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The 15: 2018 Sports Highlights

February 2, 2018
In the throes of winter, it's easy to want to hunker down beneath every blanket in your house and choose not to leave again until you don't need to wear three pairs of socks at the same time. But the sporting calendar is already underway for 2018, and it's important to start making plans. 

For The 15 this month, we offer dates a Baltimore sports fan should keep in mind for the rest of the year. These events will either be happening locally or will involve local teams or athletes. 

1. Feb. 5: St. Frances at McDonogh girls' basketball

These are two of the region's top five girls' basketball teams, and if you haven't seen five-star St. Frances point guard Nia Clouden play, you're going to want to before she heads off to Michigan State next season. Also of note, Mercy and Institute of Notre Dame square off in Baltimore's best girls' basketball rivalry (known as "The Game") Feb. 2 at Towson's SECU Arena. On the boys' side, John Carroll visits Mount St. Joseph Feb. 12, which gives you another chance to see future Kentucky point guard Immanuel Quickley (John Carroll) and future Maryland forward Jalen "Sticks" Smith (MSJ) square off. 

2. Feb. 10: Northeastern at Towson men’s basketball "Autism Awareness Day" at SECU Arena

You should check this game out because the Tigers are likely Baltimore's best chance of having an NCAA Tournament team this year. But you should also attend this game because the annual Autism Awareness Day is very important to Tigers head coach Pat Skerry, whose son Owen has autism. Skerry and coaches throughout the country will wear blue puzzle piece pins this day. Speaking of local men’s basketball, may I also recommend you make it out to one of the two Morgan State-Coppin State rivalry games this year -- either Jan. 20 at Coppin or Feb. 26 at Morgan.

3. Feb. 16: Adrenaline Championship Wrestling "Ellsworth's Homecoming" at Michael's Eighth Avenue in Glen Burnie, Md., and Feb. 17: MCW Pro Wrestling "Horsemen Anniversary" at MCW Arena in Joppa, Md.

Some of you are likely rolling your eyes, but bear with me. The third weekend of February provides two incredible opportunities to support independent pro wrestling in the area that should be exciting for even casual fans. The ACW show marks the return to the local scene for Baltimore native James Ellsworth, who spent the last year-plus as a popular star with WWE. The MCW show will include an appearance from Ric Flair (perhaps you just saw his "30 For 30?") and the legendary Four Horsemen faction. Additionally, WWE hosts a live show at Royal Farms Arena Jan. 27 and will reportedly return to Baltimore for the "Payback" pay-per-view May 27. 

4. Feb. 22: Men's 500-meter and 5,000-meter relay Olympic short track speedskating in Gangneung, South Korea

While local athletes have dominated the Summer Olympics in recent years, the best chance for a Marylander to medal at the Winter Olympics will be this day, as these are the two events in which Atholton alum Thomas Hong will compete. The relay could be the single-best chance, as the U.S. team won gold in the event at the World Cup in Shanghai last November. 

5. Feb. 28-March 4: Big Ten Men's Basketball Tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York

The location is what makes these dates on the calendar so compelling. No matter how Maryland is playing at this point, the opportunity to watch the Terps compete in a postseason tournament at "The World's Most Famous Arena" is rather enticing. If for some reason the Terps are eliminated early, perhaps you can manage to get some tickets to "Hamilton" or something instead. 

6. March 3: Coors Light NHL Stadium Series: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Washington Capitals at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

You don't have to be a Capitals fan to be interested in this one. Heck, I once went to a Rangers-Islanders game at Yankee Stadium in New York just so I could witness the oddity that is outdoor hockey. Add in a fun day of tailgating in Annapolis, Md., and this should be a special event for hardcore hockey fans and interested observers alike. 

7. March 29: Orioles Opening Day vs. Minnesota Twins at Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Opening Day is on a Thursday this year, which is … weird. The Orioles are actually off the next day, so you might already be rooting for weather issues on the 29th to force the game to a Friday. Other highlights on the schedule include the annual home-and-home series against the Washington Nationals (in Baltimore May 28-30, including a Memorial Day matinee, and in D.C. June 19-21) and a Fourth of July trip to Philadelphia that will probably be a popular road trip for Orioles fans. 

8. May 9: Ripken Cup: Towson vs. Maryland baseball at Ripken Stadium

First, college baseball is awesome. There are like 17 runs scored every game and every inning is super dramatic. Second, the Ripken Cup is such a cool concept for an annual game at a cool venue. It's worth checking out as both teams try to get back to the NCAA Tournament this year. 

9. May 19: 143rd Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course

Could this be the final Preakness at Pimlico? I know we've annoyingly asked this question every May for the past 30 years, but it's starting to feel like perhaps we could really mean it this time. 

10. May 19 or May 20: NCAA Men's Lacrosse Tournament quarterfinals at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium

Hopefully the games will be on Sunday the 20th so they don't compete with Preakness. But most importantly, these are the last neutral-site NCAA Lacrosse Tournament games scheduled for the area for the foreseeable future. No quarterfinals, no Final Fours, nothing (with sites determined through the 2022 season). 

11. July 17: MLB All-Star Game at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

With the MASN dispute likely to keep the All-Star Game from coming back to Baltimore anytime soon, Orioles fans may want to consider making the short trip to D.C. for this year's game. In addition to the Mid-Summer Classic, the Home Run Derby is the night before and the annual All-Star Futures Game July 15. 

12. July/August: Ravens training camp at Under Armour Performance Center

Training camp becomes more relevant this year because unlike in 2017, fans will again be able to attend practices in Owings Mills, Md. In fact, renovations at the facility mean even more fans will be able to attend this year. It might not be as good as Westminster, Md., but it's progress.

13. Aug. 4: Pro Football Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in Canton, Ohio

We have good reason to expect that former linebacker Ray Lewis will become the second career-long Raven (offensive tackle Jonathan Ogden was the first) to be enshrined during the weekend's festivities. It is not yet known if the Ravens could also be invited to play in the Hall of Fame Game Aug. 2, but Ravens fans may want to have contingency plans to get to Ohio early just in case. 

14. Sept. 1: Texas vs. Maryland football at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.; Towson at Morgan State football at Hughes Stadium

Labor Day weekend is setting up to be a special start to the season on the local college football landscape. The Longhorns will be looking for revenge after the Terps came to Austin and stunned them last season behind quarterbacks Tyrrell Pigrome and Kasim Hill, both of whom Maryland hopes to have healthy again this season. Plus, Morgan gets to host this year's "Battle For Greater Baltimore" contest after Towson hosted and won last year. 

15. TBA: Baltimore Ravens at Los Angeles Chargers in Carson, Calif.

When the Ravens and Chargers play this season, it will mark the Ravens' first visit to Los Angeles in … ever. Despite the small size of the Chargers' temporary soccer stadium home, tickets appear to be fairly easy for road fans to come by, making this likely a very popular trip for Ravens fans this season. Of course, all of the non-division road trips are appealing this year, as the Ravens will also travel to Atlanta, Charlotte, Kansas City and Nashville. 

Issue 241: January / February 2018 

Originally published Jan. 19, 2018