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Three best Cincinnati sports moments of 2017

Cincinnati Reds' Joey Votto (19) celebrates with Eugenio Suarez (7) after hitting a solo home run off New York Mets relief pitcher Jeurys Familia in the seventh inning of a baseball game, Thursday, Aug. 31, 2017, in Cincinnati. The Reds won 7-2. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - The 2017 calendar year wasn't very kind to Cincinnati sports fans.

Neither the Reds nor the Bengals ever seemed to be legit contenders in their respective leagues, or divisions for that matter.

The University of Cincinnati Bearcats football team went an ugly 4-8 in head coach Luke Fickell's inaugural season.

The Bearcats basketball team had a strong regular season, but didn't make it past the first weekend in the NCAA tournament.

One year after being honored for an entire weekend by the Reds, hometown legend Pete Rose found himself in the midst of an ugly defamation lawsuit against John Dowd, the lawyer who in a 2015 interview claimed Rose had previously committed statutory rape. That lawsuit was eventually settled outside of court.

None of Cincinnati's traditional powerhouse high school football programs came home with a state title (but props to Covington Catholic and Beechwood, which both won Kentucky state championships, and East Central, which took home a state title in Indiana).

Many FC Cincinnati fans thought they would be celebrating a deep run in the USL postseason and then get a Major League Soccer expansion bid by the close of 2017. But as of now, they are all still waiting for the announcement that has been pushed back to 2018.

So, what do we have to celebrate as Cincinnati sports fans? Here are three 2017 moments to be very proud of and acknowledge.


FC Cincinnati defeats 2nd MLS opponent with dramatic win

FC Cincinnati had already defeated the Columbus Crew of the MLS. But, on a warm June night in front of a packed Nippert Stadium crowd and a national television audience on ESPN, the boys in orange and blue proved they were up to the task again with a dramatic win over the Chicago Fire, a second team from America's top soccer league.

The game was scoreless after 90 minutes of regulation and no one scored in 30 minutes of overtime, leaving penalty kicks to be the deciding factor. Cincinnati took a 3-1 lead in penalty kicks making it a must-score situation for Chicago.

The built-up tension of 32,287 fans erupted into pure exhilaration when FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt dove to his left and stopped Juninho’s shot. FC Cincinnati had done the unthinkable, beating Chicago on penalty kicks.


Xavier makes March run to Elite Eight

2017 didn't start off great for the Xavier Musketeers. Between January 1 and March 1, coach Chris Mack's team was 6-10 and seemed to be floating on a bubble that was sure to burst.

But after a run to the Big East Tournament semifinals, the Musketeers entered the NCAA Tournament as an 11 seed, then rattled off wins over Maryland and Florida State in the first weekend of the madness.


In the Sweet 16, the Musketeers found themselves down eight with about four minutes to go against Sean Miller's Arizona Wildcats. Behind star Trevon Bluiett's 25 points, Xavier completed a dramatic come-from-behind win topping Arizona 73-71.

That left Xavier one win away from its first ever trip to the Final Four. The Musketeers' improbable run ended with a loss to Gonzaga, the top seed in the region.


Joey Votto makes SuperBubz's day after hitting homerun

With all due respect to Scooter Gennett's four homerun game on June 6, no home run was more impactful than one Joey Votto hit late in the season.

After blasting a solo homerun into the right field stands at Great American Ball Park on Aug. 31, Votto showed his heart is more impressive and more powerful than his bat.

Votto, who had just finished rounding the bases and high-fiving his teammates, came back out of the dugout to give 6-year-old Walter Herbert, a.k.a. Superbubz, his bat and a jersey.


Herbert, who was battling stage 4 high-risk neuroblastoma, had become beloved around Cincinnati.

Shying away from the spotlight, Votto declined to talk about the moment after the game in the clubhouse. But, when he was told that the family was thrilled by his gesture, Votto said, "Well, that's what's important."

Superbubz passed away a few months later and MVP-finalist Votto came to his funeral to pay his final respects.

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