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Sabres announce preseason schedule; includes 3 games at KeyBank Center

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Sabres announced their preseason schedule on Monday, which includes three games at KeyBank Center as part of six exhibition tilts.

Buffalo will kick off the slate on Sept. 21 at home against the Pittsburgh Penguins and will finish off the preseason on Sept. 30 against the Detroit Red Wings.

The full schedule can be seen below (all games start at 7 p.m.):

Sat., Sept. 21: vs Pittsburgh

Mon., Sept. 23: vs Columbus

Tue., Sept. 24: at Pittsburgh

Thu., Sept. 26: at Ottawa

Sat., Sept. 28: at Columbus

Mon., Sept. 30: vs Detroit

The Sabres will also play a previously announced exhibition game on Sept. 27 against Red Bull Munich out of the German Deutsche Eishockey Liga in Munich, Germany. They will continue their European trip with two regular season games against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 4 and 5 at O2 Arena in Prague, Czechia to begin the 2024-25 season. Those games are a part of the NHL’s Global Series.

The matchup in Germany will be a homecoming for forward JJ Peterka, a native of Munich who played two youth seasons with Red Bull Munich.

The Sabres’ game against Red Bull Munich will also be the grand opening event of the German club’s new arena, SAP Garden.

WIVB Sports

Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.

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Jessica Pegula wins Berlin title to ready for Wimbeldon

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Jessica Pegula won her fifth career singles title on Sunday in Berlin, finishing her rain-delayed semifinal defeat of top seed Coco Gauff before rallying to beat Anna Kalinskaya in three sets of the Berlin Open final.

Coming days before the start of Wimbledon, where Pegula reached the quarterfinals last year, this was the first championship on grass for the world’s fifth-ranked player, born in Buffalo and daughter of Bills and Sabres owner Terry Pegula.

The 30-year-old Pegula, recently named to the U.S. Olympic team, withdrew from the French Open last month to focus on her recovery from an April neck injury.


Jessica Pegula wins Korea Open title

Pegula came back after dropping the first set 7-6 against Kalinskya to win the second set 6-4. She saved five match points to win the tiebreaker set 7-6. The semifinal was suspended Saturday with Pegula leading 7-5, 6-6 (3-1). She won four of the last five points to reach the final.

Olympic tennis starts July 27 at Roland Garros, the site of the French Open. The American team features six first-time Olympians, the U.S. Tennis Association said in Thursday’s announcement.

Gauff and Pegula have won five doubles titles as a pair. Gauff won her first major doubles title — with Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic — at the French Open this month.

Gauff, ranked No. 2 in the world, is the U.S. Open champion and has reached the semifinals at the year’s first two Grand Slams, the Australian and French Opens. She was a finalist on the Roland Garros clay in 2022 and will be a medal contender in doubles, too. Gauff tested positive for COVID-19 days before the start of the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics in July 2021.

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Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

The Associated Press contributed.

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Bisons star suspended 80 games for PED violation

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bisons star Orelvis Martinez, who made his major league debut for the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday, was suspended for 80 games by Major League Baseball on Sunday following a positive test for the performance-enhancing drug Clomiphene.

Martínez, 22, has been on the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster since November 2022. He went 1 for 3 with a strikeout on Friday at Cleveland.

Prior to Friday he played 63 games with the Bisons this season, hitting .260 and leading the team with 16 home runs and 46 runs batted in, while also recording an OPS of .867.

He issued a statement apologizing to the Blue Jays and their fans.

“For the past two years, I have been trying to start a family with my girlfriend. During the offseason, we visited a fertility clinic in the Dominican Republic and after getting lab work done, we were prescribed a treatment, which included a medication called Rejun 50,” Martínez said in a statement released by the players’ association.

“Unfortunately, Rejun 50 contains a banned substance called Clomiphene. We wanted to keep this matter private, even within our family, and trusted the doctor who assured us this treatment did not include performance-enhancing drugs. Therefore, I made the mistake of not disclosing this to my team or the MLBPA. With that said, I took full responsibility for my actions and accepted my suspension.”

Martínez signed with Toronto in July 2018 for a $3.51 million bonus and climbed his way up the Blue Jays’ minor league system.

“The Blue Jays fully support Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program, and strongly believe in keeping the game on a level playing field.

“We were both surprised and disappointed to learn of Orelvis Martínez suspension,” Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said in a statement. “We will do everything in our power to ensure Orelvis has learned from this mistake.”

