After an impressive run to the College World Series in 2016, Arizona baseball is off to a hot start. The Wildcats are 10-1, their best start since 1999.
After taking two of three games at the Frisco Classic last weekend in Frisco, Texas, the Cats powered up the rankings. Arizona is now at No. 4 in the Collegiate Baseball Top 30 and No. 9 in D1Baseball.com’s poll. Monday, the NCAA also released it’s first RPI rankings of the season, with Arizona sitting at No. 1.
Not all of the Wildcat’s wins have come easy. In six of the last eleven games, Arizona has come from behind to get the victory.
Head coach Jay Johnson said the ability of his players to bounce back and stay in the game says a lot about the group he’s got this year.
“They love competing, more than anything else,” Johnson said. “Baseball is always going to be a work in progress whether you’re in high school, at the University of Arizona or in the major leagues. We’ll keep working at that (deficits)..they’re doing a good job with some things on the field: the attitude, character, toughness, all that has been exemplary so far, and we’re going to need it because coming here you play great opponents and you get tested.”
Team chemistry and re-adjusting last year’s momentum to this year’s team is what has clicked for the Cats this season, junior left-handed pitcher Rio Gomez said.
“You saw last year everything was really light, really stress-free, easy-going, and you saw the run that we were able to have,” Gomez said. “I think we’re just repeating it again this year and I think the biggest thing that helps is that chemistry, it builds and I think it keeps us closer and that’s what helps us win these games.”
Through Mar. 5, Arizona has the third highest batting average at .354. The Cats are also third in the country for doubles with 36. Additionally, four players are currently batting over .400.
“We have a really powerful offense, we really know how to get things going, that just due credit to our quality at-bats,” junior outfielder Jared Oliva said. “We’re not hitting home runs here and there, we’re putting together walks, moving guys over…that’s kind of how we are as a offense, so I think we can keep it rolling.”
After such an impressive run in Johnson’s first season at the helm, most would think there would be a perception of pressure to live up to what the 2016 Cats were able to do. Not the case for Johnson.
“In the dictionary I own, pressure…that’s not in there,” Johnson said. “I don’t even know what that means.”