Arizona vs. Miami preview: Wildcats look to use large ballpark to their advantage in College World Series

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Ezra Amacher/The Daily Wildcat

TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska — the venue of the College World Series (Photo by Ezra Amacher/Daily Wildcat)

OMAHA, Nebraska — After playing the past two weekends in hostile road environments, Arizona baseball will be rewarded Saturday with a home-field advantage of sorts.

No, the Wildcats won’t generate the largest fan support of the competing teams at the College World Series, but Arizona may be better suited for the cavernous alleys of TD Ameritrade Park than any of the seven other schools.

Arizona, which opens the College World Series Saturday night against Miami, is used to playing small-ball baseball in a big-league park.

Arizona’s home park, Hi Corbett Field, stretches 366 feet down the left-field line, 410 feet to straight-away center and 349 feet to right.

TD Ameritrade’s dimensions are similar but not quite as expansive: 335 feet to left, 408 feet to center and 335 feet to right.

“Honestly it’s exactly like our home field,” Arizona outfielder Zach Gibbons said. “It plays big. I feel if we’re going to succeed we’re going to have to hit the ball hard on the ground.”

That mindset guided Arizona to a Regional victory over Louisiana-Lafayette, where the Wildcats drilled 20 extra-base hits over the course of five games.

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In Starkville, Mississippi, Arizona again relied on gap doubles and seeing-eye singles to top Mississippi State.

While the Wildcats’ lack of power may have limited their offensive output in the regular season, the conservative approach at the plate is paying dividends now.

“We’re already prepared for it,” Bobby Dalbec said. “Some teams play with these little old porches, they’ve got a core of guys with 15 ‘jacks a year, and then they come here and the ball’s just not going out.”

While Dalbec didn’t specify any team by name, Saturday’s opponent Miami fits the mold of a group that powered its way to the College World Series.

The Hurricanes enter Saturday’s game with 49 home runs under their belt, almost doubling Arizona’s mark of 25. A grand-slam propelled Miami to a Game 3 Super Regional win over Boston College, clinching the team’s ticket to Omaha.

Miami’s power is largely consolidated in the bats of catcher Zack Collins and right-fielder Willie Abreu, who have 15 and 12 homeruns this year, respectively. But the dynamism doesn’t end there.

Eight of the nine probable starters in Miami’s lineup have multiple homers.

“When I watch Miami on film, I see a lot of great players that play the game the right way, extremely fundamentally sound,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said. “They had a bunch of comeback wins and really have won in a lot of different ways -- great pitching, good bullpen, one-run games, slugfest.”

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Miami’s ability to out-slug its opponents is characteristic of head coach Jim Morris’ style. However, that does not necessarily equate to success in Omaha.

Last season, Miami topped the nation’s runs chart for much of the year but fell flat in the College World Series.

The Hurricanes lost 15-3 in their opening game against Florida, then responded with a 4-3 win over Arkansas before dropping a 10-2 elimination game to the Gators.

Virginia, the winners of last year’s College World Series, marched its way to the national title behind low-scoring affairs and timely hitting.

Arizona hopes to follow a similar path.

“I think just stick with the same approach that we’ve been doing,” Gibbons said. “Just play the game that we want to play.”

On Saturday, the Wildcats will be matched up against Miami left-hander Michael Mediavilla, a third-team All-ACC selection who enters the game with an 11-1 record and a 3.11 ERA.

Mediavilla pitched seven and two-thirds innings in Miami’s Game 1 Super Regionals victory over Boston College, allowing two earned runs over four hits.

Meanwhile, Nathan Bannister will start on the mound for the Wildcats. Bannister is 11-2 on the season with a 2.78 ERA.

Opening-pitch is slated for 5:00 p.m. MST and will be televised on ESPN2. 


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