Pedersen on Sports

Our sports guy looks at the good, the bad and the sad items in recent Arizona sports news

The list has gotten too long again.

My tireless search for the best, most informative and most polarizing sports-related topics to write about in Tucson leads me to jot down a bunch of items in a notebook, with that list helping to foster a longer commentary on the subjects that are most deserving.

Others just end up as notes.

The number of note(only)worthy topics has reached critical mass, so it's time to dump some from the notebook for the greater good. Besides, you never know when you'll suddenly stop having an outlet to write about these things.

First, the good:

* Tucson High baseball coach Oscar Romero earned his 400th career victory on April 18 when the Badgers beat Marana 3-2 on a walk-off home run by Cameron Amparano.

Romero, 54, has been the THS coach since 1990 and, along with former Sunnyside coach Ernie Palomarez (now at Rincon/University), he's one of the few guys left from Tucson's heyday of high school baseball in the '90s and early 2000s. Though Romero hasn't contributed to the school's 29 state championships—only reaching a title game once, in 2002 behind current Seattle Mariners reliever Tom Wilhelmsen—his longevity is something that deserves recognition, even if the Arizona Interscholastic Association doesn't think it's important to chart coaching records in any sports other than football and basketball.

Romero entered this year needing 16 victories to reach the milestone. His run to 400 has been painstakingly chronicled by Andy Morales, who served as's underappreciated (and woefully undercompensated) prep sports guy.

Although that website was stupidly turned into an archive-only site a few months back, Morales has continued his good work at

Now, the bad:

* Remember about two years ago, when the University of Arizona's baseball team was on top of the world—or, at least, the tiny one that college baseball exists in—after claiming the 2012 College World Series title in Omaha?

Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Arizona was swept last weekend at USC, dropping to 17-23 overall and 6-12 in the Pac-12 Conference. That's bad enough for ninth place, and a far cry from the team that won it all so recently.

Most of that 2012 title team is gone (most of the players had already been drafted by the time the final pitch of the championship game victory over South Carolina had been thrown), but that's the status quo in college baseball. Most of the good players leave after their junior year and a coaching staff needs to plan for constant turnover.

But since the 11-game win streak that led to the title and a 48-17 record in 2012, it's been almost all downhill for the Wildcats. They went 34-21 last year, but were left out of the 64-team NCAA baseball tournament. And this season started with a thud in the form of an 11-12 record during a season-opening 23-game homestand.

There are some bright spots: Scott Kingery's .379 batting average is third-best in the conference and Cody Hamlin's 5-2 record and 2.32 ERA have made him a pleasant surprise as the team's No. 2 starting pitcher. But that's about it.

Even if Arizona wins its final 15 games—starting with a Friday-Sunday series at Hi Corbett against ASU—that probably wouldn't be enough to get into the postseason. The Wildcats' RPI was in the 160s before getting swept by USC, and it's unlikely they can move up enough to get an at-large bid.

Finally, the sad:

* The Phoenix Suns entered the final week of the regular season as the frontrunner among three teams fighting for the last two playoff spots in the Western Conference. The reward would be getting to play the role of sacrificial lamb to either the Oklahoma City Thunder or San Antonio Spurs. But for the Suns, any sort of postseason appearance would be considered a major accomplishment.

The once-proud franchise had been on a major downward slide since reaching the conference finals in 2010, bottoming out at only 25 wins last season. Projections for this year weren't much better, with many NBA experts saying the Suns would be among the teams tanking their way through the season to improve their chances at getting one of the bumper crop of talented college players available in the draft.

Instead, Phoenix decided to do its own version of the Cleveland Indians of Major League and try to win the whole damn thing. But the Suns dropped three straight (including to Dallas and Memphis, the teams they were in a playoff race with) to go from seventh in the West to best of the nonplayoff teams.

The Suns finished with a 48-34 mark, making them the second team ever to win that many games and not make the playoffs.

And by being the 17th-best team in the NBA, the Suns have the worst chance of landing the No. 1 pick in the draft, based on the lottery system. Phoenix gets five of the 1,001 entries in the pingpong ball lottery. And though Orlando managed to pick No. 1 in the same scenario, that's not something to count on.

Instead, all of Phoenix's work this year will most likely result in getting the No. 14 pick. And no, that doesn't mean getting Aaron Gordon. More like Nik Stauskas, that scrawny kid from Michigan, according to the most recent mock draft on

The Suns actually have three first-round picks, and that same site is projecting they'll also take Oklahoma State shooting guard Markel Brown and ... (gulp) ... Zach LaVine, who in one year at UCLA averaged 9.4 points per game but managed just 11 in the Bruins' final five contests.

Those are the kind of players that will help the Suns finish 17th next year, too.

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