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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Baseball’s Hi Corbett a major factor in World Series appearance

When NCAA Regional Selections were made and the Arizona baseball team was left out of the top eight national seeds, it appeared like a trip to Omaha, Neb. and the College World Series would be on the road. The Wildcats were slated to travel to No. 6 North Carolina for a super regional appearance, if at first they first took care of business in Tucson.

After St. John’s upset the Tar Heels, Arizona was gifted the opportunity to host the Red Storm in Tucson at Hi Corbett Field. With their weekend sweep against St. John’s, the Wildcats punched their ticket to Omaha for the first time since 2004.

Baseball’s move to Hi Corbett was as big of a factor as anything the WIldcats did on the field.

“I don’t believe we could have done what we’re doing today, unless we’re at Hi Corbett with that type of crowd,” Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said. “(3,907) people and it was hot.”

The Wildcats had 12,578 fans walk through the gate for Regionals, and while those numbers dipped in the Super Regional because of the time of day and heat associated with it — 6,421 fans combined— Arizona still had a level of support that was unheard in previous seasons at the old Sancet Stadium.

“It’s a college town,” Lopez said. “There should be 4,000 people out there cheering. There should be people on their feet clapping with two strikes. That college town environment is a pretty special thing.”

The move from an on-campus stadium to Hi Corbett Field brought with it risk and initial uncertainty, but this season has proven the decision to be a success, with a super regional victory and trip to Omaha acting as the icing on the cake.

Lopez thanked athletic director Greg Byrne several times in Saturday’s postgame press conference for his decision to move the team to Hi Corbett Field, and for Lopez, the choice signified more than just a change in scenery.

Lopez said quite candidly that in 2004 he considered leaving the program because he didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, and that it was his wife who was a major factor in his decision to stay in Tucson.

Now with Hi Corbett Field, Lopez and his players have a true college home, which helped propel them into the College World Series.

The home-field advantage was evident during postseason play, as Arizona went undefeated during regionals and the super regional, outscoring its opponents 61-20. The Wildcat’s regular season record of 27-10 at home contributed to the Wildcats first conference crown since 1992.

“You could really feel the energy in the crowd,” said Saturday’s starter pitcher Konner Wade. “They were really behind me today.”

It never hurts to have fans filling the seats, but when vocal fans are combined with the dry heat and unique field dimensions, the Wildcats have a field that opponents want to avoid.

With the Wildcats advancing to the College World Series, they’ll lose that added advantage, as all games are to be played in TD Ameritrade Park of Omaha. Hi Corbett wasn’t solely responsible for the upcoming visit to Omaha, as the talented junior class has been progressing towards this goal throughout their Wildcat careers.

Lopez said that last season he saw that this group of players was special and had a chance to make the College World Series.

When they were eliminated last season in the College Station Regional against Texas A&M, Lopez knew they were right on the cusp, as long as they could get a couple breaks.

“After that regional,” Lopez said. “I came back and told my wife, ‘If we can get to the right regional, we got a chance with this group.’”

“And we were in the right regional (this season),” he added. “Tucson, baby.”

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