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Arizona baseball: Wildcats aim for NCAAs in season-ending series vs. USC

Andy Lopez

Andy Lopez’s team is coming off a series win at Arizona State. Photo by Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY SPORTS

The Arizona Wildcats baseball team might need to win all three games this weekend. Almost certainly, two. For sure, the one on Friday.

“We plan on sweeping USC,” said first baseman Joseph Maggi, “but you can only do that when you take it one game at a time.”

Ah, yes, that familiar sports line applies more than ever as Arizona is perched somewhere on the wrong side of the NCAA postseason bubble heading into the regular-season-ending three-game set vs. the Trojans.

Arizona, the defending national champion, is 31-21 overall and 12-15, seventh in the Pac-12. They have work to do. Win one, then two, then three.

The Cats are close enough to be in the discussion for an at-large berth to the postseason. And their task is to give the selection committee something to chew on before the field is announced Monday morning.

Looking at the numbers, a series sweep is what they need.

Arizona is 58th in the RPI. The Cats are only 3-11 against Top 50 teams, swept by Oregon and Oregon State and 3-2 vs. ASU. They have a tenuous argument to be included in the field.

Coach Andy Lopez isn’t a number-cruncher. “I try to keep it simple,” he said. Besides, he has a “gentleman” he said he talked to Thursday, so maybe he knows more about this selection process than the rest of us.

“I’d be comfortable with (winning) two out of three,” Lopez said of what it will take this weekend. “I don’t know if the committee will.”

He said a series victory would “put us in a pretty good spot.” But who knows?

Arizona and USC (20-33, 10-17) will play Friday and Saturday at 6 p.m. at Hi Corbett. The series finale will be Sunday at noon.

A sweep to get to .500 in league play would look good, especially because the Pac-12 is one of the toughest conferences in the country. Oregon, Oregon State, UCLA and Arizona State are tournament locks.

Stanford (30-21, 14-13) is trying to squeeze in, too, but its RPI is at 74.

At least Arizona still has something to play for. This is a young team, and the pitching — expected to be the main strength — hasn’t always been there, but there is enough talent on the roster that you could see the Wildcats being able to make a run in the postseason.

If only they can get there.

Like last week, when Arizona took two out of three at Arizona State, the Cats sometimes pass the eye test.

“Based off of last weekend, yeah, we’re a tournament team,” Lopez said.

So the message to the team is this:

“Just because you haven’t done something great doesn’t mean you haven’t done something good,” Lopez said. “Don’t beat yourself up. Just finish strong.”

* * *

Here is a sampling of opinion on the NCAA Tournament, none of which have Arizona making the field at this point.

Aaron Fitt at Baseball America has Arizona and Stanford out, writing: “No change from last week. The Wildcats and Cardinal both won their weekend series — Arizona took two of three at Arizona State, while Stanford swept Cal. But in both cases, it’s too little, too late.”

Kendall Rogers at PerfectGame.org projects the field.

Jeremy Mills of ESPN.com doesn’t include the Wildcats among the “first nine out.”

Brian Foles of CollegeBaseballDaily.com makes his 64 selections.

Craig Amick of ChasingOmaha.com puts Arizona among the “first four out.”

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