Omaha is the goal of every college baseball player and team, yet only eight groups get to end up there in mid-June each year for the College World Series.
Arizona was fortunate to be part of that octet in 2021, reaching the CWS for the 18th time in school history, but the trip was a quick one. The Wildcats were the first team eliminated, losing to Vanderbilt and Stanford, putting a damper on an otherwise stellar season.
They hope to be back again this June, but in the meantime they’re making an in-season visit to Charles Schwab Field (formerly TD Ameritrade Park) for a 2-game nonconference series against Creighton.
“Once we knew we could play at TD Ameritrade, we were really excited about,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “They’re televised games, so it’ll be a blast for the guys.”
Hale, in his first year coaching Arizona, has never played in the current CWS stadium—which opened in 2012—but did to go Omaha with the UA in 1984 and 1987. He’s also familiar with the city from his time in the minor leagues.
Fourteen current Wildcats were on the travel squad for the 2021 CWS team including outfielder Tanner O’Tremba, who is actually making his third trip to Omaha. O’Tremba played for Texas Tech in 2019 when the Red Raiders made the CWS, playing in one game, and started Arizona’s elimination loss to Stanford last June.
That will make him the unofficial tour guide for Arizona in and around the stadium, like he did last year.
“It was funny because, just telling guys like hey, is expect this or like, they’ll do this,” O’Tremba said. “It was cool to have that experience. So and I’m glad everyone else got to experience that too.”
O’Tremba is heating back up after going through a midseason slump. He’s hit in six straight games and eight of nine, with 13 hits including three home runs in that span.
Arizona, on the other hand, is not. The Wildcats (24-12) are 8-8 since a 16-4 start, dropping their last two Pac-12 series to opponents that are more likely to miss the 8-team Pac-12 Tournament next month than finish in the top half of the league, though they bring an 11-5 road/neutral site record with them to Omaha.
“When you go to a visiting place ... it’s that us against the world deal,” Hale said. “So I think they enjoy that.”
Creighton (21-8) is 12-0 at Charles Schwab Field, but the Blue Jays have not faced a Top-100 RPI team at home. They haven’t played any Top-50 teams, which will change with No. 47 Arizona.
Before Arizona headed out on its current 5-game road trip, which began with a win over Utah but was followed by two losses, O’Tremba wasn’t worried about Arizona cooling off of late.
“It’s a long, long season and anything can happen,” he said. “There’s a reason why we’re hot at the beginning. There’s a reason why you struggle a little bit in the middle and then you get hot at the end. You can’t can’t be hot the whole year. So everyone goes through it and I think just being there for guys to talk to or listen to about certain things is huge.”
Going back to Omaha could be just the motivation (to get back there, again, in June) the UA needs.
“Hey, this is the goal,” O’Tremba said. “This is where we want to be. It doesn’t change a whole lot, but it’s definitely cool to see where we want to be at the end of the year, and we want to be the last team playing there. I think it’s awesome for the younger guys, too, because it’s a it’s a familiar scene, hopefully, when we make it back there.”
Arizona, which needed to use its bullpen for 13 innings in the three games at Utah, will be starting a reliever for Monday’s game. Left-hander Holden Christian, who has been the Wildcats’ closer but who has struggled in recent weeks, is listed as the starting pitcher against Creighton ace Dylan Tebrake (5-1, 2.81).