At 56 games, the hitting streak of Florida International sophomore infielder Garrett Wittels after FIU's season ended in a 15--9 loss to Dartmouth in the NCAA Coral Gables Regional. Wittels (above) enters the seven-month off-season within two games of the D-I mark, set by Oklahoma State's Robin Ventura in 1987. A .246 hitter as a freshman, Wittels batted .413 in 2010 and had an on-base percentage of .463, which he credits to improved plate discipline. Also key, he says: Since before his streak began in January, Wittels hasn't cut his shoulder-length mop-top, which teammates have taken to calling the "bird's nest." Says Wittels, who will keep his eye sharp with the Peninsula Oilers of the wooden-bat collegiate Alaskan Summer League, "[The chase] is going to feed the fire to work hard this off-season."
By 14-year-old Anamika Veeramani, an eighth-grader from Cleveland, the 83rd Scripps National Spelling Bee. Anamika, a fifth-place finisher in 2009 who this year became the eighth Indian-American winner in the last 12 contests, took the $40,000 prize by correctly spelling stromuhr (a device used to measure blood flow through an artery) in the ninth round after three second-place spellers all bowed out in the eighth. Anamika, a hoops fan, got to see Cleveland center Shaquille O'Neal compete against last year's bee winner during a break in the contest. (Shaq lost, despite being allowed two misspellings.) After her win Anamika took the stage and showed her colors, declaring, "Go Cavs!"
With esophageal spasms, Florida football coach Urban Meyer, who resigned on Dec. 26—then opted for a leave of absence one day later—because of what was then an unidentified chest problem. Meyer, 45, left the Gators three weeks after Florida lost to Alabama 32--13 in the SEC championship game (one day after which he was found unconscious in his home). He returned to UF with a curtailed (by his standards) off-season schedule, including rare trips away from Gainesville, to the Masters and to Italy. Last week, at the SEC spring meetings in Destin, Fla., Meyer revealed his diagnosis, for which he says he is taking an undisclosed medication. (Symptoms of esophageal spasms include chest pain, difficulty swallowing and regurgitation.) "I've got to be smarter," Meyer said of his lightened workload, which includes ceding oversight of the weight program to strength coach Mickey Marotti. Meyer has been incident-free since January.
In two stampedes before a World Cup warmup between Nigeria and North Korea in Johannesburg, at least 15 people, including one police officer. On Sunday afternoon, five days before the start of the Cup, fans overwhelmed the limited security force provided by Nigeria, the designated host, when gates opened at the 12,000-seat Makhulong Stadium, which lacks turnstiles and is not a Cup venue. After police settled that ruckus, another rush occurred during the singing of the two countries' national anthems; video shows fans being pulled under the crowd and trampled. Afterward, one officer fingered FIFA for the incident, blaming the melee on the association's insistence on holding the friendly for free.
To Gossip Girl actress Joanna Garcia, Yankees rightfielder Nick Swisher (below). According to Swisher, who reportedly won over his girlfriend's Tampa-based family by arranging for them to meet former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, Garcia said yes on May 19 after less than a year of dating. "We kept it a secret," Swisher told the New York Post. "She was wearing that big rock, though." The bride-to-be has had prominent roles in TV shows, including Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Reba, and will star this fall in ABC's sitcom Better Together. Garcia dated professional tennis player Bob Bryan in 2004; now she joins a stable of famous Yankees significant others that includes actresses Minka Kelly (Derek Jeter) and Cameron Diaz (Alex Rodriguez). No date has been set for the nuptials.
By Miguel Cotto, the first boxing match at the new Yankee Stadium, a ninth-round TKO of Yuri Foreman last Saturday. By battering the taller (by four inches) and previously undefeated Foreman (now 28--1), the 5'7" Cotto captured the WBA super welterweight title and put to rest the notion that he was over the hill at age 29. Dominating on each of the three judges' scorecards, Cotto (35--2) appeared to have won by TKO early in the seventh when someone in Foreman's corner tossed a towel into the ring, signaling that an injury to the fighter's right knee had become too painful to overcome. Instead, referee Arthur Mercante Jr. (whose late father refereed the last match at the old Yankee Stadium, Muhammad Ali's 1976 win over Ken Norton) tossed the towel out, consulted with Foreman and—after clearing the ring of celebrants—resumed the bout. Two rounds later, after Cotto dropped his foe again, Mercante called a halt to the fight. Afterward, Cotto's boots were handed over to the Baseball Hall of Fame, while Cotto's promoter, Bob Arum, began beating the drums for a possible rematch with one of the two men who have beaten Cotto: Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito.
Odds of three perfect games being pitched within a span of 350 major league games, the number bridging the May 9 gem of A's lefty Dallas Braden, the May 29 masterpiece of Phillies righty Roy Halladay and the June 2 de facto perfecto of Tigers righty Armando Galarraga, according to calculations by University of Chicago finance professor Tobias Moskowitz.
Odds of a person being struck by lightning in his or her lifetime.
Consecutive games, from May 30 to June 2, lost by the Diamondbacks on walk-off hits, a run of heartbreak last experienced by the 1989 Tigers.
Playoff victories as player and coach for the Lakers' pair of Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson after the 102--89 Game 1 win over the Celtics, a new duo record. The previous mark was set by Jackson and Scottie Pippen with the Bulls.
Pittsburgh-area students wanted for a June 10 trial mass flushing of toilets at the Consol Energy Center, new home of the Penguins, in order to ensure that the facility can handle such an event.
THEY SAID IT
Argentine national soccer coach, on skepticism about his underachieving team's prospects at the World Cup in South Africa:
"Argentines should relax because to beat this team, our rivals will have to put all their beef on the grill."
SAMUEL LEWIS/ICON SMI (WITTELS)
MIKE COPPOLA/FILMMAGIC/GETTY IMAGES (SWISHER AND GARCIA)
ALEJANDRO PAGNI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES (MARADONA)