Hammers for some time over their former Academy graduate, who left the club for Aston Villa in a £12million switch in July 2009. It appears he is surplus to requirements under new boss Slaven Bilic and despite interest from other suitors, including Barclays Premier League club Sunderland – with whom Downing had a loan spell earlier in his career – the Riverside seems to be his preferred destination. Head coach Aitor Karanka and his players are currently training in Marbella with the club’s medical staff on hand, meaning there could be delay in processing medical checks before a transfer could be completed. Press Association Press Association Sport understands that no fee has yet been agreed between the clubs, but that discussions have progressed and there is an appetite to do a deal, meaning the 30-year-old could be on his way to Teesside within days. Downing has been left out of the Hammers squad for their Europa League clash with Birkirkara on Thursday evening.
The top of the third inning wasn’t going as planned for AnnaMarie Gatti. She hit the first batter, then, after a sacrifice bunt, walked the second. Two wild pitches later, Canisius had its first run. Another walk followed by a fielder’s choice gave the Golden Griffins a two-run advantage. At last, she was on the verge of escaping an inning full of mishaps, when Canisius’ Cassie Ho doubled down the right-field line to extend the lead to three.Jogging back to the dugout after finally recording her third out, Gatti kept her head up. As her teammates ran alongside her, they tapped gloves and gave words of encouragement, seeming to gesture that it would be alright.Then Syracuse’s offense ensured that it would be. The Orange (18-14, 4-7 Atlantic Coast) rallied for seven runs in the third and fourth innings, giving Gatti all the run support she needed to regain her composure in the circle in the coming innings. In her second complete game of the year, Gatti led SU past Canisius (3-22), 10-4, on a windy Wednesday afternoon at Skytop Softball Stadium.“In the past I’ve been able to close games. For whatever reason this season, I only just got my second one,” Gatti said. “Today I think I showed I’m capable of throwing a full game.”Wednesday was Gatti’s first outing since allowing eight runs in four innings last Saturday against Boston College. All season, the senior has struggled with her control, tallying more walks (57) than strikeouts (54). When Gatti does get the ball in the strike zone, opposing batters usually take advantage, as she has allowed more than four earned runs in five of her 15 starts this season.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textBefore Gatti’s poor third inning, she was sharp in the first two. In the first six batters she faced, Gatti allowed zero hits and struck out three, a mark she has failed to reach in nine of her 18 appearances this season. The senior walked just three batters on the day, a mark below her season average (3.2). Prior to Wednesday, Gatti had walked at least five hitters in three of her last four starts, so head coach Mike Bosch was pleased with her ability to find the strike zone.“She had good control,” Bosch said. “When she’s gotten in trouble a couple of times, it’s been a matter of how she responds, and today she was in control. She had some big strikeouts, some big pitches. That’s what you need.”Following SU’s seven-run outburst in the third and fourth innings, Gatti felt at ease in the circle. Whenever the offense answers back immediately after a bad inning, a pitcher’s life becomes much easier, Gatti said. Gatti retired the side in each of the fourth and fifth innings, registering four groundouts and a pop-out before leaving Canisius’ Kara Paradowski’s feet rooted to the ground as Gatti recorded her fourth strikeout of the day.In the top of the sixth, Gatti surrendered another run after a wild pitch, single and fielder’s choice. Again, the Orange’s offense responded in the bottom of the inning, mustering two more runs to extend the lead to six. Whenever Gatti slipped up, SU’s offense came back to give its pitcher breathing room.“It was definitely important to give (Gatti) runs,” Alicia Hansen said. “We knew we had to get a lead back on them. If we don’t answer to that right away, I don’t know if we would have had that motivation for the rest of the game.”In her career, Gatti has 19 complete games, 12 of which came during her sophomore year. The senior has struggled to pitch all seven innings this season, as her tendency to walk batters has led Bosch to provide relief in the form of Miranda Hearn and Baylee Douglass. On Wednesday, Gatti’s consistent control and ability to keep the run damage to one inning helped her last the entire game for the second time this season.“I talked to coach Bosch earlier in the season about it,” Gatti said about her desire to pitch complete games. “We had a talk, and I knew I was capable of doing it. I guess I just had to show it.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+ Published on April 4, 2018 at 6:24 pm Contact David: firstname.lastname@example.org