After a winless weekend in Seattle where they also lost one of their top starting pitchers for the remainder of the season, there was a lot of doubt surrounding the Arizona Wildcats and their chances of making baseball’s Field of 64.
Three weeks after that dreadful trip, Arizona has suddenly moved up roughly 70 spots in the RPI, and has a huge chance at even more coming up this weekend at home.
Sitting 32nd in the RPI after a road series win at USC and a midweek victory over BYU, Arizona now hosts the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal for a three-game set at Hi Corbett this weekend.
Baseball America had the Wildcats as a 3-seed in the Athens, Georgia Regional following the series victory over Oregon State. Now BA has Arizona as a 2-seed in the Lubbock Regional (again) while D1Baseball slates the Wildcats as a 2-seed in the Chapel Hill Regional.
Yep, two-seeds. Not only is Arizona on the right side of the bubble now, but there’s also a tiny bit of breathing room. Which is huge considering the current starting pitching situation.
Losing Randy Labaut after his compartment syndrome emergency surgery during the Washington series was a big enough blow to the pitching staff. This team has also had to adjust to Avery Weems’ inconsistency and Juan Aguilera becoming the midweek specialist, forcing Arizona to go about Sunday games in a different way from most other power programs.
“Just because everyone does it one way doesn’t mean that’s the way you have to do it,” Jay Johnson told D1Baseball’s Shotgun Spratling after the USC series. “Our goal is to get 27 outs with as few a runs as possible and obviously it’s been an unorthodox way but it’s working for us.”
In addition to this, Cal Stevenson was hit in the hand by a pitch of the first inning of Sunday’s series finale vs. the Trojans, forcing him out of the game after he couldn’t grip a bat. But he stayed engaged throughout the remainder of the game, showing off the personality of this particular team.
“He’s a winning player,” Johnson said of Stevenson. “It says a lot about the character and it’s exactly the type of player we want at Arizona who place the needs of the team above their own.”
Luckily for the Cats, it appears that Stevenson will be back soon after x-rays showed no break.
Either way, it wouldn’t have changed the clubhouse atmosphere.
“This team has got something to them and what I mean by that is some grit, some heart, some toughness,” Johnson said. “It wasn’t sunshine and rainbows through the first ten games and we’ve really evolved and we’ve played well.
“It’s not getting any easier so we’re going to need all of it.”