Daniel Susac doesn’t tweet much, but one post the UA catcher fired off a little more than a year ago included just a single word, one that carry tons of weight in the college baseball community.
Omaha.— Daniel Susac (@danielsusac10) June 11, 2020
Still a few months from officially joining Arizona’s program, Susac was already making predictions on where his first season with the Wildcats would end up. This wasn’t a product of youthful overconfidence, though; just like his approach at, and behind, the plate, Susac’s tweet was the product of careful study.
“For me (the tweet) was a goal at the time,” Susac said Tuesday. “When I started to see some key older players that said they were coming back, like Donta’ (Williams), (Jacob) Blas, Vince (Vannelle), Preston (Price), when I saw that, it started all coming into action. Then as soon as I stepped up on campus I knew that this team had what it took. And then every day since it’s just been getting there.
“So now that we’re there I’m going to make the most out of it.”
Never a doubt. Still work to do. https://t.co/gsC6bRW5aX— Daniel Susac (@danielsusac10) June 14, 2021
Susac, who was named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year late last month, is hitting .329 with 12 home runs and 61 RBI. He has set or tied seven UA freshman records, six in terms of Pac-12 production, with his 21 doubles tying the school freshman season mark previously set by Jett Bandy in 2009. That helped him and fellow first-year standout Jacob Berry—who himself has set or tied six school freshman records—earn Co-National Freshman of the Year honors from Collegiate Baseball magazine.
While he had confidence coming into the season, Arizona’s 4-0 performance at the Frisco Classic in Texas in early March really drove home to Susac not only how good his team was but how close-knit the players were.
“I feel like every team I’ve been on has been pretty close, but this one’s the closest I’ve ever seen,” he said. “No matter where we are, it seems like we’re always together, locker room, field, cages, even off the field, everybody’s together and everybody’s friends. I think that’s a huge part of the team, just being friends off the field just as much on.”
That camaraderie has no doubt helped the Wildcats bounce back from the rare bouts of adversity they’ve faced this season. Arizona has only lost consecutive games three times, none since mid-April, and has tended to put up some of their best performances immediately after a loss of more than three runs.
Susac singled out Arizona’s 17-16, 10-inning win over Washington on May 14, which came after it was beat handily at Stanford the Sunday before to snap its streak of six consecutive Pac-12 series wins.
“There’s never a bad mood in the locker room, never a bad mood in the clubhouse, it’s always upbeat,” he said. “Today’s a new day, nothing ever happened in the past, even if we win. Today’s a new day, today’s a new challenge. The biggest one I saw all year, when I knew our team was special, was Washington. Giving up three runs in the top of the 10th, (down) 16-13, it’s pretty hard to come back from.”
Tyler Casagrande, who had entered as a defensive replacement in the ninth, singled on an 0-2 pitch with two outs in the bottom of the 10th to score two runs. Three pitches later, Susac doubled into gap in right-center field, scoring Casagrande to tie the game, and the UA went on to walk it off to start a run of 13 wins in the last 16 games.
“Just seeing our whole team battle that way to go and get a win, it’s really showed that we’re never out of the fight,” Susac said.
Though still stellar, Susac’s numbers have dipped in recent weeks, with only 4 hits in 22 postseason at-bats and only four RBI in his last 15 games. That could be the byproduct of starting 45 consecutive games, all at catcher, and only getting subbed defensively late in six of 22 contests since the start of May.
Susac doesn’t think he’s worn down in any way—“growing up with travel ball and everything, I used to have to catch the first five (games) of the weekend and then go pitch the championship game; I’ve kind of gotten used to that”—but he is still making sure to maximize whatever recovery time he gets. He says having off days built into the College World Series will also help.
“I think lately, the biggest thing for me is water, just maximizing as much as I can, especially with the temperatures rising,” Susac said.