2012 Pac-12 baseball champions

Photo by Anthony Gimino, TucsonCitizen.com

The Arizona Wildcats are Pac-12 baseball champions.

It’s been a long time since the program could say that. Two decades and two coaches ago, to be exact. It hasn’t been quite that long for UA head coach Andy Lopez, but it’s been a while.

It took a walk-off win over Arizona State for the second time in three days and an Oregon collapse but Arizona finished the first season of the expanded conference with a 20-10 record in league play, tied with UCLA at the head of class.

The talk all year from this team was about hosting a regional. Yes, the Cats are doing that as well but the conference title is big. Huge.

“It’s the first conference championship we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Lopez said, “so that’s a monster.”

Frank Sancet won four WAC championships. Jerry Kindall won the WAC once and the Pac-10 three times. It’s a part of Arizona’s sizable baseball legacy along with the College World Series appearances and national championships.

At this point in his stellar coaching career Lopez certainly had nothing to prove to anybody but this Pac-12 championship does fill in an empty spot in the trophy case. He had come close a couple times but was not able to break through in his first 10 years in Tucson.

When asked about taking his third Division I school to a conference championship Lopez said, “I’ve had good players, I’ve had good coaches, and we’ve had some breaks. I’ve been really blessed.”

“I wasn’t even getting into coaching,” Lopez continued. “I took a high school job just because I needed the money, and here I am now.”

“I’ve just been really fortunate.”

The hope is this year ends up being a season-long turning point for Arizona Baseball. Athletic director Greg Byrne continues to look like a genius for moving the program to Hi Corbett Field. The facilities have been upgraded, the performance on the field has already been upgraded and Lopez has the ammunition to make the recruiting upgrades necessary to get among college baseball’s very elite and stay there.

“I really hope that this will get us where we want to be,” Lopez said, “and that’s getting to Omaha again on a regular basis.”

Lopez has already been recruiting with his new ballpark. Now he can recruit with his new trophy.

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Andy Lopez’s Division I Conference Championships

Pepperdine 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993
Florida 1996, 1998
Arizona 2012

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Scott Terrell will have live updates from the Cats’ regional on Twitter with more on Facebook.