Despite a promising 2020 season being cut short for the Arizona Wildcats baseball team, that hasn't stopped the momentum of the program as expectations are sky-high heading into the 2021 season with the return of a number of prominent players as well as one of the top signing-classes in the nation.
Arizona is the second-highest ranked Pac-12 team in the updated rankings put out by Collegiate Baseball Newspaper as they find themselves just inside the top 10 with UCLA being the highest-ranked team in the conference at No. 3 in the country. Arizona State was the third Pac-12 team in the top 15, while Oregon State and Stanford just cracked the top 50. The conference figures to be very competitive once again.
The Wildcats finished last season at 10-5 right before they were hitting conference play when pitching coach Nate Yeskie was getting set to face his former team in Oregon State. Arizona has returned a number of key pieces from last year's team including numerous pitchers on the mound. Starters Dawson Netz, Chandler Murphy, Garrett Irvin and Quinn Flanagan all return after boasting ERA's of 3.32 or lower in their limited number of starts, while relievers Vince Vannelle, Blake Peyton and Preston Price return to the team after combining for 42 strikeouts to 11 walks across 32.2 combined innings out of the bullpen.
On the offensive side at the plate, Wildcat fans will see the return of freshman All-American outfielder Mac Bingham, along with Ryan Holgate who led the team in batting average (.377) last season and has already seen his name listed by a number of reputable sources as a top 100 talent including D1Baseball. The Wildcats have seen a lot of recent draft success under head coach Jay Johnson including Austin Wells and Matthew Dyer being selected in the 2020 MLB Draft. Holgate and several Wildcats are on track to be that next name on the list of Arizona players being drafted into the MLB.
Arizona not only has a significant number of players returning from last year's team, but they also have a highly regarded signing class coming to town. In fact, this group was named as the No. 4 class in the country by Baseball America, the highest ranking ever granted to the Wildcats.
You can read more in-depth on each player in this class here.
The team figures to gain a lot of versatility and interesting styles on both the offensive side and in the pitching staff through this group.
There will be a lot of eyes on the Wildcats this year at Hi Corbett Field. This is the highest ranking they have received going into a season since 2017 when they were ranked the No. 7 team in the country, the same year Arizona was last in the NCAA Tournament.
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