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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball looking forward to home regional

The Arizona baseball program finally caught a break. After a 20-year drought as Pac-12 conference champions and hosts of an NCAA regional, the Wildcats got both in the same day, following a walk-off win in the regular season finale against rival Arizona State.

Pitching ace Kurt Heyer, who, like the rest of the Wildcats (38-17), has never hosted a regional, finds irony in their fortune this year.

“We’ve been a three seed my freshman year, a two seed my sophomore year, and now a one seed this year,” Heyer said. “It’s really nice that we can start the regional and hopefully get to Omaha right here.”

Head coach Andy Lopez, who was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year Wednesday, has the experience necessary to push his team through to Omaha, but is excited to see how the team handles this opportunity.

“None of these guys have been there, they just hear me talk about it and put slogans up,” Lopez said. “It’s every young guy’s dream. I’m probably pulling for them a little bit harder than I would a normal club.”

The slogan Lopez has used for the past 36 years is surprisingly simple. “Play good baseball,” Lopez said.

“It gets involved and intricate,” Lopez said. “I make them tell me what good baseball is. They all know it. They better know it. If you do that, everything else is secondary.”

The Wildcats will face Missouri Friday night in Game Two of the double elimination regional. Missouri enters the regional following a 27-26 regular season record and an unlikely sweep of the competition in the Big 12 tournament, winning the conference title, the first in the school’s history.

Despite their late season hot streak, Heyer, who’s 11-2 record and 2.03 ERA were tops in the Pac-12 this season, earning him a Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year nomination, says it won’t matter once the first pitch is thrown.

“I still haven’t looked anything up on them,” Heyer said. “I know they have to be a good team to make it to a regional. They’re in our world now, it’s not Missouri anymore. This is Arizona ball. We’re going to have to pounce on them early and get the momentum back on our side.”

The other two teams in the Tucson regional, No. 3 seed Louisville (39-20), and No. 2 seed New Mexico State (35-22), were both eliminated from their respective conference tournaments and will face off in Game One Friday at 4 p.m.

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