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Joe Santoro

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May 10, 2013
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Fajardo could put up huge numbers for Pack

Sports fodder for a Friday morning . . . Nevada Wolf Pack quarterback Cody Fajardo will have a Heisman Trophy-worthy season in 2013. The talented junior gets to play UCLA, Florida State, Boise State and BYU. If he does anything in those games, the country will notice. Fajardo also will have, quite possibly, the biggest and most diverse playbook in the history of football at his disposal. Including his red-shirt year, he already has three years of intense learning under pistol master Chris Ault. Offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich is going to add the June Jones (by way of Mouse Davis) run-and-shoot wildness he learned and helped develop at Hawaii. Head coach Brian Polian no doubt will bring some Johnny Manziel influence he learned at Texas A&M last year. Fajardo, if he can keep it all straight in his head, could put up crazy numbers this fall. And then he will leave the Wolf Pack early after his junior year for the NFL draft.

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The Wolf Pack baseball team could do something that the football and men’s basketball team couldn’t do. They could have a Mountain West season worth remembering. The football team finished fifth in the Mountain West and the basketball team ended up ninth out of nine teams. They were a combined 7-17 in league play and 3-9 at home. The baseball team still has a chance to finish second (they are two games out of second with six to play) and earn a coveted first-round bye in the conference tournament in two weeks. But they will likely have to win at least five of six games against UNLV at home (Friday-Sunday) and Fresno on the road (May 16-18) to have a fighting chance at second.

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Finishing second is all well and good but there is a bigger picture here to keep in mind. If the Pack baseball team is going to have any chance at all of winning the Mountain West tournament in Fresno in two weeks, its pitching staff has to do the heavy lifting. The offense goes in and out like a satellite radio signal. The bullpen and infield defense are always a get-the-women-and-children-out-of-the-room moment waiting to happen. This Pack postseason, therefore, is all about starting pitchers Braden Shipley, Tyler Wells and Tom Jameson. Good news. The Big Three was brilliant last week and did not allow an earned run in 21.1 combined innings against San Diego State. That is the sort of effort it will take to get the Pack back to the NCAA Regionals for the first time since 2000.

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Three of the top 10 picks in next month’s NBA draft could be based on height, weight and potential alone. UNLV’s Anthony Bennett, Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel and Maryland’s Alex Len are all injured and won’t be able to go through any pre-draft workouts. Do you grab an injured player in the draft with a top 10 and risk a Sam Bowie and Greg Oden bust? In the NBA, you do. The NBA loves height, especially early in the draft (see Michael Olowokandi, LaRue Martin, Kwame Brown, Pervis Ellison and Kent Benson), and it doesn’t even matter if they can play the game or not. Len, a sophomore, is 7-foot-1. Noel, a freshman, is 6-11 and Bennett, another freshman, is 6-8 but with a 7-1 wingspan. This year’s draft is arguably the worst collection of talent coming out of college since someone cut the bottoms out of the peach baskets. Len and Noel are just 19 and Bennett is 20. They’ll recover from their injuries.

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Why is it that the wrong guy keeps winning the NBA Coach of the Year award? Denver’s George Karl won the award this week. In reality, Karl was arguably just the fifth best choice. The two best choices -- Golden State’s Mark Jackson and Chicago’s Tom Thibodeau — finished sixth (Jackson) and seventh. Miami’s Erik Spoelstra finished second in the voting. Lindsay Lohan could coach the Heat to a championship this season from her jail cell. The NBA should do away with its Coach of the Year award anyway. There is no coaching in the NBA. There is only babysitting.

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The Toronto Blue Jays shocked everyone by hiring John Gibbons as manager last winter. And now they are shocking everyone again by not firing him. The Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Scioscia and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Don Mattingly are about to be replaced by Mickey and Minnie. The Jays, Angels and Dodgers all have big payrolls. They all have made huge additions in the last two years. All had big expectations going into this season. And now all three are a combined 37-64 going into Thursday’s games. The Dodgers or Angels should hire Ozzie Guillen. He would at least get everyone in L.A. to stop worrying about whether or not Kobe Bryant can still lead a team to a NBA championship. The only thing saving Gibbons’ job right now is that everyone in Canada doesn’t pay attention to baseball until the Stanley Cup is over.

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It is time the sport of baseball requires pitchers to wear some sort of padding in their hats. Toronto pitcher J.A. Happ was beaned by a line drive on the mound this week. It seems to be happening quite often lately. Brandon McCarthy, Joe Martinez, Bryce Florie, Juan Nicasio, Billy Wagner, Matt Clement come to mind. It’s only a matter of time before tragedy strikes. Minor league first base coach Mike Coolbaugh was hit in the head a few years back and died and now all base coaches must wear helmets. We’ll never see the day when major league pitchers wear helmets but there has to be some sort of protective padding they can put in their caps. Hitters, after all, didn’t use to wear helmets. Baseball needs to keep evolving.

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The Nevada Appeal Updated May 10, 2013 01:16AM Published May 10, 2013 01:16AM Copyright 2013 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.