Red Sox top the list of 2013 sports stories

Red Sox top the list of 2013 sports stories

Sports.

The constant is the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.

Area fans had their share of both in 2013, whether it was the New England Patriots making another run at the Super Bowl title, the Boston Celtics dismantling their veteran team or the Boston Bruins nearly winning the Stanley Cup.

But the story that stands heads and shoulders above all others in 2013 was the Boston Red Sox and their improbable climb from worst to first. The team finished in last place in the American League's East Division and prospects did not appear good heading into the season that the team would be much more than a .500 team.

But several new players were brought into the fold and a new chemistry evolved. Several players over-achieved, coming through time and again as the Red Sox established themselves early as a contender and carried that all the way to a World Series title.

The team will have a new visage this season as center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury left the team via free agency to become a New York Yankee, a move that carries more than a $20 million price tag for each of the next seven seasons. Also gone is starting catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia, who was one of several Sox players that played key roles in their championship run.

As always, there were some great team and individual accomplishments on the local level, as well as off-season headline-grabbing events.

We've selected a few that caught our attention in 2013, although space limits the ability to list each and every local championship.

On the national level, these were the stories that raised eyebrows, starting in January and moving to the end of the year:

* Just before year end, the Boston Red Sox acquire closing pitcher Joel Hanrahan from the Pittsburgh Pirates for Mark Melancon, Jerry Sands, Stolmy Pimental and Ivan De Jesus and immediately declare that the new acquisition will be the team's closer in 2013.

* Seven members of the New England Patriots are selected to the 2013 Pro Bowl: quarterback Tom Brady, guard Logan Mankins, tight end Rob Gronkowski, defensive tackle Vince Wilfolk, linebacker Jerod Mayo, receiver Wes Welker and special teams player Matthew Slater.

* In their last regular season game the Patriots blank the Miami Dolphins only hours after the Houston Texans were upset by the Indianapolis Colts, giving the Patriots the second seed in the AFC playoffs and a first-round bye.

* The New England Patriots get three touchdowns from Shane Vereen, subbing for the injured Danny Whitehead, and beat the Houston Texans, 41-28 in their opening playoff game. The news wasn't all good though. All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski fractured his left arm for the second time this season and will miss the rest of the playoffs.

* In a rematch of the previous season's AFC title game, the Baltimore Ravens did something no other team had done. They shut out the New England Patriots for the entire second half and rolled to a 28-13 victory to gain a berth in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3 in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers. San Francisco won their NFC title by beating the Atlanta Falcons, 28-24.

* The Baltimore Ravens, with their star All-Pro linebacker Ray Lewis playing in his last game, defeat the San Francisco 49ers, 34-31 in Super Bowl XLVII. Quarterback Joe Flacco was named the Most Valuable Player. The game was marred by a half-hour delay when the lights at the New Orleans Superdome went out because of a power failure.

* The Boston Bruins traded goalie Tim Thomas to the New York Islanders for a conditional second-round draft pick. Thomas was sitting out the season and it was not known if he would return next season.

* South African track star Oscar Pistorius, who became known as "the blade runner" for competing on prosthetic legs, was arrested and charged with murder in the shooting death of his model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

* The Boston Bruins opened their abbreviated NHL season with a record of 12-2-2, their best performance since the 1976-77 season.

* New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady agreed to a team-friendly contract extension in an attempt to free money under the National Football League's salary cap so more quality players can be signed.

* Unable to reach a contract agreement, the New England Patriots did not re-sign record-setting wide receiver Wes Welker, who ended up signing a contract with the Denver Broncos.

* Coach Rick Pitano's Louisville Cardinals captured the NCAA men's basketball national championship, 82-76 over Michigan.

* The University of Connecticut women's basketball team won its 8th national championship, 93-60 over Louisville.

* Ethiopia's Lelisa Desisa won the men's race, and Rita Jeptoo of Kenya took the women's title in the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, which was marred at its conclusion by terrorist bombings that killed three and wounded many.

* The Boston Celtics earn their way into the NBA playoffs as the seventh seed, but are ousted in the first round by the New York Knicks.

* In a miracle finish, the Boston Bruins score three late goals to tie the seventh game of their series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and then score in overtime to win the game and the series to advance to play the New York Rangers.

* The Boston Bruins oust the New York Rangers in five games and move on to the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penquins.

* Former Boston Celtic and NBA veteran Jason Collins comes out as the first professional athlete to admit to being gay.

* Favorite Orb won the Kentucky Derby, outlasting the field by more than two lengths.

* Allowing only two goals in four games, the Boston Bruins sweep the Pittsburgh Penquins, four games to none, and earn their way to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three seasons. They took on the Chicago Blackhawks in the finals.

* Former New York Jets quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow signs with the New England Patriots in a surprise move.

* The Boston Bruins made it to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in three seasons, but lost to the Chicago Blackhawks.

* The surprising Boston Red Sox were in first place in the American League East on the Fourth of July.

