— Greg Hansen of The Arizona Daily Star offers his Top 100 Southern Arizona sports figures of 2012
— Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com ranks the Top 12 stories involving the Arizona Wildcats’ athletic program in 2012
TEAM OF THE YEAR: Arizona baseball team, national champions
Brandon Dixon’s tie-breaking double started a three-run ninth inning for Arizona, and the Wildcats won their first national title since 1986 with a 4-1 victory over two-time defending champion South Carolina on June 25. James Farris and Mathew Troupe combined to limit the Gamecocks to three hits as the Wildcats won their fourth title. The others came in 1976, 1980 and 1986. Andy Lopez, who won a national championship at Pepperdine in 1992, became the second coach to win a Division I baseball title at two different schools. Augie Garrido was the first, winning three at Cal State Fullerton and two at Texas. Dixon, batting .242 for the season, had been 0 for 7 with three strikeouts in his previous CWS at-bats. He replaced first baseman Joseph Maggi in the middle innings as a defensive replacement and got his opportunity in the ninth after CWS Most Outstanding Player Robert Refsnyder singled leading off the ninth.
MAN OF THE YEAR: Robert Refsnyder, baseball
As a junior, Refsnyder batted .352, leading the Wildcats with six home runs, and 63 RBIS and 12 stolen bases. In the first game of the 2012 College World Series, Refsnyder hit a home run. He was named the CWS Most Outstanding Player, as Refsnyder batted 10-for-21 (.476) in the CWS and the Wildcats defeated the two-time defending champion South Carolina Gamecocks in consecutive games. Refsnyder joined Steve Powers (1976), Terry Francona (1980) and Mike Senne (1986) as the only CSW Most Outstanding Players in Arizona history. The Seoul, South Korea, native was selected in the fifth round by the New York Yankees. He signed with the Yankees on July 6 with a signing bonus of $250,000.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR: Brigetta Barrett, track and field
Barrett, of Duncanville, Texas, went unbeaten in the high jump at Arizona and she won the NCAA indoor and outdoor championships. Barrett, a senior, won the U.S. Olympic trials and earned a silver medal at the London Olympics with a personal best jump of 6 feet, 8 inches. Immediately after her historic leap, Barrett tried to locate her mother Lottie Barrett (who is battling breast cancer) among the 80,000 at Olympic Stadium. “She’s been through so much, treatment after treatment battling breast cancer,” an emotional Barrett told the USA Today. “My mom kept telling me don’t worry, I’m not claiming this disease. I was scared for a while that she wouldn’t be here to share this moment with me. But my mom is such an amazing woman. She’s a fighter, and she was telling me how to fight. That’s why I needed to see her.”
COACH OF THE YEAR: Andy Lopez, baseball
His Arizona national championship team went undefeated in postseason play winning 10 games, three at the Tucson Regional, two at the Super Regional against St. John’s at Hi Corbett Field, and five at the College World Series in Omaha. Lopez is only the second coach in NCAA history to win the CWS with two different teams. He won it with Pepperdine in 1992. “They’ve just been a joy,” Lopez said looking at some of his players in the postgame press conference. “I mean, how many times have I told you I love suiting up with you guys? Said it today before the game. And I really do, I like suiting up with young guys that go to class, go to study hall, hustle on the field, clean up the clubhouse on their own. I’m extremely, extremely fortunate to be in this profession and work with young people like this.”
ACHIEVEMENT OF THE YEAR: Ka’Deem Carey became the nation’s top running back, and he set a Pac-12 record with 366 yards in a 56-31 victory over Colorado on Nov. 10. Carey finished his sophomore season with 1,929 yards and a school-record 23 rushing touchdowns, breaking Art Luppino’s record of 21 set in 1954. The Canyon del Oro High School grad currently leads the nation in rushing yardage and average yards per game (148.4). Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch can catch Carey in rushing yards in the Orange Bowl on New Years Day against Florida State. Lynch needs 159 yards rushing to top Carey, a consensus All-American. He became the first offensive player in UA history to be named to the Walter Camp All-American team. “It’s pretty weird. I mean, it’s a little surreal,” Arizona safety Jared Tevis, a teammate of Carey’s at CDO told Anthony Gimino of TucsonCitizen.com. “I always knew he was capable of doing things like this, but it’s nice for him get the recognition and hit his potential.”
