Does heat give UA an edge at baseball Super Regionals?

The torrid hitting of the University of Arizona baseball team that produced almost 60 hits last weekend at the Regional tournament won’t be the only hot part of this weekend’s Super Regional in Tucson.

Tomorrow’s game at Hi Corbett Field will begin at noon.  That should give the suffocating desert sun a chance to climb to the projected 102 degrees before the final inning is over.  Saturday’s game will also begin at high noon and Sunday’s contest, if needed, is slated for a 1 p.m. start.

The school is doing its best to counter the heat by recommending that fans wear white to show unity – but  also help stay cool – and has set up a cooling station at the field which will provide the aniticipated huge crowd complimentary water, misters, ice towels, and sunscreen for as long as supplies last.

Arizona AD, Greg Byrne, suggested (somewhat tongue-in-cheek) in his weekly newsletter yesterday that the team should actually embrace the weather as an advantage, pointing out that “100-degree afternoons are something us Tucsonans are used to.”  Tomorrow’s game, he points out, provides a great opportunity for a long lunch away from business for the fans.

Fans who kept track of last weekend’s Regional games are in a feeding frenzy for more action after their Wildcats lit up the scoreboards with 58 hits and 47 runs as they hosted the NCAA Tucson Regional Championships.

It was basically three days of batting practice for the Cats, who beat Big 12 Champion Missouri, 15-3, and then thumped Louisville in two straight games, 16-4 and 16-3.

In the opener against Mizzou, the Cats racked up 20 hits, seven of them for extra bases.  It seemed an appropriate way to celeberate their first home regional appearance in a decade.  Kurt Heyer got the win, striking out seven in a complete-game performance.

A crowd of just over 4,000 fans were on hand for the second game, when the Cats continued the offensive barrage, collecting 23 more hits to come up from a 1-0 deficit and explode for five runs in the third and seven in the seventh inning to hand Louisville a 16-4 beat-down.

Alex Meija, Arizona’s Pac-12 Player of the Year, went 5-for-5 at the plate that included three RBIs.  Seth Meijas-Brean followed his lead, collecting four hits and two RBIs.  Joey Rickard, Johnny Field, and Bobby Brown each had three hits.

Like we said…batting practice.

And it continued into the third game when the Cats wrapped up the championship by stroking 15 more hits to beat the Cardinals again.  Field added four more hits to his weekend’s work, including a grand slam home run and seven RBIs, and Riley Moore accounted for four hits and four RBIs.

Konner Wade was credited with the first Louisville win, improving his season record to 8-3, and Jame Farris tossed his third complete game of the season in winning the championship game.

Their opponent this weekend, St. John’s, is likely to provide a little stiffer competition.  The Red Storm (40-21) upset North Carolina, the No. 6 national seed, to win the Chapel Hill Regional.

But Arizona (41-17) is playing with the confidence that comes from winning a share of the Pac-12 title, their first since 1993, and a dominating performance in the regionals.

They continue to combine solid pitching depth with power at the plate.  St. John’s will be up against the top offensive team in the Pac-12 this season.  The Cats finished the regular season leading the league in team batting average, runs scored, hits, and RBIs.

Arizona has seven regular players in the line-up that are batting .326 or better, led by Field, who topped the conference with a .389 average.

The Cats may also be able to call upon that extra weapon, the desert sun, this weekend.  The average temperature for the three-game series will be just over 100 degrees.

Considering that last weekend’s regional drew 12,578 fans for three games, Byrne needs to stock a lot of water bottles – even if the Cats can wrap this one up in two games.

Gates will open 90 minutes prior to the start of the game.  Bring your umbrellas for shade and your sunscreen for protection.

The Cats are bringing the wood.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)