It was four years in the making. A large group of Arizona Wildcats got their first taste of the NCAA postseason on Friday after four long years of falling short.
Ace pitcher Nathan Bannister is certainly in that group. He responded by pitching seven innings of shutout baseball in Arizona's 7-3 win over Sam Houston State on Friday.
But it wasn't quite normal beforehand.
The start of the game was pushed back five hours due to rain and lightning in the area, but the Wildcats made due.
"It was kind of like nap time in kindergarten class," head coach Jay Johnson joked to me over the phone after the game. "We were in the Ragin' Cajuns football facility, and our guys just kind of sat down, laid down and relaxed."
The team also went back to the hotel for a little while to wait out the delay.
When first pitch finally started to approach, there was a slight change in Bannister's demeanor from a normal outing.
"I think he was excited," Johnson said. "He was talking a little bit more before the game, and I think he was into it."
"Coach (jokingly) asked me before the game if I was nervous," Bannister said in the school's postgame release. "I told him, ‘No, I've been waiting four years for this one.'"
"He handled the delay really well," Johnson added. "We didn't get him up throwing at all early in the day, which was great."
Arizona will play Regional host Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday. The game is scheduled for 5 PM PT. The Wildcats are kind of prisoners of the weather forecast, and what the tournament committee wants them to do before the game starts.
Here are some more Johnson quotes from our phone conversation about the game:
- On Ryan Aguilar's home run: "I thought he put a great swing on the right pitch, and when he stays disciplined and gets his pitch, he can do a lot of damage as he's shown throughout the year."
- On the team's approach when facing a pitcher that had thrown over 180 pitches the weekend before: "The plan was to be as disciplined to see a pitch that we could hit hard as we possibly could be. And if that ended up early, we were ready to hit a mistake. If it didn't, we might run up his pitch count a little bit and put some stress on him."
- On watching Louisiana-Lafayette and Princeton late Friday night: "I'm watching it on the computer. We have a lot of video on them. Coach Lawn and Coach Brown stayed over and watched the game. It'll be a late night tonight."