Martínez will lose about half his salary. His contract calls for $740,000 while in the major leagues and $120,600 while in the minors, both the minimum.

“I will learn from this experience and come back to the field in September,” Martínez said.

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Bandits MVP Josh Byrne to throw first pitch at Lacrosse Night at the Ballpark on June 27

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Bandits star Josh Byrne will throw the ceremonial first pitch Thursday to celebrate Lacrosse Night at the Ballpark.

Byrne, the National Lacrosse League MVP who also claimed Finals MVP for the back-to-back champion Bandits, will be joined by teammates Chase Fraser, Ian MacKay, Tehoka Nanticoke, Brandon Robinson, Dalton Sulver and goaltender Matt Vinc for an autograph session starting at 5 p.m. in the Sahlen Field concourse. Fans will also have the opportunity to pose with the NLL Cup.

The Bisons will wear special lacrosse-themed jerseys for the promotion that comes during a nine-game homestand concluding with the popular Independence Eve featuring the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on July 3.


Bandits drink in championship celebration

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Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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Moving on: Niagara baseball coach Rob McCoy, Daemen volleyball’s Don Gleason

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — A pair of coaches have parlayed winning seasons locally into new jobs out of state.

Rob McCoy resigned his position as Niagara University baseball coach to take over at William and Mary College after leading the Purple Eagles to their first NCAA tournament appearance, while Hamburg native Don Gleason is leaving the Daemen University men’s volleyball program he started six seasons go to coach at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

While Daemen will conduct a national search for its next men’s volleyball coach, Niagara named longtime assistant and recruiting coordinator Matt Spatafora as its interim baseball coach.


Niagara’s record-setting baseball season ends in NCAA regional

McCoy led the Niagara program for 19 years after spending three seasons as an assistant. He won 299 games and had has most success this past season, setting a program record with 37 victories and earning Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference coach of the year recognition.

“Niagara University will forever hold a special place in my heart. This was my first full time coaching job. I grew up here as a person and a professional. We had hard times and times greater than we could ever imagine. I met my wife and started a family” McCoy said in a news release.

McCoy will replace former Canisius and Niagara coach Mike McRae at William and Mary.

(Photo courtesy of Geoff Schneider/Daemen Athletics)

Gleason coached Daemen to winning seasons in each of the past five years after he and former athletics director Bridget Niland worked to secure a $60,000 grant from the First Point Volleyball Foundation to start the program. The Wildcats went 20-6 and reached the Northeast Conference championship match in 2024.

“I want to thank Daemen University and the leadership in the Division of Athletics, both past and present, for giving me the opportunity to build the men’s volleyball program over these last seven years,” Gleason said in a news release. “It has been a privilege to work here and the experience has helped to shape my coaching philosophy. Because of the strong nucleus of student-athletes returning and the University’s commitment to the program, I’m confident that the program will continue to have success for the foreseeable future.”


Gleason lays the foundation as Daemen creates a home for men’s volleyball

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Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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4 check: Sabres ‘wide open’ to draft deal, potential Jeff Skinner buyout

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Since the dawn of their historic playoff drought the Sabres have selected 18 players in the first round of the NHL Draft, most often near the top of the order. Now reunited with coach Lindy Ruff in the quest for a postseason return, the franchise has reached a new phase in its roster rebuild.

The increasing likelihood of trading the 11th pick in this year’s draft for veteran help was among the takeaways from Sabres general manager Kevyn Adams’ pre-draft media availability on Thursday.

Open for business

Adams stopped short of declaring the Sabres would prefer to trade its top pick for an established player. But he acknowledged that after taking methodical approach to building Buffalo’s prospect pool in recent offseasons, trading a first-rounder is a greater consideration now than before.

“I’ve told every team in the league that we are wide open to considering moving pick 11,” Adams said.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean the Sabres would exchange the pick for an established player.

“I’ve talked to every team around us that we’re open,” Adams said. “Hey, we’d even look to move up. That’s not always easy to do, but I think we have the assets to do that. We’re very open to moving back, depending how the draft slides and where guys are going. So all of that’s on the table.”

Buffalo has not traded a first-round pick since 2015 when Tim Murray moved the 21st selection for goaltender Robin Lehner, as well as the top pick in the second round for center Ryan O’Reilly. In the past four drafts, Adams has made seven first-round selections, and 10 picks in the top 40.

