Summer Vacation

May 30, 2006

(at UA 29, WSU 4)
(WSU 9, at UA 3)
(WSU 6, at UA 5)

(ASU 15, at UA 6)
(at UA 18, ASU 12)
(at UA 5, ASU 4)

(UA 10, at USC 5)
(UA 6, at USC 0)
(UA 17, at USC 14)


In the last three weeks the Arizona baseball roller coaster ride took once last queasy plummet before a sharp turnaround and rapid ascent up the standings that left us wishing there was more.

The Washington State series showed the Cats at their frustrating worst. How do you score 29 runs in the game started by the Cougars' best pitcher then only score 8 runs combined in the two games against lesser guys?

The ugliness continued in game one of the ASU series as the Devils jumped out to a 12-0 lead before cruising to victory. The UA rebounded to win a Saturday slugfest meaning the winner of the final game would win the overall season series.

I went to the ballpark hoping to witness a Wildcat victory for the first time this year. Honestly, I was hoping we could keep them under 20 runs. I was treated to a nice surprise in the form of a solidly pitched game.

Random thought: At Arizona State home games, does security wear red and blue shirts?

Thanks to a Brad Glenn pinch-hit homerun the Cats held a 5-4 lead going into the 9th inning. ASU loaded the bases against Matt Baugh before the sophomore lefty recorded his third strikeout to end the game. The scoreboard sure looked beautiful that day.

By the way, did you know that a standard rain umbrella may provide shade but it will not protect you from sunburn? I wish I had known this before turning my lap the color of the Wildcats' jerseys.

By the by the way, only in Arizona can you burn yourself worse on your first day back than you did on your entire vacation.

By the by the by the way, maybe the kids in their ridiculously long shorts aren't so ridiculous after all.

So the UA team, now hotter than my thighs, storms into Los Angeles and sweeps USC to close out the year. Huh what now?

It's interesting how quickly perspective can change. At the end of the day on Friday May 19, we had just gotten pummeled by our rival for our third consecutive loss and our fifth in six games. We were six games under .500, in last place, and we just wanted the season to end.

But just over a week later we end the year on a 5-game winning streak, we're alone in 4th place in the Pac-10, we've won the season series against ASU for the second straight year, and we're 27-28 overall and looking back at the missed opportunities that just barely kept us out of the playoffs.

Suddenly instead of an outright disaster, the season falls into the category of What Might Have Been. What if our best starting pitcher and best reliever hadn't been injured for most of the year? What if we don't get swept by Mississippi State and Cal State Fullerton? What if we don't lose 3 of 4 to a New Mexico team that doesn't make the playoffs? What if we avoid dropping 4 of 6 home games to 8th place WSU and a UNLV squad that finished with a losing record?

Could we have caught fire in the postseason like we did with our improbable 2004 College World Series run? After all, that team got hot to finish 12-12 in the conference as well. We will never be knowing.

So we look forward to 2007 with renewed optimism. In our last 20 games we averaged over 10 runs per contest. I think it's safe to say we'll be able to hit next year. If our young pitching staff can grow and improve, it's safe to say next year will not be disappointing. It should be a fun ride.

--

Now that we have the clarity of hindsight, we have to admit that all three UA men's team sports produced disappointing seasons this year.

In football, we all thought another year of training, conditioning, and importing talent would certainly mean at least one more win on the field, but we had to settle for an exact replica of 2004's 3-8 record.

In hoops, we knew there'd be a drop after losing two senior stars, but no one expected such unspeakable acts as losing to UCLA three times by a combined 29 points, barely getting to 20 wins and-cover your eyes-losing three games in a row.

Then in baseball, no one was predicting the College World Series or anything but a winning record and our fourth straight playoff appearance were viewed as attainable goals.

All that disappointment and we're still sad to see them go.

To help keep '05-'06 alive the Wildcat softball team is playing for another championship (check your local listings for live games later this week on the ESPN's), plus the track and field teams and men's golf still have national competitions remaining.

But in the very near future we will sink into the dog days of summer, which are the exact opposite of the Cat days of fall and spring.

Fear not. I will not abandon you in your time of sports need. There is plenty to talk about over the next three months. We can ponder the great mysteries of the Wildcat Universe, questions like: Why can't our football team ever win an outright conference championship? And what the heck is wrong with our basketball program? The plan is to have something new and at least mildly interesting for you to read every Monday morning.

We can get through this summer together.

Then we tee it up and do it all over again in the fall. And if Arizona football, basketball and baseball are all disappointing next year, my keyboard and I will accept full responsibility.



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