Preseason Arizona baseball notes: Wildcats aim for Omaha
There was excitement in the air last Friday when Arizona baseball took the field for the first official day of practice, beginning the countdown to the season opener against Kent State just 18 days from today.
Head coach Andy Lopez has resumed coaching duties following quadruple bypass surgery last October, despite missing out on the team’s fall season, he is once again ready to provide leadership to this year’s players.
“He’s the same coach Lopez,” shortstop Kevin Newman said. “No difference. [He’s] high intensity and always expects excellence.”
Newman said the mentality in the clubhouse is that anything short of a trip to Omaha (the annual home of the College World Series) would be considered a failure.
“I expect hard work every day and for us to get better,” Newman said. “We’re trying to get better day by day, take it one step at a time and do our best to get to Omaha.”
Junior pitcher Mathew Troupe said it’s nice to get the competitive juices flowing after a nice quiet winter break. He added that he thinks the addition of Lopez’s presence on the field will give the players, especially the young guys, a whole different respect for the program and our methods during practice.
“Being able to have Lopez back out here is huge for the entire team and for the whole morale of the program,” Troupe said. “We’re all really excited.”
While Arizona was left out of Baseball America’s top 25 preseason rankings this year, junior catcher Riley Moore and other Wildcats are willing to embrace their underdog status, and when given the opportunity, show the nation what they are really made of.
“As a team, I can tell you that we don’t mind being the underdog,” Moore said. “Everyone can have their preseason rankings, but when it gets down to it, I think we will be one of the tougher teams in the Pac-12. Mentally, physically, we’re going to grind games out. Games that we shouldn’t win, we’re going to win, and we’ll find a way to do it.”
Arizona’s rotation expected to impress
Arizona is looking forward to rebounding after a tough ending to last season saw the Wildcats fail to be selected for the playoffs, just a year after winning the College World Series.
“Going from winning the whole thing and to have the exact opposite happen last year, it left a bad taste in our mouths,” Troupe said. “It definitely [motivates] us to get back to a Regional.”
Troupe added that a big reason for his high expectations this year lies within the squad’s pitching rotation.
“We have a really good staff this year — probably the best staff I’ve seen since being here,” Troupe said. “So we’re really excited on the pitching front of things and expect to do a lot of damage on that end.”
Arizona’s rotation is projected to feature senior right-hander James Farris as the Friday night starter, junior closer-turned-starter Troupe and junior left-hander Tyler Crawford. Farris, who was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 15th round of the MLB first year players draft, declined to sign and instead returns as the rotation’s ace. After spending two years in the closer role for the Wildcats, Troupe will look to break in as a starter. Crawford posted a 7-2 record last year and compiled a 3.83 ERA.
Sophomore Tyger Talley, who went 4-0 with a 3.82 ERA last season, is another option to be a starter.
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17