GAME OF THE YEAR: Arizona’s comeback victory over Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl
Not many, if any, thought Arizona would go to a bowl game in Rich Rodriguez’s first year with the Wildcats. Rodriguez took over a program that had an interim staff for six games the previous season after Mike Stoops was fired. Arizona’s defense lacked depth and the Wildcats lost key players throughout the season to injuries. The Wildcats still won eight games, capped by an improbable victory over the Wolf Pack in the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 15. Arizona trailed 21-0 in the first quarter, and 45-28 to start the fourth quarter. The Wildcats trailed by 13 with less than a minute remaining. Arizona got a stunning 49-48 comeback win against Nevada to kick off the bowl season. Arizona moved 75 yards in 1:06 to score a touchdown to pull within six points. Arizona needed an onside kick and a touchdown drive and had just 42 seconds. The Wildcats got the onside thanks to Marquis Flowers’ recovery, and then Arizona quarterback Matt Scott moved the Cats downfield fast. Completions of 28 and 21 yards on Arizona’s first two plays set up a 2-yard touchdown on the third play, and the Wildcats had 19 seconds to spare. The extra point by John Bonano gave Arizona the game-winning point. It was the first time the Wildcats held the lead the entire game.
— Arizona’s basketball team started its 2012-13 season by going 12-0 and ranked No. 3 nationally in its non-conference schedule heading into the Pac-12 season in the new year.
— Senior gymnast Katie Matusik was named Arizona’s co-Female Senior Student Athlete of the year along with senior swimmer Alyssa Anderson. Awards were given out based on academics, community service, and athletic achievements. Matusik was also honored with the Ruby Award – an honor given to the top female student athlete. Matusik earned the award thanks to her third place finish on balance beam at the NCAA National Championships in April. She was also named a first-team All-American on the beam. Matusik is also a two-time first-team All-Pac-12 honoree on the balance beam, while holding collegiate bests of 9.875 on bars, 9.925 on beam and 9.875 on floor.
— Anderson became a five-time All-American in 2012. She won a gold medal in London as part of the American 4×200 freestyle relay team.
— Arizona senior forward Solomon Hill, a Pac-12 Player of the Year candidate this season, was selected to the All-Pac-12 team in 2011-12, averaging 12.9 points and 7.7 rebounds.
— Nick Ross won the NCAA indoor high jump championship as a junior and finished third at the U.S. Olympic trials and fourth in the NCAA outdoor finals. He was selected the Pac-12’s male field athlete of the year.
— Johnny Field, a sophomore left fielder, won the Pac-12 batting title (.370) and led the Wildcats with 72 runs.
— Arizona senior quarterback Matt Scott battled through late-season concussion problems and led the Wildcats’ rally in the New Mexico Bowl. He became the fourth UA quarterback to be chosen a second-team all-conference quarterback in the Pac-10 and now Pac-12.
— The UA men’s swimming team’s Austen Thompson (400 individual medley), Kevin Cordes (100 breast), Cory Chitwood (200 back), diver Ben Grado and the 200 medley relay team won national titles. Chitwood won his third national title in the 200 backstroke. The women’s team produced 11 All-Americans and was fifth nationally, its ninth consecutive top five finish.
— UA junior shortstop Alex Mejia was selected the Pac-12 Player of the Year and the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. Mejia, who batted .357, became the first Wildcat to be the conference player of the year since Trevor Crowe in 2005.
— Sophomore Lawi Lalang won the NCAA indoor championships in the 3,000 and 5,000 meters. He set school records in both of those events, as well as the mile, establishing a college record for 5K. Lalang went on to win conference outdoor titles at 1,500 meters and 5K. In the fall, he earned Pac-12 Male Athlete of the Year honors for cross country.
— Nick Foles, a third-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles, made history in his NFL debut on Nov. 11, replacing an injured Michael Vick. Foles attempted the first pass in the NFL since 1973 by a former UA quarterback. Foles started six games before a broken hand forced him out of the last game yesterday. Foles completed 161 of 265 passes (60.8 percent) for 1,699 yards, with six touchdowns and five interceptions as a rookie.
— Arizona sophomore receiver Austin Hill, known for his athletic diving catches, earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors. He finished with 81 receptions for 1,364 yards, the third-most total in the program’s history.
— John Bonano, a senior kicker, was the 2012 Pac-12 Football Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The Wildcats’ three-year kickoff specialist took over placekicking duties for the final seven games of the 2011 season and the entire 2012 season. A physiology major with a 3.927 GPA, Bonano attends Arizona on an honors academic scholarship. He is currently applying to medical school and undergoing the interview process. He is a 2011 and 2012 Pac-12 All-Academic honoree and a 2012 CoSIDA Academic All-District award winner. A team leader in community service, he logs hours with regular visits to the Diamond Children’s Center.
— Former UA softball player Shelby Pendley, a sophomore who left the program last week, was selected an All-Pac-12 shortstop batting .331 with 19 home runs and 55 RBIs.
Site publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner