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Arizona baseball still alive but faces steep climb into NCAA tournament

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This has been a bad season for the Arizona Wildcats on the baseball diamond, there’s no denying that. Coach Jay Johnson referring to 2019 as “mediocre” on Sunday was about as nice as you could put it.

Yet despite sitting at 22-23 overall and 10-14 in the Pac-12, Arizona is not dead yet in terms of making the postseason. Only mostly dead.

The Wildcats’ RPI sits at 73rd, up four spots from the previous week thanks to a three-game home sweep of the Oregon Ducks (who were 39th), but still a ways away from getting into consideration for an at-large spot in the 64-team NCAA tourney field. The latest projections have the lowest-seeded at-large qualifiers with RPIs in the 40s and 50s.

But with 11 games left in the regular season, there’s still an opportunity for Arizona’s RPI to improve enough to at least have a chance. That run begins Tuesday night when the Arizona State Sun Devils come to Hi Corbett Field for a non-conference tilt.

ASU (33-12) swept Arizona in Phoenix in late March.

The Sun Devils are 43rd in the RPI, the only remaining team on Arizona’s schedule in the top 50. This weekend it hosts USC (84th) for three games then ends its home schedule Monday against Sam Houston State (72nd) before finishing with six on the road at Penn State (175th) and Washington State (206th).

The most important games for Arizona are the six that count toward the Pac-12 standings. That’s because getting to above .500 in conference play may ultimately determine if the Wildcats get into the postseason, based on league history.

Since adding Utah in 2012, 33 of the 37 teams to finish above .500 in the league have made the NCAA tournament. One of the teams that missed was California in 2018, which went 16-14.

Quintana honored for big weekend

Arizona scored 54 runs over the weekend, including 28 on Sunday in a game that saw it set numerous school records and help junior third baseman Nick Quintana lock up Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

Hitting continues to be Arizona’s strong suit. The Wildcats rank second nationally in runs per game (9.1) and ninth in batting average (.314). The same can’t be said for ERA, which at 6.84 is 267th out of 297 Division I teams.