If Arizona baseball flew under the radar in its last two trips to the College World Series, the Wildcats are more of a known commodity this time around.
A pair of college baseball experts, Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball and Michella Chester of NCAA.com, have picked Arizona to win the title.
The Wildcats arrive in Omaha with the best offense in the CWS, which is a big reason why Fitt and Chester think they can win it all. Here’s what each wrote about Arizona’s chances:
Fitt: “I can’t shake the feeling that Arizona’s offense is really built for TD Ameritrade Park, which plays similarly to Hi Corbett Field in Tucson — they’re both big yards with spacious gaps, so Arizona is accustomed to driving the gaps and racking up doubles and triples. No other program has a better winning percentage at TDAP than Arizona, which won it all in 2012 and reached the CWS Finals in 2016. I think that formula could work again this year. It’s been a very offensive postseason, and I think that trend will continue in Omaha — but I’m putting my money on a team that has proven elite offensively without leaning too much on the long ball.”
Chester: “I am going with Arizona. This might be because I just got back from the Women’s College World Series (and I know it is different in a lot of ways), but I just saw the most powerful offense in college softball win the championship. And it didn’t matter how strong the pitching staff was. This, of course, is different. There are not as many home runs in baseball and in TD Ameritrade the homers will be limited anyways. But like Aaron said, this Wildcats offense doesn’t rely too heavily on the long ball, but they do hit for a lot of extra bases.”
The Wildcats open the CWS against Vanderbilt 4:00 p.m. PST on ESPN.
Arizona’s offense will face perhaps its toughest test all season matching up against one of the Commodores’ two All-American starting pitchers, Kumar Rucker and Jack Leiter. Both are projected top-five picks in next month’s MLB Draft.
Of course, Arizona has plenty of weapons in its offensive arsenal including freshmen Jacob Berry and Daniel Susac, who were both named Second-Team All-Americans by Baseball America Thursday.
Vanderbilt is tied with Texas as the odds-on favorite to win the CWS at 5-2 according to William Hill Sportsbook. Arizona and Mississippi State are tied for the fourth-best odds at 17-2.
Arizona has reached the CWS Finals in each of its last two trips to Omaha. The Wildcats swept South Carolina in 2012 to win the title and lost two of three games to Coastal Carolina in 2016.