“We’ve been disciplined,” he said. “We’ve stuck to our plan. But I think we’ve moved into another phase now that we have to be really open and looking to make these type of decisions. But you still have to have the right opportunity to make them. So if we end up making Pick 11, we’ll be excited about it. But it won’t be from lack of effort of seeing of what else was out there to do.”

Jeff Skinner buyout

Adams provided an oblique reaction to chatter that the Sabres are open to the possibility of buying out the contract of winger Jeff Skinner.

“There are rumblings on different scenarios,” Adams said. “What I can tell you is from the day our season ended, after my conversations with Terry (Pegula) and kind of where we go from here, every single thing that we’re doing this offseason we ask the question, does this help our team get better? Does this does this put us in a position to improve? And we’ve made a lot of decisions up to this point of where we sit today with that in mind and we’re gonna continue.

“So, nothing’s off the table,” Adams concluded. “We’re going to talk about everything. We’re gonna look at every scenario. But that’s probably as far as I’d go on specifics right now.”

Skinner is Buffalo’s oldest player at age 32, and the highest-paid forward with three years remaining on a contract paying him an average salary of $9 million. A buyout would cost the Sabres more than $19 million, with the cap charges spread over the next six seasons. It would give Buffalo more than $7 million in immediate cap relief, with a dead salary of $1.4 million this year. But that figure would balloon to more than $6 million in 2026-27, complicating future salary allocations for the Sabres.

RFA negotiations

Along with preparing for the draft and the start of unrestricted free agency on July 1, the Sabres already have begun negotiating new contracts for top goaltender Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen, center Peyton Krebs, and defenseman Henri Jokiharju, all restricted free agents.

“Busiest time of the year,” Adams said. “I’ve gotten in the habit with our really nice warm weather of going on walks late, talking on the phone. If you see me on the bike path in Clarence at 10 o’clock at night, then I’m working.”

Adams said conversations with the agents for Luukkonen, Krebs and Jokiharju began late in the regular season.

“I like to start these conversations, making sure we’re aligned on does the player want to be here,” Adams said. “Do they believe in what we’re doing because if you’re not, if you don’t start there in a good spot, I think it’s going to be really challenging. And UPL made it very clear, he loves this team, loves the city, he wants to be here. We’re excited about him and we’re going to work at it. We’re continuing to have conversations last week, there’ll be some more in Vegas, but, yeah, excited about how we move forward there.”

Extensions on horizon

The Sabres can begin negotiating contract extensions July 1 with forwards JJ Peterka and Jack Quinn, defenseman Bowen Byram and goaltender Devon Levi.

“We’re always open,” Adams said. “We’ve done it before. We’ve also gone the other way. I think right now, I wouldn’t anticipate that we’d go down that road this summer. But we could change. To me, it’s always about what’s right for us and what’s right for the player. So we’re open to it, but I don’t anticipate being in that the next couple of months.”

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Jonah Bronstein joined the WIVB squad in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. The Buffalonian has covered the Bills, Sabres, Bandits, Bisons, colleges, high schools and other notable sporting events in Western New York since 2005, for publications including The Associated Press, The Buffalo News, and Niagara Gazette. Read more of his work here.

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Triple-A baseball teams to adopt robot-umpire challenge system full-time

(NEXSTAR) – Triple-A ball clubs are making the switch to the automated ball-strike (ABS) challenge system for at least the rest of the 2024 season, MLB officials announced in a memo Tuesday.

MLB has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019. This year marks the second-straight season that Triple-A parks have tested the ABS system — sometimes known as a “robot umpire” — at home plate.


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Triple-A games have since tested both the full ABS system — meaning fully automated balls and strikes, with a human umpire merely relaying the automated calls — and the now-standard ABS challenge system, in which human umpires still call the balls and strikes. In the ABS challenge system, however, teams are given a limited number of times they can challenge the human umps’ calls, at which point the automated system gives the final word.

Only 47% of all challenges to this year’s calls have been successful thus far, the Associated Press reported, citing the MLB. That means the human umpires were found to be correct about half of the time after their calls were challenged. But, it also means they were incorrect on controversial calls about half of the time, depending on how you look at it.

Still, the latter method — with human umpires making the calls, and only using ABS for challenges — is also the preferred option among players and fans, officials indicated Tuesday’s memo, per MLB.com writer Thomas Harrigan.

