Arizona baseball 2018 season preview
If the Arizona Wildcats baseball team is going to make a run at the College World Series, it’s going to have to win some tough games.
This season, the Wildcats will play 29 games at home and 27 on the road. Its schedule is loaded with eight NCAA Tournament teams from last season and six conference champions.
Arizona starts the season at home with a three-game series against Bryant on Friday, Feb. 16. Last year, the Bears were strong during conference play posting a 20-6 conference record, but lost in the Northeastern Conference Tournament Final.
The ‘Cats will then go to San Diego, where they will play Arkansas in a single neutral-field game for the second straight year. Arizona shut out the Razorbacks 3-0 in Texas last season. Arkansas won 38 games last year and also was a No. 1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Two days later, the Tony Gwynn Classic kicks off with Arizona playing San Diego State, Michigan and San Diego. Both SDSU and Michigan went to the NCAA Tournament last year and should be good again this season.
Before going to Minnesota for the Pac-12/Big-12 Challenge, Arizona returns home for one game against New Mexico State. The Aggies finished last season at 35-22 and lost both games against Arizona.
When the Wildcats travel up to Minneapolis to face Minnesota, Illinois and Michigan State, they won’t be playing on a baseball field. Instead, they’ll be playing at U.S. Bank Stadium, home to the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings. The stadium is completely covered and has a turf surface. Minnesota finished the season last year at 36-21, while Illinois was 23-28 and Michigan State wound up at 29-23.
The Wildcats then return to Hi Corbett Field for four straight games. The first is against San Diego State and then three straight against North Dakota State. NDSU was 31-25 last year and went 19-11 in conference play.
Arizona will hit the road for four straight games. The first game will be 120 miles north when they take on ASU in their first meeting of the season. The Sun Devils were 23-32 last season and also went 1-4 against Arizona, with that one win being in Tucson.
The Wildcats will then travel to Seattle to face Washington for a three-game set. The Huskies were 28-26 last season and only played Arizona three times, all in Tucson, and lost all three.
When Arizona gets back, it will start a seven-game homestand. The first will be against New Mexico State again, and then they’ll play Washington State and Nicholls. WSU was 24-29 last year but took one out of three against Arizona in Pullman. Nicholls was just above .500 last year at 29-27.
The Wildcats then go visit New Mexico in Albuquerque for a single game before returning to Hi Corbett Field for three more games. The Lobos went 30-27-1 last season.
The reigning Pac-12 champions will be in Tucson April 6–8 in what should be three high-intensity games. Oregon State went 56-6 last season and only lost four games during the regular season. It was the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament and went to Omaha for the College World Series. They played Arizona for three games in Corvallis and swept the Wildcats. The first two games saw Arizona blow a lead late in the games. Oregon State is expected to be just as good this year, if not better.
Arizona will be on the road for four games as they visit Grand Canyon University. The Antelopes went 29-25 last season and lost both games they played against the Wildcats.
Next, the Wildcats will head on their only trip of the year to Los Angeles to face USC. The Trojans went 21-34 last year and were swept in Tucson in their only three meetings a season ago.
When Arizona returns from Los Angeles, they’ll start a four-game homestand against BYU and Stanford. The Cougars were 38-21 and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Palo Alto.
Stanford finished last season at 42-16 and finished second in the Pac-12. The Cardinal swept Arizona in California last year. They also hosted the first round of the NCAA Tournament but couldn’t get out of the round.
The Wildcats will the travel to Utah to play four games. The first three will be against Utah while the last will be against Utah Valley. The Utes finished right behind the Wildcats in the Pac-12 standings last year at No. 5 and were 27-24. They also swept Arizona in Tucson last season.
Before heading home, the Wildcats will play Utah Valley. A year after winning the WAC Tournament and making the NCAA Tournament, the Wolverines finished with a dismal 18-36 record. Arizona and Utah Valley didn’t play last year, but in 2016 the ‘Cats routed them 14-0.
After the Utah trip, the ‘Cats will be back for four more at Hi Corbett Field. The first three will be against UCLA. The Bruins finished with a 30-27 record, but they were 19-11 in conference play, which was good enough for third in the Pac-12, one spot ahead of Arizona. UCLA went 1-2 against the Wildcats and also made the NCAA Tournament. It lost its first two games and was eliminated.
Arizona plays GCU at home to wrap up the four-game stretch.
The Wildcats will go on the road to Northern California for three games against Cal and one against Sacramento State. Cal finished their season at 25-29 and took two out of three against Arizona.
The ‘Cats will travel to Sacramento and play a single game against Sacramento State. The Hornets went 32-29 last season and won the WAC Tournament to get a bid to the NCAA Tournament, were they lost in the first round.
The last six games of the year for the Wildcats will be split between Tucson and a trip to Eugene, Oregon. The first three will have in-state rival ASU come down for a series. The teams split two games down in Tucson last year, but Arizona did sweep the Sun Devils in Tempe.
The last series of the season, Arizona will travel to Eugene, Oregon to face the Oregon Ducks. Oregon finished the season at 30-25 but disappointed in conference play and missed out on the NCAA Tournament. In Tucson last year, the Ducks lost two out of three to the ’Cats and finished eighth in the Pac-12 standings.
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