* Behind all-star Lebron James, the Miami Heat won its second consecutive National Basketball Association championship, four games to three over the San Antonio Spurs.

* New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez is arrested in conjunction with a murder investigation and is subsequently cut from the Patriots roster.

* In the beginning of a rebuilding campaign, the Boston Celtics trade head coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers and then trade all-stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, piling up future draft picks in exchange. The team also made Kelly Olynyk, a seven-footer, their first-round draft choice and hired Brad Stevens of Butler University as their new head coach.

* The Boston Bruins signed goalie Tuuka Rask to an eight-year, $56 million contract, assuring he will remain with the team.

* Phil Mickelson shot a final round 66 and won the British Open by two strokes.

* Amid controversy for alleged illegal drug involvement, Alex Rodriguez re-joins the New York Yankees, coming off the disabled list.

* One of the most popular players in New England Patriots history, Tedy Bruschi, was inducted into the team's Hall of Fame along with retired broadcaster Gil Santos.

* The Boston Red Sox, completing an incredible "worst to first" season, win 97 games, more than any other team in the American League and win their first regular season Eastern Division championship in several years.

* New England Patriots All-Pro defensive tackle Vince Wilfolk suffered an Achilles tendon injury and is lost for the season.

* The Boston Red Sox knock Tampa Bay out of the playoffs, three games to one, and move on to the American League pennant series.

* The Boston Red Sox defeated the Detroit Tigers and win the American League pennant. They moved on to play the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series.

* In one of the most improbable seasons ever, the Boston Red Sox defeat the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to two, and win the 2013 World Series, their third title since 2004.

* The Providence College women's cross country team wins the national championship.

* New England Patriots All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski suffered a season-ending knee injury in a game against the Cleveland Browns, seriously hampering his team's chances of making a championship run.

Regional

* Cumberland High School senior Trevor Crawley was named the Rhode Island Gatorade Cross Country Runner of the Year. Crawley won the individual state championship and placed second at the New England championships.

* For the first time in school history, the Mount St. Charles Academy girls indoor track team finished the regular season undefeated and took the Dwyer Division crown.

* The Providence College men's basketball team defeated number 17 Cincinnati to record their third win of the season over a ranked opponent.

* Providence College point guard Vincent Council broke legend Ernie DiGregorio's record for most assists in a college career, and then passed Sherman Douglas of Syracuse University as the all-time assist leader in the Big East. He accomplished his total playing four years, while DiGregorio had only three because freshmen were not allowed to play varsity when the North Providence native played.

* The Providence College men's basketball team stunned nationally-ranked Notre Dame, 71-54, the first time the Friars had beaten the Fighting Irish in Providence in 15 years.

* The Mount St. Charles Academy girls varsity hockey team advanced to the state championship finals where they were beaten by La Salle Academy as the Lady Rams finished an undefeated season.

* Bryce Cotton of the Providence College men's basketball team, the leading scorer in the Big East, was voted to the All Big East first team.

* A dream turnaround season for the Bryant University men's basketball team ended when it lost to Robert Morris, 77-75, allowing Robert Morris to take the Northeast Conference title and earn a berth to the NCAA tournament.

* The Mount St. Charles Academy boys hockey team captured its 43rd state championship by beating La Salle Academy in the finals.

* The Providence College men's basketball team earned an invitation to the National Invitational Tournament, where the team won twice before being ousted. The program suffered a blow a bit later when star Ricky Ledo announced he would leave the program for the National Basketball Association. He never played one game for the Friars.

* The Moultons, Patrick and Katie, won the Navigant Credit Union half marathon in Pawtucket. Both had been standout cross country runners at Providence College.

* The Providence Bruins, after being ahead three games to none, lost four in a row to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and are eliminated from the Caldor Cup. The Bruins team was decimated by the call up of several key players to the parent Boston Bruins club.

*The Mount St. Charles Academy boys tennis team won the Division II state championship, upsetting Prout School in the finals.

* Mount St. Charles Academy's Cassie Roberge captured first place in the triple jump and took second place in the long jump at the RIIL state track meet.

* Mount St. Charles Academy's Cassie Roberge, triple jump, and Rita Donohoe, 300-meter hurdles, were named to the all-state track team.

* Mount St. Charles Academy's Chris Gruber was named to the Rhode Island Interscholastic League's first team all-state squad. Mountie Ryan Durand was named to the second team.

* Although their roster was depleted by team members being called up to the Boston Red Sox, the Pawtucket Red Sox made it to the finals of the AAA Governor's Cup before losing.

* Mount St. Charles Academy built and opened its new tennis court facility across Logee Street from the Mount campus. It is the first time that the school has had tennis courts of its own.

* The Cumberland High School boys basketball team defeated Woonsocket, 68-58 to win its first Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln tournament since 2003. The Clippers' Ben Bradley was named the tournament's most valuable player.

