I messed up.
We talked about how one Arizona win against Stanford would keep the Wildcats on pace to host a regional. We said winning twice would allow the UA to dream of a conference championship.
I didn’t even consider the possibility of winning all three.
Friday was the stuff of which dream seasons are made. After five UA errors led to five unearned runs the Wildcats trailed 7-4 before a shocking four-run rally in the bottom of the 9th. The final three tallies came around on Bobby Brown’s bases-loaded single with the help of a Jake Stewart error in center field allowing the only unearned run charged to Stanford all night.
That’s the beauty of baseball. At some point in a basketball game it becomes humanly impossible for the losing team to score enough points in the time remaining to come from behind. In baseball, as long as you don’t make outs you can come back from being down infinity and score infinity plus one.
The Cats weren’t quite down infinity Friday night but the comeback sparked something equally hard to quantify.
Momentum, magic, mojo – whatever term you want to use, Arizona had a lot of it against the Cardinal. And it on Saturday and Sunday was dominant starting pitching.
Konner Wade and James Farris combined to throw two complete games, giving up nine hits, three earned runs and just one walk compared to 12 strikeouts. Both guys got sharper as the games went on as Wade shut out Stanford over the final three innings and Farris retired 14 in a row from the end of the 4th until one out in the 9th.
The blueprint for this team was clearly on display: strong starting pitching handing the ball directly to the back end of the bullpen (or nobody at all). When you need your relievers to face all of three batters in three games you’re in great shape.
The 2012 BatCats are built for weekend series when the best arms are available. There will be struggles in midweek games and any time one of the three horses is off his stride but the Pac-12 doesn’t play four-game series.
Everything is on the table now. A conference championship. The ideal scenario of finishing as a national seed and hosting tournament games up to the College World Series. It’s all achievable if the team continues pitching, hitting and sprinkling in the unquantifiable.
The fans in Tucson feel it. Over 10,000 came out to Hi Corbett Field in the series, the most Andy Lopez has seen during his coaching tenure at Arizona. Fan energy is another necessary ingredient when baking dream seasons.
“Really thankful for the crowds that came out the whole weekend,” Lopez said. “It feels great when you hear ‘U of A’ (chants) and two strikes/two outs people are clapping and on their feet.”
“The crowd’s awesome,” said Farris, Sunday’s pitching star. “We love playing in front of them. They’re loud, they’re energetic and that…motivates us to get a win for them.”
“(Stanford’s) coaching staff even mentioned (the crowds) to me,” Lopez added. “They said, ‘Wow, you’ve got a different deal going on here, coach.’”
Now is the moment when everybody says they can’t look ahead. This past weekend the Cats were in the national spotlight. This upcoming week takes the UA off college baseball’s beaten path with a trip to Utah.
“I told these guys on Tuesday if you sweep Stanford they don’t send you to Omaha on Monday,” Lopez said. “And if you lose three to Stanford they don’t turn this (field) into a Wal-Mart. You have a lot of baseball left.”
“You can always improve,” said outfielder Robert Refsnyder. “If you get complacent that’s when teams sneak up on you. It’s going to be a tough one. Utah has shown they can be competitive in the Pac.”
No, the coaches and players should not look ahead in any way shape or form. But the fans can. The next home series is just 11 days away and when UCLA comes to town the Bruins may have worked themselves up to the #2 ranking that Stanford just vacated.
When we say the next home games will be bigger than the last ones it might not just be a cliché. Arizona went 5-1 over the past two weeks and separated not an inch from UCLA. But before the Cats can try and beat the Bruins they have to keep pace with the Bruins.
“It’s tough not looking at ‘ranked #2’ but we really try and just go out every day and play every team the same,” Refsnyder said. “(The sweep) definitely puts a bulls-eye on our back but we’re going to handle it fine. We’re looking forward to every challenge.”
The list of potential challenges got a lot bigger after this sweep. The kind of challenges you dream about.
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