Collegiate Baseball released its preseason top 40 poll on Thursday, and the defending champion Arizona Wildcats check in at No. 18.
Arizona is the lowest of six ranked Pac-12 Conference teams. Arizona State is No. 16; Oregon State is No. 10; Stanford is No. 9; Oregon ranks No. 6; and UCLA, which met UA in the 2012 College World Series, is No. 5.
UA is coming off an unprecedented run through the NCAA baseball tournament. The Wildcats went a perfect 10-0 through the postseason, culminating with a sweep of two-time defending national champion South Carolina in the championship round.
Powering the Wildcats through their postseason were the starting pitching trio of Kurt Heyer, James Farris and Konner Wade. Ace Heyer is now in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Wade and Farris return to head Andy Lopez's pitching in 2013. Wade made CWS history when, in Arizona's 4-0 defeat of UCLA, he became the first pitcher in Omaha to throw a complete game shutout without a walk since 1972.
Though two-thirds of Arizona's standout starting rotation are back, Lopez must replace several key contributors.
Gone from the Wildcats' championship roster are Robert Refsnyder, who made two hits in the title-clinching defeat of two-time defending champion South Carolina, and Alex Mejia. The duo combined for 110 RBI and hit .364 and .357 with slugging percentages of .562 and .472. Refsnyder also stole 14 bases, second among all Wildcats to Joey Rickard's 18.
Also gone are Seth Mejias-Brean and Bobby Brown. Mejias-Brean batted .355 and drove in 61 runs. Brown's five home runs were second only to Mejia's eight.
Johnny Field returns for 2013. Field was the Wildcats' leader in on-base percentage at .476. He drew 43 walks and hit a team best .370.
Topping the preseason poll is Arkansas, which South Carolina ousted from Omaha en route to facing the Wildcats in the championship round. Arkansas is one of five SEC teams in the top 10, along with Vanderbilt, LSU, South Carolina and Kentucky. North Carolina is the sole program outside of the SEC or Pac-12 in the top 10.
Surprise CWS participant Kent State made the rankings at No. 34. Fellow Omaha-bound shocker Stony Brook did not crack the poll, but surprise 2011 Super Regional team Dallas Baptist did, at No. 39.
Arizona begins defense of its national championship on Feb. 15, 2013, when it hosts Coppin State at Hi Corbett Field.