It has been 20 years since the Arizona Wildcats baseball team hosted an NCAA tournament regional. That’s also the last time the UA won a conference championship.
When the Cats run out onto Hi Corbett Field this weekend to take on the Stanford Cardinal, the home team will have the opportunity to make that first goal seem incomplete without the second one.
To stay Stanford has a great team this year is an understatement. Not only is the Cardinal the favorite in the Pac-12 but Stanford is favored to make it to the finals of the College World Series.
This week’s rankings support that claim:
With Arizona posting a losing week UCLA jumped ahead of the Wildcats in every poll to enter this week as the second-highest ranked team in the Pac-12. Stanford is still suffering the indignity of one #3 ranking.
TWIT-Pac has the series you want to see:
#2.2 Stanford (16-3 / 2-1) at #11.6 ARIZONA (18-7 / 4-2)
Stanford leads the Pac-12 in ERA and runs allowed. Arizona leads the conference in hitting and runs scored. It is, as they say, strength vs. strength.
#17.2 ASU (16-9 / 3-3) at #21.8 Oregon (15-8 / 3-3)
The other battle of ranked teams this week. Oregon made a strange trip to play at Texas State on Tuesday and Wednesday in between home series. After losing both games they probably won’t try that again.
#8.0 UCLA (17-5 / 2-2) at Utah (7-16 / 3-3)
The Bruins are biding their top-10 time while Stanford and Arizona duke it out. UCLA comes to Tucson in two weeks.
USC (15-8 / 2-4) at WSU (12-10 / 2-4)
Due to rain the Cougars had to play at UCLA and at Long Beach State on the same day last Monday. Wazzu got its bus fare’s worth and won both games by a combined score of 21-5.
Washington (15-7 / 2-1) at #20.2 OSU (15-7 / 4-2)
The Wildcats may have won the series last week but they couldn’t stop Tyler Smith. The Beaver infielder went 6-for-11 in the three games to raise his batting average to a ridiculous .463, good for fifth best in the nation.
Cal (14-9 / 1-5) at #21.4 Texas (14-9)
This is technically a neutral site series is because it’s in Round Rock, Texas, but there will be a lot more round rocks present than Cal fans.
* * *
Winning a single game keeps Arizona on pace to host a regional. Winning two games raises the stakes and turns a lot of heads across the country. It’s a tremendous opportunity for the Cats on their new home field and you hope the team plays relaxed and confident.
Kurt Heyer shouldn’t try to be Mark Appel but he does need to turn in his best performance of the young Pac-12 season. Throwing strikes hasn’t been his problem (just three walks in 12 innings in his last two starts); it’s the location of those strikes as Heyer has been roughed up for 18 hits and eight earned runs.
The Wildcat offense will need to be efficient against the stingy Cardinal pitching staff. Get the bunt down when called upon. Don’t get thrown out on the bases. Absolutely drive in runners from third with less than two outs. Small ball in a big park is the key.
If you’ve been waiting for the right time to check out the Cats at Hi Corbett, the time doesn’t get any righter than this. Six o’clock tonight and tomorrow, noon on Sunday. The #2 team in the country, the potential #1 pick in the draft, and at the moment they’re looking up at the UA in the Pac-12 standings.
The Wildcats are going to try and keep it that way.
– – – – –