Arizona was tied with the 49ers 2-2 before a seventh inning surge giving them the lead 3-2. Arizona maintained the score entering the ninth inning. They were now only three outs away from a trip to the College World Series. In a somewhat surprising move Andy Lopez stuck with starter John Meloan, despite a pitch count well over 120. Unfortunately, Arizona slipped giving up the tying run. In the eleventh inning the Cats scored on a sacrifice fly to send themselves to the College World Series.
Had Arizona lost, many would second-guess Lopez, now with the win every one is praising him. The national media is running with the story of him being only the third coach to take three teams to Omaha.
This team has given Arizona a reason to believe in U of A sports once again. If at the beginning of the season, you had told me that the baseball team would be the only team to advance in the post season, and earn themselves a trip to the College World Series, I would have said you were crazy.
It has been a good, but not great year for Arizona athletics. Early exits by men and women's basketball and softball overshadowed great performances by swimming and diving and track and field. Now baseball of all sports carries the banner.
With the disappointing football and basketball seasons, fans were looking towards the Softball team to bring home a championship. Unfortunately, the softball team failed to make it to the Women's College World Series for the first time in 17 straight years.
After this, I like many fans felt the Arizona teams were through for the season. I began looking forward to next season. However, through the dust came the least likely of teams. The Arizona baseball team earned a trip into post season play. Less than two months ago the baseball team was swept at Washington and treading water, now they are heading to Omaha.
First up was the South Bend Regional. On the surface it looked like one of the easier regionals, except two of the three teams had already beaten the Wildcats. Arizona had to play UC Irvine in its first game. Arizona had lost two games to Irvine this season, along with a tie. However, they were able to defeat UC Irvine this time and advance to play upstart Kent State in their second game. Arizona defeated the Golden Flashes in their second game by a score of 7-4, their last easy win of the post season. Now Arizona had to face Notre Dame, another team Arizona failed to beat this season. However, the Wildcats defeated the Irish on their home field in a back and forth game.
Now it was on to the Super Regionals and take on Long Beach State at their pitcher friendly park and their deep, talented pitching staff.
The Wildcat went into the games with a plan. Lopez instructed his hitters to make the starters throw a lot of pitches and try to get the bullpen. The Wildcats got good efforts from their starting pitchers and the offense held on until the late inning. Both wins saw the Cats exploit the bullpen for late inning wins.
Arizona is been peaking at the right time. Sweeping the regional bracket and earning a trip to the College World Series is a tremendous accomplishment for this team. With these recent games and amazing comebacks, one must believe there may be a little bit of destiny for this team.
Arizona baseball was not as highly recognized this season compared to other sports. However, they have been peaking at the right time. Fighting back in nearly every one of the last 25 games, this team is for real.
Being able to battle back in some of the most difficult situations, for example trailing 5-0 in the sixth inning, has made this team fun to watch. They have earned every game they have won and lost. They have never given up, and neither will Arizona fans.
The fact that Arizona has had to earn nearly every victory in the tournament so far makes this so much more poignant. It is one thing to win, it is another to earn your victory, working hard on every single pitch, every single inning.
Arizona is on their way to Omaha, and I am preparing to sit down in front of my TV and watch these games. Whether or not Arizona wins it all, or loses their first two games does not matter. They have worked hard and have gotten to this point off that hard work. This team would have nothing to be ashamed of if they lost early, but I'm not ready to write them off just yet.
Go Cats, we are right there with you.