Top five baseball stories of 2011

Arizona baseball had its ups and downs this past season. Read on for a closer look at 2011.

The Arizona Wildcats finished 2011 with a 39-21 record, just one win away from the program's first Super Regional appearance in four years. Like any season in sports, there were highs and there were lows. Here are the top five stories surrounding Arizona baseball in 2011.

5. Wildcats roll past Pac-10 favorite Oregon State

Arizona opened conference play with a bang in 2011 knocking in 10 runs against Oregon State's All-American ace Sam Gaviglio en route to an 18-0 win in the Wildcats' conference home opener. Gaviglio, who was 5-0 at the time, took his first loss of the year while Arizona ace Kurt Heyer tossed his first of two complete game shutouts.

The Wildcats got the offense rolling early, striking for four runs the third and then two more in the fourth inning. While that was impressive, the real damage came in the sixth frame where Arizona banged out 12 more runs, as Alex Mejia, Jett Bandy, Steve Selsky, and Robert Refsnyder each collected two hits in the inning alone.

This ended up being Arizona's largest margin of victory for the year and the Beavers ended up finishing second in the conference, one game back of conference champion UCLA.

4. Arizona rallies past Cal in key series opener

The Wildcats limped out of the gate to start Pac-10 play, winning just two of its first six conference games. With the season starting to slip away, then No. 13 California looked to come to Tucson and deliver Arizona's knockout blow. The Golden Bears took a 1-0 in the third inning and led the Wildcats the majority of the game.

But in the bottom of the eighth Arizona would rally. Three singles by Byrce Ortega, Joey Rickard, and Jett Bandy brought home the tying run. However, Cal would snatch the momentum right back in the top of the ninth, scoring two more runs of its own to take a 4-2 lead to the bottom of the ninth.

With its back up against the wall, Arizona came through as Bobby Brown set the table with a clutch pinch hit one-out double. After an Alex Mejia walk, Josh Garcia smacked a one-out double of his own down the left field line, scoring two runs to tie the game at four. Three batters later with two outs in the inning, Bandy capped the Arizona rally stroking a game-winning single to right field.

Arizona would go on to win the series against a Cal team that eventually wound up in the College World Series this past June.

3. Seton Hall Stuns Arizona, pushing ‘Cats to brink

The Wildcats entered the 2011 postseason as a dark horse to possibly make a run at the College World Series. Arizona had its ace Kurt Heyer on the mound against what many thought was a very average Seton Hall team. Not only did the Pirates score four runs off Heyer in the fourth inning, but Seton Hall starter Jon Prosinski also threw a complete game shutout against one of the most potent offenses in the nation. It was only the third time all season the Arizona offense had been shutout.

The Wildcats dropped the game 4-0 and found themselves one loss away from postseason elimination.

2. Arizona wins three in two days

After being forced to the brink of eliminated by Seton Hall, the Wildcats won three straight do or die games over the next two days to force a winner take all game with Texas A&M. Arizona eliminated Wright State (13-0) and Seton Hall (6-0) thanks to brilliant starts by Konner Wade and Kyle Simon. The two combined to toss 16 shutout innings over the two starts.

Just a few hours after eliminating Seton Hall from postseason play, the Wildcats played their most spirited baseball of the season taking on regional host Texas A&M. With the Aggies up 2-1 in the third inning the Wildcats faced some major adversity, as starting pitcher Tyler Hale was forced out of the game after taking a line drive off his pitching arm. Then came the most ironic moment of the season.

It was now up to the inconsistent Wildcat bullpen to win the most important game of the year.

Nick Cunningham got the call to replace Hale and had the outing of his collegiate career, tossing 5.1 innings of shutout baseball to earn his first victory of the season. The offense backed up Cunningham as it too finally sprung to life, scoring three runs in both the sixth and seventh innings. Arizona would go on to stun a crowd of nearly 5,000 to earn the surprising 7-2 win.

1. Arizona baseball finds new home.

For the last 44 seasons Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium has been the home to the Arizona baseball program; not anymore. On August 10th, the University of Arizona and the City of Tucson agreed on a lease that will make Hi Corbett Field the new home of Arizona baseball for the next 10 years.

The new stadium holds about 3,000 more people than Frank Sancet Stadium did and the major upgrade in facilities figures to dramatically improve the team's chances of hosting postseason game. 2012 will indeed begin a new age of Arizona baseball.


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