It almost seemed too good to be true. After fighting back from losing its first NCAA Regional game, the Arizona Wildcats won three in a row to force a Monday decision against the Texas A&M Aggies. The starting pitcher was to be seldom-used Vince Littleton. Arizona Daily Star beat writer Ryan Finley's thoughts on it?
Vincent Littleman, as expected, will start for the #ArizonaWildcats. Numbers aren't encouraging: 2-3, 8.10 ERA.
And then came perhaps a blessing in disguise. Rain postponed the game until it was called two hours later. So on Tuesday, the Wildcats could start a rested Kurt Heyer on the mound.
In the end, however, it didn't matter. Arizona fell 3-0 Tuesday afternoon, the same day in which five of its players were taken in the 2011 MLB Draft. The Aggies, not Wildcats, head to Tallahasee to face Florida State while Arizona finishes with a 39-21 record on the year.
Heyer went 7 2/3 innings before being pulled. He struck out six on five hits, but gave up two earned runs in the eighth inning off by Aggy Tyler Naquin and Prey Bratsen. Bryce Bandilla, who was the second Wildcat drafted Tuesday, came on in relief and allowed Jacob House to hit a two-run double that scored Bratsen from second and walked batter Matt Juengel.
The Wildcats had seven hits -- all from different players -- but didn't take advantage.
A disappointing offensive showing similar to what we saw from the Arizona softball team -- lots of a hits and no points to show for it -- came at a poor time in the season. Nonetheless, the Wildcats for the most part got better as the season aged. So what's it mean for the program moving forward?
The Wildcats have improved yet again, making the postseason for the seventh time in nine years. And it was a step in the right direction from last season, when Arizona went to the Fort Worth Regional and only went 1-2 in elimination, finishing with a 34-24. This year they end with a 39-21 record, a hot hit or two away from making the Super Regional for the third time in school history.
Yet, the team is still pretty young, a promising and talented group that won't regress much, if at all, with the losses of guys like senior Bryce Ortega.
But what's the expectation around the program? Andy Lopez has struggled to get out of the first postseason round, yet recruits a talented roster. Is he under the pressure of Sean Miller, who replaced a legend, or more of Mike Stoops, who like Lopez, is still trying to build a brand of a winner?
Do you think the Arizona baseball team is on the upswing?
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Here's a list of the Wildcats taken in the draft:
RHP Kyle Simon, 125th overall, Baltimore Orioles
LHP Bryce Bandilla, 147th overall, San Francisco Giants
1B Cole Frenzel, 222 overall, New York Mets
SS Andy Burns, 349 overall, Toronto Blue Jays
LHP Matt Chafee. 386 overall, Atlanta Braves