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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona baseball inching closer to first Pac-12 championship in 19 years

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs UCLA

With all the hype surrounding the Arizona baseball team at the beginning of the season, it would have been easy for the team to get lost in it.

The Wildcats were ranked No. 5 in the Baseball America preseason polls and the move to Hi Corbett Field was the talk of Tucson. The pressure to succeed was the highest it has been since head coach Andy Lopez took over the program in 2002.

Now, as the 2012 season heads toward its climax, the No. 11 Wildcats are sitting alone at the top of the Pac-12 standings, inching closer and closer to their first conference championship since 1993. The success is a credit to the hard work and persistence that Lopez and his squad bring on a daily basis.

After losing three straight games last week, the Wildcats (26-12, 12-6 Pac-12) focused to get back on the straight and narrow.

With a series win in Seattle against the Washington Huskies over the weekend, Arizona is again on track to make a run through its last 12 conference match-ups. Third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean said that the Wildcats know they are at the point where every game counts.

“It’s still a long season,” Mejias-Brean said. “We still have a lot of games coming up, we just need to worry about one game at a time.”

With the Pac-12 touted as one of the nation’s best conferences, Lopez sees with every conference contest how tough the competition can be.

“I don’t think anybody’s in the driver’s seat in this conference,” Lopez said. “We really have to bear down and play well every time out.”

Lopez doesn’t look at the Pac-12 standings because he knows his team is only as good as it looks each day in practice.

“I don’t pay attention to standings,” Lopez said. “I just kind of pay attention to how were doing as a team, but we’ve go to continue to play well.”

Lopez only preaches one thing to his guys each day: playing good baseball — and if his group can win two of three games every weekend, Lopez will be a happy man. For most of the season, the Wildcats have been able to have that success, winning five out of their six conference series so far.

By now, the bullpen has emerged as clearly the weakest part of the Arizona club, but the Arizona weekend pitching rotation makes up for it.

Kurt Heyer and Konner Wade lead this past weekend off with back-to-back complete games, and on Sunday, even James Farris managed to hold the Wildcats’ lead on the mound through the seventh.

This lethal trio could be one of the most dominant in the nation, and without them, the Wildcats wouldn’t be anywhere near the team they’ve been this season. And with the team’s success this season, it looks like all the hype was warranted.

“I definitely feel confident in winning the conference,” Mejias-Brean said. “We just have to continue playing good baseball.”

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