There would be no shortage of things to blame if the Arizona Wildcats don’t make the NCAA baseball tournament. Poor pitching, defensive miscues and a woeful road record are just a few of the reasons Arizona is very likely to miss the postseason for the second year in a row.
No one expected Mother Nature to also be on that list. But after Sunday’s series finale against the USC Trojans was cancelled due to inclement weather in the Tucson area, Arizona (24-24, 12-14 Pac-12) has for the second time this season lost a chance at a valuable resume-building win because of the elements.
But much like the first time it happened, Arizona coach Jay Johnson is efforting to find a replacement to ensure his team has the maximum amount of games possible for the NCAA selection committee to judge it on.
“We’re going to try to play a 56th game,” Johnson said. “It would be a long way to go, and there are no guarantees, but I think you still see a team playing hard. We want to do what we can to give them every chance possible. It was really in our best interest to try and play tonight.”
Here is Jay Johnson on why today’s series finale against USC was cancelled after plans were initially to play a doubleheader today: pic.twitter.com/YCSv9Hs9pV— Christian Mortensen (@MortensenAZDS) May 12, 2019
In March, Arizona had a weeknight visit from Xavier cancelled because of rain. The Musketeers (23-27) are currently 66th in the RPI rankings, one spot ahead of the Wildcats, an a win over them would have provided a boost to a schedule that is ranked 14th-toughest in the country per WarrenNolan.com.
That lost game was replaced by a one-off contest set for Monday night at Hi Corbett Field against Sam Houston State (28-20), which is 62nd in the RPI.
Johnson identified three options for a 56th game :
- Play a doubleheader Monday against Sam Houston, but that depends on the Bearkats’ travel plans as well as the fact Arizona leaves Tuesday morning for a three-game series at Penn State that begins Thursday
- Add a fourth game, likely Friday, at Penn State (21-24)
- Play a game early next week at Gonzaga (27-20) ahead of the regular-season finale series at Washington State
While USC (20-26-1, 9-13-1) is 92nd in the RPI, even more important is its inclusion in the Pac-12. By having that last game cancelled, Arizona will only play 29 conference games and must sweep last-place Wazzu (10-36-1, 2-21-1) to finish above .500 in league play.
Pac-12 teams with winning conference records have traditionally made it into the NCAA tournament, though last year Cal was left out with a 16-14 mark.
While adding the Sam Houston State game might prove easiest, there’s far more value in getting that 56th game on the road. That’s because road wins have a higher multiplier in the RPI, Johnson said, though that may be putting the cart before the horse for an Arizona team that is 4-14 away from home this season compared to 20-10 at HiC.