June 14, 2012
VIDEO: Coach Lopez at NCAA Press Conference
VIDEO: Arizona Wildcats at Thursday's CWS Activities
CWS Ticket Information | CWS Bracket/Schedule
OMAHA, Neb. - Since arriving on Tuesday evening, the Arizona Wildcats have spent two days seeing and hearing all the sights and sounds this passionate baseball town has to offer. Now they are just 24 hours away from taking the field at spectacular TD Ameritrade Park with a simple plan: win one in a row.
Arizona enters play at its 16th all-time College World Series with two great strengths. First, the Wildcats are a veteran, battle-tested club led by an accomplished junior class. Second, the team has been hot over the final month, winning 13 of its last 15 games.
Head coach Andy Lopez knows those two components are keys to why his team is on this stage. You don't get to Omaha without playing great baseball, especially in the postseason, and to their credit the Wildcats have done that.
However, once you get to Omaha there are eight schools in the same position. Each has great coaching, talented players and one goal in mind: win the national championship.
Lopez, who is coaching in his fifth all-time College World Series, simplifies matters for his club. It isn't about that final game; rather, it's about the first one. Every national championship team has started by winning one game. In a double-elimination format, that doesn't have to be the first game, but it sure helps.
In his 11th season at Arizona, Lopez has told his team all season long that he doesn't know if it can win 10 games in a row or even five games in a row. But he and his club have always been confident in winning one game at a time.
A key to maintaining such focus is to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. TD Ameritrade Park is the grandest stage for a college baseball game. Nearly 25,000 fans will pack the second-year ballpark each day, and every game will be televised live on the ESPN networks in high definition. Those facts won't change, so Lopez wants his club to get used to the atmosphere fast.
Ultimately, it will come down to the basics that have helped the Wildcats win 43 games this year - their most since 1989: Pitchers need to throw strikes, hitters need to deliver timely hits and the defense needs to communicate and play catch.
Sure, it's all easier said than done. But, one of the eight teams here will do it over the next 10 days.