AZDesertSwarm.com spoke with ESPN broadcasters Mike Rooney and Randy Flores after the duo made the call of Arizona's thrilling Super Regional defeat of St. John's on Friday.
The pair is live from Hi Corbett Field Saturday for Game 2 of what Flores called "a game setting up for a great series."
Snatching the initial match-up set the tone for the last step on the Wildcats' goal of the College World Series. But perhaps more than just setting the tone, Game 1 was a potential must-win.
"Had to win," Rooney said of the pressure on UA in Friday's opener. "The pitching match-up favors St. John's...[Kyle] Hansen is St. John's No. 3, going against Kurt Heyer...clearly Arizona's No. 1."
Hansen went in the sixth round of this week's Major League Baseball draft to the Chicago White Sox. A recent draftee ranking as the No. 3 proves how strong the Johnny pitching order is, if last week's effort that landed St. John's in Tucson wasn't evidence enough.
The Red Storm advanced past the Chapel Hill Regional and perennial power North Carolina behind the arms of Matt Carasiti and Sean Hagan. UA draws Hagan Saturday at noon on ESPN 2.
Hagan has been an ace for the Johnnies, amassing an 8-2 record with a 2.74 ERA. He will pose a stiff challenge to a UA lineup averaging over 13 runs per contest through four postseason games.
The Wildcats' own ace Heyer fell in a 5-0 hole in the fourth Friday, and gave up 17 hits through 91/3 innings. Despite that, he persisted long enough to allow the Wildcat bats to chip away.
"With [the] type experience [Heyer has] comes composure," Flores said. "He can have a bad inning like [the top of the fourth] and say 'this is no big deal.'"
Such performance is indicative of what Heyer means to UA baseball, Rooney said.
"Program changer," he said. "To become a Friday night starter as a freshman, and doing what he is now -- that takes a special player."
"Special" is a buzzword for the Wildcats at present. The run throughout 2012 exceeded expectations, landing UA hosting duties throughout the postseason up to Omaha.
UA's dominant performance in the Regional garnered national attention.
"Everyone in the country got to see that performance in the Regional," Rooney said. "Arizona really has that 'wow' factor."
The Wildcats have generated that awe not with the long ball, and Friday was no different.
"Rolling into a series only affects you if you're cocky. Talking with Andy Lopez before [Friday's game]...Arizona came in with something to prove," Flores said.
There's plenty of baseball left separating UA from Omaha and its first College World Series berth since 2004.
UA scored its seven runs on St. John's in the same fashion it plated 47 last week, keeping the bases occupied with a steady diet of base hits.
Bobby Brown drove in a pair of runs on two hits Friday. While his contribution followed suit with what head coach Andy Lopez has had the Wildcats doing all season, Brown did come just feet from hitting a three-run shot out of spacious Hi Corbett.
"I've talked to scouts who project some of [UA hitters] for power, Flores said. "This is a talented ball club that buys into the strategy...using the park's size, hitting the gaps."
St. John's was in contention Friday using UA's tactic against it. Six Red Storm batters had multiple hits, including four with three-plus. Designated hitter Zach Lauricella went 4-5 on the afternoon, well above his .262 batting average on the season.
"[St. John's] made [Hi Corbett] its home park," Flores said. "The defense held up. Arizona has more work cut out for it."
The next job is Konner Wade's. The Wildcat starter is 8-3 with a 4.69 ERA.
"Konner Wade is most likely going [to start Game 2]," Rooney said. "He's arguably the most vulnerable on Arizona's [pitching] staff.
"If he can hang around, that gives Arizona two good starts [for the series]. If he's out by the third inning, that's a difficult situation."
Should the Wildcats advance past the Johnnies, Rooney said Wade and James Farris must give UA several good innings.
"If Arizona was to get into the losers' bracket at Omaha, that would be a real problem because of the pitching depth," he said.