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Is this Andy Lopez’s best-hitting team at Arizona?

Leadoff hitter Joey Rickard takes a .323 batting average into Sunday's game. Photo by Andy Morales, TucsonCitizen.com

It’s going to be a tough question for Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez to answer. Is this your best hitting team in 11 seasons with the Wildcats?

Things have changed. The NCAA mandated less potent, less ping-y, bats last season. Arizona moved to Hi Corbett Field this season, a spacious stadium that rewards gap-to-gap hits but suppresses home run numbers.

But, after Arizona knocked around Louisville 16-4 in an NCAA regional at Hi Corbett on Saturday night, reaching 20 hits for the second consecutive games, it was a fair question to ponder.

Lopez’s answer:

“Best team that applies what we teach, yes.”

“There are a lot of guys where you can teach it, but they can’t retain it. And there are other guys who can retain it, can recite it back to you verbatim, but then they can’t apply it during the course of a game.

“This is the best group I’ve had in a long time, including Florida and Pepperdine, that can retain and apply the information.”

Arizona is applying information and supplying plenty of hits. The Cats had 20 hits in the regional opener vs. Missouri. They had 23 against the Cardinals. They have batted around three times in the past two games.

Arizona is hitting .437 (69 of 158) in its past four games, going to back to the final two games of the regular season against Arizona State.

“Man, those guys are locked in,” said Louisville coach Dan McDonnell.

“They are older, mature hitters. I love their balance. I love the way they move the ball. I love the way they fight pitches off. … It’s a scary offense.”

Arizona’s team batting average is up to .333, which, if it holds, would be the best of Lopez’s 11 seasons in Tucson. The 2003 and 2005 teams hit .328.

Seven players in the lineup are hitting over .300, led by Johnny Field (.382) and Alex Mejia (.373). The lineup is dangerous 1 through 9.

Robert Refsnyder has a team-high six home runs. The Cats have hit a mere 19. Lopez’s 2008 team slugged 77. That was a different era, and no one is complaining about it.

“With our offense, we’re capable of anything, to be honest,” Mejia said after going 5 of 5 on Saturday night. “Our guys swing the bat really well and when we get going we can put up a lot of runs.”

Arizona will try to stay hot Sunday at 8 p.m. against the winner of the Louisville-Missouri elimination game. With a victory, UA wins the regional and advances to next week’s Super Regional round. If UA loses Sunday night, the teams will play again on Monday night at 8 p.m. for the regional title.

Scott Terrell: Arizona baseball pummels another opponent, in position to finish off regional

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