Last season's bummer is today's thunder for baseball
Every NCAA baseball team wants to go to Omaha. After winning the 2012 College World Series and missing an invitation to the tournament last season, the Arizona baseball team is starting the season with extra motivation.
“There has been times when we haven’t gotten in and I said, ‘Yeah, we don’t deserve to get in,’ but I really felt that this team deserved to get in last year,” head coach Andy Lopez said.
When Arizona didn’t get invited last year, the committee cited Arizona’s poor RPI as a cause for missing the tournament.
What not many people know is that Auburn canceled a three-game series for Arizona and that affected the team’s RPI at the end.
Sophomore infielder Kevin Newman puts the tag on Alabama State during Arizona's 8-2 win over Alabama State Friday, April 26, 2013.
“That’s where I wished they took a little bit more detailed information,” Lopez said.
Since 2006, there has been four national champions from the Pac-12 Conference; Oregon State took the title in 2006 and 2007, Arizona in 2012 and UCLA in 2013.
Last year, only four teams from the Pac-12 were invited to the tournament: Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and UCLA.
“It wasn’t only a slap to us as a baseball program toward Arizona, but more so to the Pac-12,” Lopez said. “I’m hoping that our guys will be highly motivated to take the decision out of the committee’s hands. That’s the best way to do it.”
Junior catcher Riley Moore was the starting catcher for Arizona during the 2012 NCAA tournament. As a freshman champion, winning is all Moore ever knew.
“We’re definitely on a mission this year. We really want to get back this year, especially after not being back for a year,” Moore said. “It’s a bummer not being there and having to watch that on TV and not experiencing it.”
Sophomore infielder Kevin Newman is ranked as the 27th-overall prospect in his class by Baseball America. But last year, Newman wasn’t able to experience the ride that Moore had when he was a freshman.
This season, Newman has higher expectations. He said he is now more motivated to help the team and reach the tournament. If Arizona baseball plays better this year, RPI won’t matter, and it won’t be up to the committee to deny the team an invite to the tournament.
“Anything shorter than Omaha, for the whole team, would be failure,” Newman said. “It was definitely a chip on the shoulder for all of us. We weren’t happy about it. We thought we were going to get in and we didn’t, so we just have that much more motivation.”
The season begins on Feb. 14 at Hi Corbett Field against Kent State.
Arizona will have some work to do. In the Perfect Game USA preseason top 25 rankings, which were announced last week, the only schools from the Pac-12 were the same that made the 2013 tournament.
—Follow Rose Aly Valenzuela @RoseAlyVal