* With Trevor Crawley leading the way by winning both the 1,500- and 1,000-meter runs, the Cumberland High School indoor track team captured the Northern Division Track Championship meet at the Providence Career & Technical Facility in Providence.

* The Cumberland High School boys basketball team became co-champions of Division II North, tying for regular season honors with North Providence.

* The Cumberland High School boys basketball team won the Division II state championship, its first state basketball title in 77 years when it defeated Shea, 60-54 in the finals at Brown University.

* The North Cumberland Middle School girls basketball team were co-champions of the Northern Division, only losing one regular season game to Gallagher of Smithfield. The team advanced to the state playoffs, but was eliminated early.

* The North Cumberland Middle School boys basketball team earned a state playoff berth by finishing in second place in the Northern Division, but was eliminated from further contention by Barrington.

* Cumberland High School's Andrew Bauer won both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events at the Rhode Island High School Swim championships. The senior held school records for the 50, 100, 200 and 500-yard freestyles.

* Cumberland High School senior swim sensation Courtney Kent finished her high school career by capturing the state championship in both the 200- and 500-yard freestyle, finishing her illustrious career with seven out of eight possible state championships. The only person she lost to was U.S. Olympian Elizabeth Beisel.

* Lincoln High School junior Alex D'Aloisio and senior Nik Zicuis won individual state wrestling championships at the Providence Career & Technical Center.

* The Cumberland-Lincoln co-op girls varsity hockey team, in its first season of their joint venture, made it to the Division II state finals, but coach Dick Ernst's team lost to Barrington in the championship series.

* The Cumberland High School boys basketball team captured its division championship and advanced to the state Division II finals where they lost to Shea of Pawtucket. The Clippers were also in the state championship tournament and lost to Prout.

* The second year Lincoln/Cumberland girls co-op hockey team advanced to the Division II state championship series before losing to South County.

* The undefeated Lincoln High School boys ice hockey team defeated Cumberland in the Division II state semifinals and headed to the finals against Prout.

* Lincoln High School completed an undefeated season by defeating Prout to win the Division II state championship.

* Cumberland High School's Kendra Plant captured first place in the Rhode Island Interscholastic League's state track meet by throwing the shot put 39-feet, 6 inches.

* Cumberland High School senior Trevor Crawley was the winner of the 3,000-meter run at the Rhode Island Interscholastic League state track meet.

* Lincoln High School senior and all-state baseball player Nick Zammarelli is drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 28th round of Major League Baseball's annual draft.

* For the second consecutive year, Lincoln High School's Lindsey Mayer is named the Rhode Island Gatorade Player of the Year.

* The Lincoln High School softball team extended its winning streak to 43 games over two seasons and captured its second consecutive Division I state championship.

* The Cumberland Little League Majors softball team won its third consecutive District IV championship and advanced to the state playoffs.

* Brian Doyle of Swansea, son of the late running legend Bobby Doyle, was the winner of the annual Arnold Mills Fourth of July Road Race..

* Trevor Crawley of Cumberland High School was named to the boys all-state track team for the 3,000-meter run.

* Cumberland High School's Kendra Plante was named an all-state track team member for the shot put.

* Lincoln High School's Lindsay Mayer and Adriana Toro were named to the all-state softball first team as was Cumberland High's Bridget Connors. Lincoln's Stacy Mayer and Cassie Beauchemin were both named to the second team.

* The Cumberland Little League Majors softball all-star team won the New England championship during the annual tournament in Bristol, Conn., and then were eliminated from further play by Maryland.

* The Lincoln Little League Majors all-star baseball team won the state championship and advanced to the New England Tournament in Bristol, Conn., where they made it to the finals before losing to Westport, Conn., 1-0.

* The Cumberland Little League Americans 11-year-old all-star team, managed by Dave Belisle, won the District IV and state championships.

* The Upper Deck, Post 86/14 American Legion baseball team, captured the regular season championship, but lost in the state playoffs.

* Cumberland resident Chris Magill wins the 7th annual Yo Raymond Road Race.

* The Cumberland High School boys cross country team captured the Northern Division regular season championship with a perfect 11-0 slate for coach Tom Kenwood.

* Cumberland officials unveiled their new $1 million artificial turf field which will be used for high school football and soccer and by the Cumberland Colts football program.

* Both the North Cumberland Middle School boys and girls cross country team won the Northern Division championship in a meet hosted by North Cumberland for the first time. The girls Jayvee team won the state championship a week later.

* The Lincoln High School boys soccer team won the Division II regular season championship.

* The Lincoln Middle School girls soccer team tied for first place in the Northern Division and won a game in the state playoffs before losing in the round of eight, 3-1, to Curtis Corner.

* Cumberland High School defeated Woonsocket, 21-14, in their annual Thanksgiving Day game. It was the third consecutive win for the Clippers, who lead the series 29-17-4.

* Lincoln High School got three touchdowns from sophomore Thaddeus Moss and rolled to a 47-8 win over Central Falls in their Thanksgiving Day rivalry game. The series is tied 2-2.