Changing sports scene, and a lot to like about the Nats

It has been quite an interesting few weeks for sports in Maryland. The Nationals are playing just under .500 baseball and doing so without third baseman Ryan Zimmerman. At the University of Maryland, Gary Williams’ decision to retire as head basketball coach at his alma mater after 22 seasons caught everyone off guard, including yours truly. Mark Turgeon moves from Texas A&M in College Station, Texas, to College Park, Md., to fill the shoes of the future Hall of Famer.

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So many of you Nats fans are also Terps fans and vice versa. One thing is for certain: Sports can be very unpredictable!

Williams was a heck of a baseball player growing up in Collingswood, N.J., and had he wanted to could have probably played at the collegiate level. He has followed the Nats ever since they landed in D.C. and with more free time should be seen on a more regular basis at the ballpark. I’m going to miss Williams and like every Terrapin fan, I look forward to the day when he’s inducted in the Hall of Fame and has the court at Comcast Center named after him.

My take so far on Turgeon is that Maryland could not have picked a better person or coach to succeed Williams. Credit must go to Kevin Anderson, Maryland;s athletic director, for discovering a diamond in the rough in coach Turgeon. Best wishes also go out to former Maryland assistant Mike Lonergan, who returns to the area as the new head basketball coach at George Washington University, and Jim Larranaga< who leaves George Mason to head south to Miami to coach the Hurricanes. They are two well-respected coaches and outstanding individuals .

Back to Nats baseball, how does one explain Steve McCatty and Jim Lett’s pitchers? The starters have the sixth-best ERA in the National League and have issued the third-fewest walks behind the Phillies and Brewers. When Tom Gorzelanny takes the hill, opponents are only able to post a .193 batting average against the lefty. Not to shabby for the fifth wheel in the rotation cycle.Then there is Jason Marquis (and his five wins so far this season), who sports the fourth-lowest ERA in the senior curcuit.

I love Roger Bernadina in that leadoff spot and his defense patrolling center field has been outstanding. The catch he made against the Marlins has to be the catch of the season. Jerry Hairston Jr. came through earlier this week with a home run to help beat the Pirates, then proudly told MASNsports.com’s Ben Goessling and I on “Nats Xtra” postgame that his hoops game can be compared to Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls.

Pitching and defense have been the keys to the club’s success as we approach the one-third mark of the season. When the hitting catches up, which I believe it will soon, then it’s really going to be fun.

See you at the ballpark. If you can’t make it, dial us in before and after every game on “Nats Xtra.”