Alex Mejia

Only one team will take the Pac-12 Player of the Year into battle this weekend.
Photo by Andy Morales

The RPI no longer matters. Neither do the polls. Throw out conference records, strength of schedule and any other metrics under the summer sun.

The 2012 NCAA baseball tournament is here and all that matters is beating the team in the other dugout. The Arizona Wildcats and the rest of the Pac-12 will attempt to do just that starting today.

Here is Friday’s Pac-12 schedule, all times Arizona/Pacific. TWIT-Pac will be bringing you updates throughout the weekend. Let the June Looniness begin!

Tucson Regional
4 p.m. #2 New Mexico St. (35-22) vs. #3 Louisville (39-20)
8 p.m. #1 ARIZONA (38-17) vs. #4 Missouri (32-26)

All winners here: three regular season conference champions and one conference tournament champ will be battling at Hi Corbett Field.

Los Angeles Regional
3 p.m. #2 San Diego (40-15) vs. #3 New Mexico (36-22)
7 p.m. #1 UCLA (42-14) vs. #4 Creighton (26-28)

Fullerton isn’t playing in L.A. and New Mexico isn’t in Tucson. The committee looked a little more at balance instead of just geography. Imagine that!

Eugene Regional
2 p.m. #2 Cal State Fullerton (35-19) vs. #3 Indiana St. (41-17)
6 p.m. #1 Oregon (42-17) vs. #4 Austin Peay (38-22)

Last year, after Oregon State got swept by Oregon to lose the conference championship on the final weekend, the Beavers bounced back and won their regional in three straight games. This year it’s the Ducks’ turn to try and rebound.

Palo Alto Regional
1 p.m. #2 Pepperdine (34-21) vs. #3 Michigan St. (37-21)
6 p.m. #1 Stanford (38-16) vs. #4 Fresno St. (30-26)

The NCAA is calling this the “Stanford” Regional. The rest of the Pac-12 rolls its eyes at the Cardinal’s unincorporated self.

Baton Rouge Regional
12 p.m. #2 Oregon St. (38-18) vs. #3 Belmont (39-22)
5 p.m. #1 Louisiana St. (43-16) vs. #4 Louisiana-Monroe (31-28)

Not only are the Beavers the only Pac-12 team playing away from home, they also have to face the best team in the SEC. At least they’ll always have that sweep of Oregon.

* * *

Only five Pac teams in the field this year but ASU would’ve been in had the Devils not banished themselves. The big win for the conference is the unprecedented four regionals.

How long has it been since Arizona hosted? The last time the Wildcats played postseason games at home there were only 48 teams in the tournament and Super Regionals didn’t exist.

The Supers could potentially be loaded with Pac-12 teams this year. With UCLA (#2) and Oregon (#5) getting national seeds and no Pac teams lined up to meet in the Super Regionals, it would be disappointing if the league didn’t get at least two teams to Omaha.

In regional play everyone is trying to go 2-0 the first couple days but it’s even more critical for a pitching-thin team like Arizona. The Cats need Kurt Heyer to be Kurt Heyer tonight and Konner Wade to pitch like he did against Washington and Cal (two complete games, two total earned runs), and not like he did versus Oregon, USC and ASU (0-2 with a 14.60 ERA).

Of course, the last three times the UA started 2-0 in a regional (2005, ’07, ’08), the Wildcats only ended up advancing once.

This group of Cats had no part in any of that. Their postseason experience is being eliminated in three games in 2010 and going to the maximum five games before bowing out last year.

(Take a look back at last season’s farewell, especially the bottom half. It took just one year – and one big move – to change everything.)

The Arizona upperclassmen have been building toward this moment for three years. They accomplished everything they wanted in the 2012 regular season. They earned these home games. The next step is to win them.

“We just can’t try to do too much,” junior Joey Rickard said. “We’ve wanted it so bad (the last two years) we tensed up a little. We’ve got to go out there, execute, play our game and we’ll be fine.”

“We’ve just got to play good baseball,” fellow junior Seth Mejias-Brean said. “I think it’s going to help us a lot being here in our home atmosphere.”

* * *

Wrapping up the regular season, when you win a share of the conference championship and boast both the Coach and Player of the Year, you’ve had a pretty solid campaign.

The final individual stats back it up. A Wildcat led the league in batting average (Johnny Field, .379), on-base percentage (Field, .494), runs (Field, 59), hits (Alex Mejia, 81), triples (Bobby Brown, 7), walks (Field, 39) and sacrifice flies (Mejia and Riley Moore, 7).

On the pitching front Heyer ended up with the lowest earned run average (2.03) among Pac-12 starters. He also led the league in innings pitched while finishing second in wins (11) and strikeouts (91, tied with Wade).

Tonight the only stat that matters is one win.

– – – – –

Scott Terrell will be coming at you live from the Hi C. Follow the Tucson Regional on Twitter and Facebook.