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Arizona baseball: Seniors finally in position to make postseason

It's been a long road to this moment

Jason Bartel

The last time we saw the Arizona Wildcats playing a postseason baseball game, they were raising the National Championship trophy.

That was before this year's seniors set foot on campus for the first time as college students.

Four years. Four long years. But here they are, finally in position to play in a postseason game.

"I think it's awesome," senior outfielder Zach Gibbons said this past weekend. "I've lived with (Cody) Ramer and (Nathan) Bannister, and we always talked about not really making it to a postseason. I think it's special."

"I've never been in this position," Gibbons continued. "The closest I've been was my freshman year when we didn't make it, which I thought we should have. But it's awesome to be in this position in my last year."

"I think it's what you've put in the work for four years for," Bannister added. "I remember my freshman year, I didn't get much opportunity, but I just kept working, and thanks to my teammates who kept pushing me, and it's just been a process."

"It definitely feels good," Ramer included about being in this spot. "But we're not going to look at it that way. If we keep doing well, we're going to eventually end up there."

It's been all about the seniors basically all year. Gibbons leads the Pac-12 in batting average. Bannister has established himself as the Friday night guy. Ramer has been in the lead-off spot all year and has been Arizona's best defender.

But then there's someone like Ryan Aguilar, who hasn't been here for all four years of the suffering, but is a senior looking to go out on top. He also happens to lead the team in RBI, home runs and total bases.

"I feel like for all of us it's now or never," Aguilar explained. "We're just trying to have fun with it. Regardless of what the outcome is, we're thankful to be here, and we're playing for the moment."

Getting the group of seniors to the postseason for the first time in their college careers is not lost among the underclassmen either.

"It means a lot, just because I respect the seniors a ton," sophomore Cameron Ming said. "To be able to do this for our seniors is great since they've never gotten the opportunity. And for the city of Tucson, who haven't gotten to see our team in the postseason in a long time. So we're happy that we're successful and we're glad to get the fans on board."

"It'd be nice to see the seniors get into the postseason," junior JC Cloney added.

Since the day he arrived in Tucson, head coach Jay Johnson has said that he doesn't look at long-term goals, or anything beyond the next game. But the fact that those guys haven't had the opportunity to play beyond the regular season still resonates with Arizona's head coach.

"What we talked about when I met with them individually was we couldn't guarantee status, playing time, any of those types of things. I just wanted it to be the best baseball experience any of those guys have had in their life," Johnson explained after sweeping Oregon State. "And it's not over, and while we're appreciating the moment right now, regardless if they will be Major Leaguers, billionaires, marry super models, whatever they do, this is a cool time."

"They're always going to want to come back to this. I just want them to appreciate what they have now."

Getting those extra games at the end of the year will certainly be extra sweet. And if this team stays on the recent run and puts itself in position to host an NCAA Regional, just like 2012, I think everyone will appreciate what they have now, but those seniors will appreciate it just that little bit more.