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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcat baseball ‘doing what they need to’ before World Series

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs UCLA

A trip to the College World Series is special to any program and any coach who has pushed his team to its physical and mental limits in order to reach one goal: a national championship.

Arizona head coach Andy Lopez and his 2012 Wildcats team, who will play Florida State in Game 2 of the World Series Friday at 6 p.m. in Omaha, Neb., are not just pleased with being included in the final group.

“The grind is over,” Lopez said. “It’s a grind getting there. Enjoy the reward of being there. Compete like mad men, and keep playing good baseball.”

Lopez’s Wildcats have been competing, and the way things are lining up for Arizona has Lopez and his team excited.

“It’s a big deal obviously,” senior designated hitter Bobby Brown said. “We hear coach Lopez talking about it day after day. Now we can actually experience it for ourselves.”

Arizona has arguably been one of the hottest teams in the country since before postseason play began, but the Wildcats have managed to step up their play since the June 1 postseason opener. Lopez’s squad has outscored postseason opponents 61-20 in five games.
Stretching back to May 11, the Wildcats are 13-2 with both losses coming by a combined six runs.

“It seems to be working for us,” Lopez said. “We’re doing what we need to do every day to be successful.”

The Wildcats’ pitching, which Lopez says is the most important aspect of a championship caliber team, has been a vital part of their success. Starting pitchers have tossed a mind-bending 44 1/3 innings out of a possible 46.

In the postseason, only Konner Wade was pulled out of the game in favor of a reliever. Kurt Heyer pitched nine innings against St. John’s Friday, but because the contest went into extra innings, he was pulled after 9 1/3 innings.

“That’s probably the most talented team that we played this year when it comes to athleticism, defensive energy, and offensively, they kept the pressure on you,” St. John’s head coach Ed Blankmeyer said Saturday. “They don’t punch out. They command the strike zone, they handle the bat, they’re well coached, and they deserve to win.”

Making this year’s trip even more special is the personal path Lopez had to take in order to get back to Omaha. In 2004, after Lopez led the Wildcats to their 15th College World Series appearance, he considered leaving the school to pursue other jobs.

“I just couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.

Lopez’s wife convinced him to stay in Tucson, and eight years later, he has the chance to lead his team — which includes both of his sons — into Omaha.

“I’ve had two sons go with me as batboys, and now I have to get them to shave,” Lopez said. “They’re going to be a part of a college program in a College World Series.”

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