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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Run to championship is nothing new for trio of Arizona baseball players

Run+to+championship+is+nothing+new+for+trio+of+Arizona+baseball+players

OMAHA, Neb. — Consistency is key for any winning organization, and that saying is no different for Arizona baseball. The Wildcats have had the same coach, Andy Lopez since 2002, who has led them to a postseason appearance in eight of his eleven years in Tucson. Thanks to three of his players, Arizona’s consistency stretches back almost as far.

It’s no surprise to sophomore left fielder Johnny Field, junior center fielder Joey Rickard and junior pitcher Stephen Manthei that the Wildcats are so close to a national championship. That’s what they expect, coming from Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High School, where the trio earned four Nevada state championships between them.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Manthei said. “All of our families have come together. It’s weird how this worked out.”

Perhaps the most important connection for the Wildcats is that of Rickard and Field. Field, who bats second in the Arizona lineup, has been batting in the two-hole with Rickard leading off for much of his career. This season for Arizona, Rickard has hit .324 in the leadoff spot with 79 hits and 59 runs. Field, the Pac-12 batting champion, leads the team in batting average, hitting .377 with 92 hits and is tied for the most triples for the Wildcats, with seven. Their relationship may be important for the Wildcats’ hitting attack, but they say that their long-standing friendship does not effect the relationships with their other teammates.

“I wouldn’t say we’re any closer,” Rickard said. “We definitely have more experience with each other. Field has hit behind me for six [seasons] now. We’ve been the one, two for a long time.”

Their successes aside, the trio never imagined they’d be playing Division I college baseball together, let alone competing for the sport’s biggest prize.

“Being in high school and winning four state championships with them, it was pretty special, but I never thought we’d go to the next level together like this in a position to win a national championship,” Field said.

Winning those championships bodes well for Field, Rickard, and Manthei, giving them experience other members of the team might not have, especially since the three played — and beat — many of the players on the current UA roster.

“Everyone on the team hates us,” Field joked. “Every time we start talking about high school, they have to hear about Bishop Gorman and they can’t stand us for it. It’s a little inside joke we pass around.”

The former Bishop Gorman teammates will suit up Thursday at 2 p.m. in Omaha against Florida State for a berth in the championship series.

“It definitely makes it a little extra special, growing up with them,” Rickard said. “I know the type of players they are, so I’m not surprised we’re all here and competing for a national championship.”

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