It’s been an eventful week in the Arizona Athletics Department, headlined by the success of the University’s baseball team. The Wildcat have owned Omaha thus far as Arizona is the only team of the eight at the CWS who has yet to drop a single game. Arizona improved its record at the CWS 3-0 by beating Florida State for the second time in the series 10-3 Thursday. The win catapults the Wildcats into the championship, which begins on Sunday against the winner of Friday’s game between South Carolina and Arkansas. The Razorbacks entered today 2-0 in the series. However, Arkansas couldn’t match Arizona’s success on the diamond, falling to the Gamecocks 2-0 in a pitcher’s duel. The day’s events mean the Wildcats will get an extra day’s rest over their upcoming opponent, something Arizona has enjoyed through the NCAA playoffs as the Wildcats have yet to lose in the regional, super regional, and now here in the CWS. Credit Arizona’s pitching and fielding. Heyer and Konner Wade have been brilliant thus far, at one point combining to pitch 18 consecutive CWS innings of shutout baseball. On days like Thursday when Arizona’s bats come alive (6-run first inning and 4-run fourth that included two home runs) the Wildcats are unbeatable.
WR/CB Devin Holiday is the latest football recruit to commit to Arizona's Class of 2013.
Similarly, Rich Rodriguez is keeping the news presses rolling as more than a handful of 2013 recruiting prospects have committed to Arizona this week. Thursday alone the Wildcats received verbal commitments from dual-threat quarterback Brandon Cox, three-way athlete Devin Holiday (WR/CB/PR), and linebacker Ryan Dunn. All are impressive, but none was bigger than Cox who was being heavily recruited by Pac-12 South foe UCLA, as well as the current class of the conference, the Oregon Ducks. Similarly, the late-night announcement by Holiday gives the Wildcats yet another speed burner that can compete for playing time on either side of the ball, and particularly on special teams early in his career. Holiday, who stars for Southern California football powerhouse Mission Hills High School (San Marcos, Calif.) is a flat-out playmaker as both a slot receiver and cover corner. At this rate, Rich Rod may have his second recruiting class at U of A wrapped up by the start of the 2012 season, which is something Wildcat fans haven’t seen, well, ever. That won’t happen, but what’s to like is with the sudden influx of talent committing early, solidifying the core of the 2013 Class (and future classes early in the process) means that the football staff can then focus more heavily on the big fish later in the recruiting process when the top 4- and 5-star recruits typically announce their decisions within the two weeks leading up to National Signing Day each February.
Speaking of Rich Rod, he inherits a roster that returns 55 lettermen, which is second most among Pac-12 South Division teams behind only Utah (58). Interestingly, conference favorite and preseason national title contender USC only returns 36 lettermen. That’s not a typo, and should be reason for concern for Lane Kiffin. Granted, he’s got 16 starters returning, including nine on the offensive side of the ball that includes early Heisman Trophy favorite Matt Barkely (QB) and stud receiver and Belitnikoff Award frontrunner Robert Woods. Still, football is as much about second and third string players as it is starters and if the Trojans happen to have one of those injury-plagued seasons, stars and all, they can forget about contending for a national title let alone winning the conference. Kiffin has managed to duck and dart away the NCAA sanctions to this point, and he deserves a ton of credit in getting creative in how he’s recruited and managed to classify kids into prior classes by getting them onto campus early. The concern, though, is the 15 scholarship limit begins now and will impact the 2013 and 2014 USC classes. The Trojans, as stated, are returning just 36 lettermen to this year’s roster and you can’t help but wonder that as good as the Trojans can and probably will be, without its usual quality depth in the future, things could go south very fast if hard luck strikes. If you don’t believe me, ask any Arizona Wildcat football fan who’s watched the school’s best players each season go down to injury and miss games over the past four years (Willie Tuitama, Rob Gronkowski, Nic Grigsby, Jake Fischer, Adam Hall, Justin Washington, Juron Criner, to name a few).
I had the strangest Thursday. In fact, the entire week has been challenging, but Thursday served to wrap my week into a perfect little bow. After pulling a 24-hour all-nighter workday on that began Monday morning and ended sometime Tuesday afternoon when I basically blacked out from exhaustion, I wake up to a five alarm fire drill Thursday morning at about 8 a.m. as a result of faulty wiring. The alarm is ear-piercing, and was basically going off every 10 minutes like clockwork. The Friday Fizz mascots were an absolute mess, with Rocky refusing to do anything but remain in my arms while Bella is doing everything from vomiting to crying to jumping into the bottom dresser drawer left open in my bedroom. Here’s the kicker, though. I’m driving the initiative on a $100 million dollar account that’s due later in the afternoon (2 p.m. PDT), and have to leave the house to meet with my team and wrap up some things. Hence, I jump into the shower and two minutes later I hear all this rustling going on. I turn around and Bella, the Shih Tzu, is now in the shower with me. The friggin’ alarm is still sounding off every 10 minutes; I’ve got a soaking wet dog on my hands; another one who wants to be held; and a tenth-of-a-billion dollar deal pressing. I get dressed, grab my files and laptop with both dogs in tow, drop Bella off at the groomers for an emergency cleaning, and take my Maltese into a board meeting to hammer out the final touches of a presentation. The good news is I survived the day, and got home in time to see the Wildcats drive two home runs out of the park in Omaha. Bear Down!
As much as I enjoy seeing Arizona baseball televised, I couldn’t stand seeing the Heat win the World Championship. It’s not that I dislike LeBron James, or Wade, or Bosh, or the coach. What I do hate, though, is this year seemed like the NBA was going to do anything to help Miami win it all. The refs most certainly helped as these playoffs I’ve seen some calls go Miami’s way that Michael Jordan didn’t even get. Honestly, as a Celtics fan, I bit my tongue during Boston’s series with Miami. The officiating was unbelievably biased in that series to the point that in Game 5 Doc Rivers pointed to the scoreboard and shouted out Boston had 7 fouls while the Heat had zero. The official responded by assessing a technical foul to Doc. Really, ref? Anyway, we saw the same shenanigans from the officials in the NBA Finals. First, NBA superstar Kevin Durant gets hammered heading to the rim to try and tie the game in the closing seconds only to see the refs swallow their whistle…Heat win. Then, in Game 5, LeBron is stalling with the basketball in his hands with less than 30 seconds to play. He’s getting pressured near the midcourt line, throws a wild elbow with about eight seconds on the shot clock, and the official whistles a defensive blocking foul instead of a charge…James sinks free throws to give the Heat a 4-point lead and again, game over. Ridiculous calls aside Miami was the better team in each series, which brings me to my point in that they didn’t need the extra help.
Let me get back to Thursday’s alarm thing for a beat. I have newfound respect for anyone who has ever been interrogated in a Turkish prison. In fact, if the alarm going off every 10 minutes had been coupled with me being in a room with blacked out windows and flashing strobe lights I could have been in Guantanamo Bay. It was, in a word, insane.
Something else that’s insane is Arizona is now 6-1 all-time against baseball powerhouse Florida State in the CWS. In fact, the last time Arizona eliminated FSU from the series, the Wildcats won the national championship. Let’s hope history repeats itself in the coming days.
Have a great weekend, and support the Wildcats Sunday night when they face the winner of South Carolina/Arkansas in the CWS Final.
Bear Down, Everyone! And Bear Down, Arizona!
Bella, like the Fizz, is contemplating life after the fire alarm, her impromptu shower and grooming.
Follow me on Twitter @garyrandazzo.