CORAL GABLES, Fla.—Depending how the weather goes, Arizona may end up playing the waiting game as much as (or more than) actual baseball games this weekend. The Wildcats got some early practice with this on their trip into Miami.
Thunderstorms forced the team’s charter flight on Wednesday to be diverted to Fort Myers, about 150 miles to the northwest. That resulted in a 2 1/2-hour bus ride, wiping out any chance to get in a workout that day.
“There’s a lot of delays, you just gotta get used to it,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “It’s just the way it’s going to be here.”
The forecast, which calls for heavy rain on Friday and Saturday due to a tropical system that’s expected to form in the Gulf of Mexico and head over south Florida, has already impacted the start times for Friday’s games. Regional host Miami will take on Canisius at 7 a.m. PT, up from 9 a.m., while the Arizona/Ole Miss game (originally scheduled for 4 p.m. PT) will begin 55 minutes after the first game ends.
Assuming, that is, it can be played.
“The day we got picked to come here, I made it very clear to them, we’re gonna have to get used to playing through some rain, playing and sitting down because they’re gonna have to cover the field for an hour and go back out and play,” Hale said.
Arizona hasn’t had any postponements, or even delays, because of weather this season, though its games at Washington in early April did have some rain.
A delayed start would be easier to navigate than one during the game. In the case of the latter, it means having to figure out what to do with the pitcher that was in at the time play was halted.
“It’ll be tough,” Hale said. “We talked about it already as a coaching staff, and I talked to (pitching coach) Dave Lawn about it: how long in this in this arena, at the college level, would you wait before saying hey, we can’t let you go back out? And we’ve talked about minutes and how long it would be, and he has ways to keep them loose. Whether it’s, if it’s not pouring rain, you can go in the bullpen and throw some pitches. So it’s not going to be like you have Max Scherzer are on the mound and it’s been a 45 minutes and that’s that’s a drop-dead time. We could probably go a little longer with these kids.”
Bring in Quinn
Rain or shine, don’t be surprised if right-hander Quinn Flanagan makes an appearance in nearly every game Arizona plays in the regional. He’s become the Wildcats’ go-to arm in a variety of roles, logging a team-high 31 games, 10th-most in school history.
Flanagan, a starter most of his UA career, has only done so once this season, throwing five 2-hit innings against Dixe State on March 1. Since then he’s gone as short as 0.1 innings and as long as four, pitching on back-to-back days three times.
He threw two innings apiece against Oregon and ASU in the Pac-12 Tournament, with one day off in between, though he was likely available for that contest against Stanford. Always having to be ready, physically and mentally, is something Flanagan said he’s had to get used to.
“I’d say it’s definitely a little bit of both, but more mental than anything,” he said. “As a starter you kind of have your one day of the week where you’re just totally locked in. As a reliever you can kind of get your name called at anytime, so it’s just getting ready to go in and situation that you’re called upon. I think that was probably the biggest thing to overcome.”
Hale said Flanagan’s main role now is as the setup man for closer Trevor Long, but that’s not locked in.
“It’s all about matchups this time of the year, so if we have a spot in the order where Quinn matches up better than Trevor, he would probably close and Trevor would pitch the seventh and eighth,” Hale said. “We’re gonna go back and forth with that.”
A softer playing surface
After getting eliminated from the Pac-12 tourney by Stanford, UA shortstop Nik McClaughry referred to Hi Corbett Field as “the hardest infield in the country,” referring to the surface but also indicating how tough it is to play on for opposing teams.
Now comes a completely different surface at Alex Rodriguez Park, one that (hopefully) is built to withstand the rain.
“You’d be surprised how quick these fields here in Florida drain,” Hale said. “They’re probably pretty sand-based, a little different than we’re used to with the caliche back in Tucson. The clay (dirt) can’t get too wet, but the grass, it’ll come back quick. It won’t be a problem. I’ve done a lot of spring training here where it’s actually flooded the field and an hour later we’re out there working. I think we’ll be okay.”
As much as Arizona’s defense has struggled this season—it has committed 63 errors, and its .972 fielding percentage was second-worst in the Pac-12—it’s still better than the other teams in this regional. Ole Miss is at .971, Miami .970 and Canisius .963.
All signs point toward Chase Davis being in the lineup for Arizona against Ole Miss after injuring his left (throwing) shoulder in the first inning of Saturday’s Pac-12 tourney loss to Stanford. Whether he plays the field is still uncertain.
“He’s getting there,” Hale said. “We wanted to do something yesterday, but we obviously didn’t get in in time. So we’ll throw a little bit today and see how it looks, but hitting-wise I think he’s a go there ... so we could do DH him. And we will figure it out today whether he can play some left field.”
If Davis doesn’t play left, Hale said Tyler Casagrande would probably get the nod. That would double Arizona’s number of left-handed hitters in the batting order, as Davis has been the sole guy nearly every game this season.
Susac earns All-American honors
Arizona catcher Daniel Susac has been named a Second Team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, making him the 13th UA player to be a 2-time All-American after earning consensus honors in 2021. The last was pitcher Kurt Heyer in 2011-12.
Susac leads the Wildcats in batting (.367), hits (94), doubles (19) and RBI (61), his hit total tied for fifth nationally. With 175 hits in his first two seasons, Susac has the most by a UA player in his first two years since at least 1998.
The only other Arizona catcher to be a 2-time All-American was Alan Hall in 1959-60.