Sports Fodder

Joe Santoro: Can 2021 Nevada Wolf Pack replace Darrell Rasner?

Darrell Rasner pitching for Nevada in 2001. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

Darrell Rasner pitching for Nevada in 2001. (Photo: Nevada Athletics)

Darrell Rasner holds a distinction with the Nevada Wolf Pack that just might come to an end this weekend. The former legendary Carson High and Wolf Pack pitcher is the last Wolf Pack pitcher to win a NCAA Regional game.
Rasner pitched 5.2 innings in the Wolf Pack’s 13-5 win over Fresno State on May 27, 2000 at the Stanford Regional. The victory gave Rasner a 14-2 record in 2000 over 18 starts and a 3.52 earned run average and 97 strikeouts for arguably the greatest freshman pitching season in Wolf Pack history.
It’s been 21 years and no Pack pitcher has won a regional game since Rasner. Rasner, who was 28-15 in three seasons at Nevada with 302 strikeouts, would go on to pitch parts of four seasons (2005-08) in the major leagues with the Washington Nationals and New York Yankees, winning nine games over 41 appearances. His biggest win was likely beating Fresno State at Stanford. Rasner and the Pack, though, never got back to the Regionals after 2000 until this season. The Pack will take on UC Irvine on Friday in the Stanford Regional (6 p.m.).
This year’s Wolf Pack won its last 15 Mountain West games to win the conference and an automatic bid to the 64-team Regionals. The Pack (25-18) will compete against Stanford (33-14), North Dakota State (41-17) and Irvine (40-16) in the four-team, double-elimination Stanford Regional.
The Wolf Pack, which won 15 of its final 17 games, is one of the hottest teams in the nation. But no other team from the Mountain West was given a Regional berth and the Pack did go 0-7 this year combined against USC, Arizona State, UCLA and Texas. The Pack has been to four other Division I Regionals, going 5-8 combined in 1994, 1997, 1999 and 2000.
The Wolf Pack’s greatest single day in the Division I Regionals was May 29, 1999 at Stanford when it beat Loyola Marymount 4-3 and North Carolina 5-1 to get to the championship game against Stanford.
The Pack, coming from the loser’s bracket because of a frustrating 8-5 loss in 12 innings to North Carolina the previous day, trailed Marymount 3-2 in the top of the ninth. But Justin Martin singled and later scored on a wild pitch and Joe Inglett singled and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Ortiz for the dramatic 4-3 win.
Matt Rainer then pitched arguably the greatest game in Pack Regional history, tossing a complete game to beat North Carolina 5-1 later that same night to set up the showdown with Stanford. The Pack needed to beat Stanford twice to win the regional but lost the first game, 7-4.
The Wolf Pack baseball team has never won a postseason tournament (conference tournament or Regional) of any kind in Division I. The last postseason tournament the Pack has won was in 1965 when it hosted the NCAA College Division Pacific Coast Tournament at Reno’s Moana Stadium.
The Pack, under coach Bill Ireland, beat Pepperdine, 9-4, and Chapman, 10-8, to become the Pacific Coast Small College champs. Ron Bath struck out the side in the ninth to beat Chapman. Bob Gillham had four hits against Pepperdine. Bruce Nickerson had three hits against Pepperdine. Lornie Wagner’s two-run single in the top of the ninth helped beat Chapman.
The Wolf Pack has lost 20-of-29 games in its rivalry with UC Irvine. The two teams haven’t met since 2018 when Irvine won two of three.
Irvine and the Wolf Pack also share a coach. Former Wolf Pack assistant coach John Savage, the Pack’s pitching coach in 1994 when the Pack went to the Austin, Texas regional, was Irvine’s head coach when the school brought back the baseball program in 2002.
Irvine dropped baseball after the 1992 season and was replaced in the Big West Conference in 1993 by the Wolf Pack.
Savage is now the head coach at UCLA. His Bruins are currently in the Lubbock, Texas Regional. Wolf Pack head coach T.J. Bruce was a Savage assistant at UCLA from 2011-15, winning a College World Series title in 2013.
Former Wolf Pack head coach Jay Johnson (2014-15) has his Arizona Wildcats in the Tucson, Arizona Regional. Johnson’s Wildcats were the College World Series runner-up in his first season in Tucson in 2016.
There is a good chance that, if they are successful this weekend, we could see some two-team matchup in the Super Regionals of Bruce’s Pack, Savage’s Bruins and Johnson’s Wildcats.
Duke men’s basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski announced this week that the 2021-22 season will be his last. There are already media members and, of course, his former players that are calling him the greatest coach in college basketball history. We would have to agree.
Krzyzewski has won a record 1,170 games. He has also won five NCAA tournament titles and has been to a dozen Final Fours.
Calling Coach K the greatest of all-time, we understand, angers UCLA and John Wooden fans. Wooden, after all, won 10 NCAA titles and 80 per cent of his games overall. If he coached 47 seasons like Krzyzewski he’d likely be the NCAA’s all-time leader in wins. Wooden also went to 12 Final Fours in just 16 NCAA Tournaments.
But he won nine of his 10 NCAA tournaments when you only had to win four games total. You only had to win two to get to the final Four. If that was the case now even the Wolf Pack would have gotten to two Final Fours. Wooden only had to win as many as five games once to win a title.
You could argue that Krzyzewski’s five titles are as impressive as Wooden’s 10, since Coach K always had to win six games to win a title. Add in grueling travel, tiring media pressure and the best players leaving school after one year, it is simply much more difficult to win in today’s era than it was in Wooden’s era. And to do it for nearly 50 years, well, is remarkable.
Do we really need more football? Do we need football in every month of the calendar year? The NFL is bumping up to 17 regular season games. There is already more than enough college football games, teams and conferences. But we are about to get two more professional football leagues. The USFL and XFL are threatening to start up again in the spring of 2022.
Make it stop. The 24-hour sports programs and sports talk radio want you to be believe that we are obsessed about football, that we can’t get enough. That’s just not true. If it wasn’t for fantasy football and sport betting, we would only care about a third of the NFL games. And the only region of the United States that truly cares about college football, other than as a reason to drink beer and act like an idiot on the weekend, is the southeast and certain parts of Texas.
The Super Bowl is just a party. The college bowl games are a joke. Hardly anyone truly cares who wins. But television loves football. It is cheap programming and they can sell ads (namely beer, cell phones and insurance) for it. So we’re going to get the USFL and XFL, played by a lot of nameless, faceless guys we all ignored when they were in college football.


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