One of 30 cameras utilized by the ABS system at a Triple-A game between the Memphis Redbirds and Lehigh Valley IronPigs is photographed overlooking the field at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, Pennsylvania, on May 9, 2023. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, speaking last month at a news conference, also indicated that robot-assisted calls likely won’t be used in the Major League until at least 2026.

“We still have some technical issues,” Manfred said. “We haven’t made as much progress in the minor leagues this year as we sort of hoped at this point. I think it’s becoming more and more likely that this will not be a go for ’25.”


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Manfred added that when and if the Major League does incorporate ABS, it’ll come in the form of the ABS challenge system, rather than a fully automated system.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Robo-ump challenge system gets full go in Triple-A

NEW YORK (AP) — Baseball’s top minor leagues are switching to a challenge system full-time for their test of robot umpires.


Robo-umps arrive in Buffalo. Is MLB next?

Major League Baseball has been experimenting with the automated ball-strike system in the minor leagues since 2019. It has been used at all Triple-A ballparks this year for the second straight season, the robot alone for the first three games of each series and a human with a challenge system in the final three.

Starting June 25, only the challenge system will be used, according to a memo sent Tuesday from MLB vice president of on-field strategy Joe Martinez to farm directors and Triple-A managers that was obtained by The Associated Press.

MLB says 47% of challenges have been successful this year.

As part of the change, the number of challenges allowed per team will be decreased from three to two in the International League but will remain at three in the Pacific Coast League. A team retains its challenge if successful, similar to the regulations for big league teams with video reviews.

Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last month robot umpires were unlikely to come to the major leagues for 2025 and refinements were needed.

“There’s a growing consensus in large part based on what we’re hearing from players that the challenge form should be the form of ABS if and when we bring it to the big leagues, at least as a starting point,” Manfred said on May 23 following an owners meeting. “I think that’s a good decision.”

Coming to a consensus on what a computer strike zone should look like remains an obstacle. There is little desire to call the strike zone as defined in the rule book as a cube. The ABS currently calls strikes solely based on where the ball crosses the midpoint of the plate, 8.5 inches from the front and the back. The top of the strike zone was increased to 53.5% of batter height this year, up from 51%.

In data accompanying the memo, MLB said 61% of staff and players prefer the challenge system and 11% liked the full robot system. MLB said fans preferred the challenge system by a 2-1 margin.

MLB said almost 40% of Triple-A games have had more than six total challenges and that 89% of fans said the optimal number was six or fewer.

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East Aurora’s Amar Culov named NYS Gatorade Boys Soccer Player of the Year

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — East Aurora forward Amar Culov was named the Gatorade New York Boys Soccer Player of the Year on Friday, becoming the school’s first boys soccer player to receive the accolade.

Culov received the award, which celebrates the nation’s top high school athletes for excellence on the field as well as in the classroom and community, following a standout season in which he totaled 33 goals and 18 assists. He helped lead the Blue Devils to a Class B state title and a 22-0-1 record.

Culov will attend Division III Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, where he will attempt to walk on with the school’s men’s soccer team.

In addition to his standout performance on the field, Culov maintained an A average in the classroom and has volunteered with Oishei Children’s Hospital for multiple drives, among other charitable work, according to a release from Gatorade.

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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.

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Bills release Rochester training camp schedule

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The Bills released their Rochester training camp schedule for July and August on Monday.

The Bills will hold 11 practices, 10 of them public, on the campus of St. John Fisher University as well as the “Return of the Blue & Red” practice at Highmark Stadium on Aug. 2.

The full training camp schedule can be found below:

Wed., July 24: 9:45 a.m.

Thu., July 25: 9:45 a.m.

Fri., July 26: 9:45 a.m.

Sun., July 28: 9:45 a.m.

Mon., July 29: 9:45 a.m.

Tue., July 30: 9:45 a.m.

Thu., Aug. 1: 9:45 a.m.

Fri., Aug. 2: 5:30 p.m. at Highmark Stadium (Return of the Blue & Red)

Sun., Aug. 4: 11:45 a.m.

Wed., Aug. 7: 9:45 a.m.

Thu., Aug. 8: 9:45 a.m.

There is an additional practice at St. John Fisher on Aug. 5, but it is closed to the public.

All of the practices are in advance of the team’s first preseason game on Aug. 10 against the Chicago Bears at Highmark Stadium.

More information on training camp as well as ticket information can be found on the team’s website.

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Aidan Joly joined the News 4 staff in 2022. He is a graduate of Canisius College. You can see more of his work here.

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