After winning the Pac-12, going undefeated in the NCAA Tournament and bringing home a National Championship last year, the Arizona Wildcats baseball team (31-21, 12-15) has not found their road to the tournament come as easily this year, getting swept by the top three teams in the Pac-12 (Oregon State, Oregon, UCLA, all ranked nationally in the top 12) and finding themselves ranked seventh in the conference. In fact, if Arizona does not sweep USC (20-33, 10-17) at home this weekend to finish the season, they will be watching the NCAA Tournament from the comfort of their own living rooms. Even if they do sweep USC, a bid to post-play is in no way guaranteed.
It is hard to find where Arizona has struggled on paper alone. Like last season, the Wildcats have the best offense in the Pac-12. Their pitching is comparable to last season as well. Last year pitchers ended with a 3.7 ERA and held batters to an average of .257, and this year they have a 4.52 ERA and have held batters to an average of .267.
The difference comes in the fact the Pac-12 is better this year and the Wildcats are not (I wouldn’t be surprised if four Pac-12 teams make the College World Series this year, as opposed to two last year). Arizona’s offense might be the best in the conference, but whereas this year it is a close call, last season it was not–last season there was Arizona and then there was everybody else. This year, Arizona’s decline on offense–albeit still being the best in the conference–has been just enough to make the small decline in pitching matter. This year Arizona has scored 67 more runs than they have given up. Last year, however, the Wildcats dwarfed this, scoring 187 more runs than what they allowed in return. Arizona certainly misses the bats of Refsnyder, Mejias, Mejias-Brean, and Rickard, as well as the arm of Friday night ace Kurty Heyer.
Nevertheless, Arizona has found a way to keep clawing away with a crucial 2-1 series win against Arizona State in Tempe last weekend. A series loss to the Devils up north would have rendered this weekend’s series meaningless.
Come down to Hi-Corbett this weekend and cheer Arizona on as they fight to play a little more baseball:
Friday at 6pm: Konner Wade (5-6, ERA 4.44) vs. Bob Wheatley (3-4, 2.64)
Saturday at 6pm: James Farris (4-5, 4.20) vs. Wyatt Strahan (4-3, 2.49)
Sunday at noon: Tyler Crawford (6-2, 4.18) vs. ????
USC players to watch:
Greg Zebrack (.339)
James Roberts (.320)
Kevin Swick (.314)