Arizona Baseball's rise from ninth in the preseason poll to Pac-12 Champions

Preseason polls were low on Arizona, but the Wildcats and head coach Chip Hale came to play this year.
College World Series - Arizona v Coastal Carolina - Game Three
College World Series - Arizona v Coastal Carolina - Game Three / Peter Aiken/GettyImages
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The 2024 season: A tale of three acts

Early-season struggles

The Wildcats came out the gate hot, taking the season-opening series against No. 23 Northeastern with a pair of 6-plus-run wins. The momentum stayed against Utah Tech in a big way, and Arizona dropped a whopping 24 runs on the Trailblazers in a 24-4 dismantling.

The Wildcats hit a bit of a rut afterwards, though, dropping two games to San Diego and a trio of ranked matchups to No. 5 TCU, No. 25 Dallas Baptist, and No. 16 Alabama before logging the third ranked win of the season against No. 20 Indiana in the form of a 12-1 throttling.

The Wildcats entered conference play sitting at 5-6, and things would get worse before getting better. Arizona won the opening two games against USC to clinch the series but lost the final game, which was the first of four straight including a 4-0 shutout at home against ASU.

Midseason push to the finish line

Despite the 7-10 record and fresh home embarrassment against a heated rival, something changed literally overnight for the Wildcats. The next day — despite having already lost the series — the Wildcats came out and smoked ASU to the tune of 14-3.

Another Phoenix-area team had to come to Tucson, and Arizona escaped GCU with a win before taking two losses on the road against Oregon by one run apiece. Arizona won the final game in Eugene before returning home and logging a 12-9 loss to New Mexico State.

After that, though, it was smooth sailing. The 10-13 record got flipped completely on its head as the Wildcats ripped off 11 straight wins to move to 21-13 on the year. In two of the games in the UCLA series, the Bruins pushed Arizona to extra innings, but the Wildcats escaped those jams with two ticks in the favorable side of the column.

Against New Mexico, Arizona routed the Lobos 9-1 before having to take to Berkeley to play a series against Cal and a one-off against Stanford in Palo Alto. The Golden Bears also forced extra innings once, but the Wildcats escaped the Bay Area entirely unscathed following the 12-1 mercy-rule win against the Cardinal.

Capping off the winning streak was the series against Louisiana Tech, where the Wildcats swept the Bulldogs with relative ease aside from the 6-5 close-call win in Game 2. The streak came to an end against GCU in Phoenix, who got revenge for the earlier loss in Tucson.

Closing it out

Arizona rebounded by sweeping the Washington State series at home despite the Cougars pushing them to extra innings in one of the games, and they followed it up by exacting revenge on New Mexico State in Las Cruces with a 12-2 mercy-rule thrashing in six. Finally, the Wildcats won in the first game against Washington before ultimately losing the series.

Arizona entered the final matchup against GCU sitting pretty at 26-14. Despite getting a 24-8 bomb dropped on them, the Wildcats didn't flinch. They swept the following series against Stanford in Tucson before taking to Phoenix to defeat ASU at a neutral site.

With a conference title in sight, Arizona took care of business to win the series against Utah in Salt Lake City after dropping the first game. The final series of the year against Oregon State didn't fall Arizona's way, but the sole win in the final game of the three-day event was all Arizona needed to clinch the Pac-12 title.