The Arizona Wildcats get three days off from games at the College World Series, leaving coach Andy Lopez with the most pleasant of decisions.
Does he come back with ace Kurt Heyer on Thursday?
By winning its first two games in Omaha, UA avoids the longer, tougher road of the losers’ bracket, thereby preserving its pitching staff and putting more good options on the table for Lopez.
His choices are Heyer, who pitched 7 2/3 innings Friday night in a 12-inning win over Florida State, or sophomore James Farris.
Farris (7-3, 4.18) is the usual third pitcher in the rotation behind Heyer and Konner Wade.
“Haven’t made a definite decision,” Lopez said on Monday afternoon during an interview on 1290-AM KCUB. “But I’m leaning very heavily toward throwing Kurt.”
At this point of the season, no matter the matchups, coaches are usually loath to go with anything other than their best. Let the chips fall where they may after that. No need to over-think it.
Heyer (12-2, 2.22 ERA) has been UA’s best this season.
“He’s our guy,” Lopez told Rob Lantz and Kevin Woodman on 1290-AM.
“It can be debated until the end of the day, but the bottom line is, if your horse is ready, if he feels like he’s 100 percent ready to go, we’ll probably run him out there (Thursday) and try to wrap that thing up and get to the weekend and play for the national title.”
If Arizona wins Thursday against the survivor of Tuesday’s elimination game between UCLA and Florida State, it then advances to the start of the best-of-three championship series on Sunday.
In this best-case scenario, Wade — coming off Sunday’s shutout of UCLA — could start Game 1, followed by Farris in Game 2 and Heyer, if necessary, in Game 3 on four day’s rest.
On the other hand, if Lopez went with Farris on Thursday and the Cats won, then the formidable combination of Heyer and Wade would line up to start the first two games of the championship series.
On yet another hand, if Farris lost Thursday and Heyer had to pitch Friday in an elimination game … then Heyer might only be available for limited duty on short rest in the potential third game of the championship series.
There are pluses and minuses each way, but going with your ace when he’s ready is the typical default choice.
Lopez said he would know more about how Heyer feels physically on Tuesday. Heyer, a sixth-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals, has thrown 257 pitches in the past two games, which came a week apart. Pitching on a Thursday would be a day ahead of his usual schedule but shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
Farris last pitched on June 4, when he threw his third complete game of the season as the Wildcats beat Louisville 16-3 to clinch an NCAA regional. He allowed 12 hits, striking out seven and walking one.
Here is Arizona’s potential schedule at the CWS:
–vs. UCLA or Florida State, 2 p.m. Tucson time
–vs. UCLA or Florida State (if needed), 2 p.m. or 6 p.m.
–Championship series, 5 p.m.
–Championship series, 5 p.m.
–Championship series (if needed), 5 p.m.