By Dan Walk
1 Monday concluded a rough week for Saegertown high school athletics, which saw its baseball team lose 6-5 and softball team lose 13-9 in the PIAA first round. That’s after both groups reached the state quarterfinals last year. Simply put, this isn’t how things were supposed to play out. Both squads brought back numerous seniors and were excited about completing their high school careers on a high note. At the end of the day, there’s a 50 percent chance you’re going to lose every game. Either you’re the winner or loser. There’s no doubt that both teams put in enough hard work over the years to tilt that percentage in their favor, but Monday just wasn’t their day. No matter Monday’s results, I still believe both the Saegertown baseball and softball teams are among the state’s best.
2 The Saegertown wrestling program also took a huge hit when Larry Lee took a job in the Pittsburgh area, meaning rising freshman Spencer Lee will no longer wrestle for the Panthers. Lee is ranked by some the top junior-high wrestler in the nation, is a multiple time Pennsylvania Junior Wrestling champion and is a national champion. While there may be some frustration from Saegertown fans and a sigh of relief coming from Reynolds fans, I’m just disappointed. I’m disappointed that we won’t be able to watch him compete here in District 10. We’ll just have to follow Spencer from afar as he competes in the Pittsburgh area.
3 The international wrestling community received some great news a few days ago when it made the short list with squash and baseball/softball as one of the remaining three sports to be included in the 2020 Olympics. Now is crunch time, as just one sport will be chosen in September. We’ll find out what the International Olympic Committee’s prerogative truly was when it took wrestling off the 2020 list a few months ago. Did the IOC want to put a scare into the wrestling world and hope changes would be made so the sport would be more interesting for TV viewers? Or will the IOC remain steadfast in its original February goal of introducing a new Olympic sport — such as squash — by officially eliminating wrestling?
4 The UFC is back in action on Saturday on Fuel TV with an important heavyweight fight serving as the main event. Fabricio Werdum faces Antonio Minotauro Nogueira, with Werdum going for his third straight win and sixth victory in his last seven tries. The bout is also a rematch of their July 2006 contest, which was won by Nogueira. I spoke last week about how wide open the heavyweight division is, with champion Cain Velasquez facing No. 1 contender Junior dos Santos later this year. I believe if Werdum is impressive against Nogueira, he’s the next contender in line for the belt.
5 Now that the Eastern Conference finals are complete, we now know that the Spurs will face the Heat. Indiana didn’t make it easy on Miami, but the better team and San Antonio’s best competition will be competing out of the east starting Thursday. Let’s face it: Based on experience alone, the Pacers wouldn’t have much of a chance against the Spurs. The Heat, on the other hand, are a different beast. And leading the pack is LeBron James, who, along with Cleveland, was swept by San Antonio in the 2007 NBA finals.
6 Much like the 2007 finals, the winner of this series is dependent on how much help James receives. The Spurs are a complete, veteran team. Most of the Heat were missing in action — especially you, Chris Bosh — during Miami’s three losses to Indiana. That isn’t going to fly against San Antonio, which has the ability to beat the Heat even when Miami plays one of its best games. Hopefully for Miami, the eastern finals were a wakeup call — similar to last year’s eastern finals against Boston.
7 Chris Paul has been in the press lately after Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling originally suggested that the team fired coach Vinny Del Negro to make Paul happy. Paul, always conscious of his public image, took offense to those comments. The Clippers later said that the firing was a team decision. It’s no secret that Paul and Del Negro didn’t get along in L.A. Put simply, Paul is a free agent. The Clippers know that they have a greater chance of resigning Paul with Del Negro out of the picture. It’s not that Paul got Del Negro fired; the Clips fired Del Negro for Paul.
8 Maybe, the Pirates will be contenders in September this season after all. On the brink of suffering a sweep at home to the Reds, Pittsburgh battled back to win 5-4 in 11 innings on Sunday after starter Jeanmar Gomez allowed four runs in the first inning — his only inning due to injury. That put the bullpen in a bind, but Pittsburgh’s relievers continued to pitch like the best in baseball. The Pirates’ bullpen already leads the majors in nearly every category before throwing 10 shutout innings Sunday. Due to its pitching, Pittsburgh should still be able to succeed even as its offense struggles regularly.
9 The Indians, meanwhile, started a very important nine-game roadtrip on Monday. They’re visiting three of the top teams in baseball consecutively — the Yankees, Tigers and Rangers. A road trip in June is definitely not must-win, but the Tribe will figure out how they fit into the American League hierarchy after these three series. Anything above four wins will make for a successful road trip.
10 More than any other sport it seems, the NHL has been high on parity. The last time an NHL team won back-to-back Stanley Cups was when Detroit did it in 1997-98. This year, however, a short season changed things up a bit. Due to the strike, teams didn’t have as much time to gel and slowly improve. Instead, the best constructed teams at the outset of the season are winning. It’s no coincidence that the remaining four teams are the NHL’s previous four champions. All four are currently solid franchises — they’re all doing something right if they’re able to play at a high level on a yearly basis.
The preceding was The Walk Talk 10, which runs in the Tribune's sports section every Tuesday. Assistant news editor Dan Walk can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.