And then there was one.
That would be the University of Arizona baseball team, the only Arizona team still alive in the quest for a berth in the Men’s College World Series.
Neither Arizona State or Grand Canyon University made it past the regionals, a shortcoming that cost ASU head coach Tracy Smith his job. After seven seasons at the helm of the Pac-12 program, Smith was unable to get any of his teams to the super regionals, the final step before securing a berth in the MCWS.
The Devils won their regional opener by beating Fairfield University, 7-6, but lost to University of Texas the next day, 3-10, and were eliminated in the second matchup with Fairfield on Sunday. ASU, which was the No. 2 seed in the Austin regional, came close to getting a second shot at the Longhorns by jumping out to a 5-0 lead over the No. 3-seeded Stags. But a three-run homer in the sixth inning tied the game at 6-6, and Fairfield went on to a 9-7 victory.
Meanwhile, Grand Canyon was playing in the Tucson Regional, marking the program’s debut in a NCAA Division I regional. This is just the third season that the small Christian college in west Phoenix has been a D-I program.
The Antelopes fell to tourney host UofA, the No. 5 seed nationally, in the first game, 6-12, and then bowed out after a 3-5 loss to No. 23 Oklahoma State.
Now the Wildcats (43-15), who have won four national titles, will carry the banner for the state. This is Arizona’s 40th NCAA Tournament appearance, with the most recent success coming in 2016 when they were CWS runner-ups.
Arizona takes on No. 13 Ole Miss (44-20) in today’s opening game of the Tucson Super Regional, the fifth time the Cats have appeared in a super regional since the postseason format changed in 1999. It’s the second trip to the Supers under current head coach, Jay Johnson.
The two tradition-rich programs have met in the postseason once before, but you have to go back to the 1956 College World Series when the Wildcats eliminated the Rebels, 7-3.
This years’ UofA squad has not only a deep and talented pitching corps, but the top offense in the conference. Arizona finished the regular season as the Pac-12 leader in runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, batting average, and slugging percentage.
The Wildcats are the No. 1 seed as play begins at 6 p.m. at Hi Corbett Field. If they win this weekend’s series, they will have earned a seat at the table in Omaha, where the MCWS will begin play on June 19.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)