Vision Accomplished: Arizona Wildcats’ run to College World Series gives hope to those who dare to planby Scott Terrell on Jun. 11, 2012, under Sports
They say if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans. The point being, we have no idea what the future holds so to make grandiose plans and assume everything will go exactly how we want is an exercise in futility.
But sometimes – every once in a while – a plan works perfectly. Exhibit A: the 2012 Arizona Wildcats baseball season.
I can’t even plan a Saturday. I’ll get to the end of a week with a mountain of tasks to complete so I’ll start a list:
1. Wake up
And that’s about as far as I get before the plan is shot.
UA athletic director Greg Byrne had a plan. Head coach Andy Lopez had a plan. Their to-do list for the 2011-2012 season looked like this:
1. Negotiate use of Hi Corbett Field
2. Create buzz with announcement
3. Address concerns of dissenters (including Hall of Fame former coaches)
4. Enhance game day experience
5. Win lots of games
6. Win Pac-12 championship
7. Host Regional
8. Host Super Regional
9. Go to College World Series
And they pulled it off. Every last bit of it.
Lopez was quick to point to the change in venue as the key element in this magical run. “I don’t believe we could have done what we’re doing,” he said, “unless we’re at Hi Corbett with that kind of crowd.”
“I can’t thank Greg Byrne and the administration enough for moving us here.”
It takes courage to uproot decades of tradition to aim for something bigger. It takes the timing of an experienced team primed for a peak season. It takes an alignment of circumstances like spring training leaving Tucson, Arizona State going on probation, Oregon faltering the final weekend and North Carolina getting upset by St. John’s.
No matter how much help you get, however, you still need to execute on the field. Big crowds don’t ensure you get the bunt down in a tight game. Playing at home doesn’t guarantee throwing strikes or producing two-out RBIs.
No moment sums it up better than the double play in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. St. John’s had two men on with nobody out and the tying run on deck. Konner Wade threw a low strike to the Red Storm’s best hitter, Jeremy Baltz, who grounded sharply to third base. Seth Mejias-Brean fielded it cleanly and didn’t hesitate in making an accurate throw to second. Trent Gilbert made the pivot, defensive replacement Brandon Dixon made the catch at first and the bases were empty with disaster averted.
“I was just playing one pitch at a time, trying to go through it in my head, if the ball’s hit to me make the easy play and turn two,” Mejias-Brean said. “I didn’t really think too much how big of a play it was.”
That kind of calm execution got the Wildcats through what Lopez called the grind of the regular season and early rounds of the tournament, and it should serve them well during the reward that is the College World Series.
The UA coach likes his team’s chances in Omaha. “The goal once we get there will be to stay around for two weeks,” Lopez said. “We’ll try to stick around a couple weeks for sure.”
You won’t see me laughing at that plan.
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Bonus quotes from the celebratory Super Regional press conference:
On coming up just short in the College Station Regional last year
“I told my wife if we can get to the right regional we got a chance this year. And, boy, we were in the right regional: Tucson.”
On why this CWS run is special to him
“I’ve had two sons go with me to Omaha three, four times now as batboys and now… I’ve got to get them to shave. They’ve got full beards and they’re going to be a part of a college program in the College World Series so that’s pretty neat.”
On his team’s chances
“I like them for two real intangible reasons: One is they like to compete. The guys I suit up with like to compete. And two is…uh…they like to compete.”
On fifth-year senior Bobby Brown’s experience
“Bobby, you’ve been here since… How was it playing for Coach Sancet?”
On destiny and pachyderms
“I told them the story (about) when I was in L.A. and a man got crushed by an elephant in Culver City. Those of you that know L.A., it’s Culver City. How does an elephant crush a man in Culver City?! If it’s supposed to happen it’s going to happen. You just have to work hard and get after it.”
When asked if he remembered throwing a no-walks complete game before
(By the way, if you would have told me before the Tucson Super Regional that Wade was going to give up 11 fewer hits than Kurt Heyer I would’ve said you were crazy.)
(Then I would’ve said, “Wait, you mean Wade is going to throw a negative-four-hitter??”)
On getting to Omaha with his classmates
“I’m really close with this junior class. We deserve it. We’ve worked hard. We’ve worked all three years and it’s going to be fun up there.”
On choosing baseball over football out of high school
“College football would’ve been a lot more work.”
Lopez: “What?! We’ll work on that on Monday.”
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