Power at the plate carries UA baseball to CWS berth

There was real reason for concern among University of Arizona baseball fans after Saturday’s loss to Ole Miss.

It looked like the Wildcats’ road to the College World Series had hit a major speed bump.

Arizona, the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Tournament, won the super regional opener on Friday by beating the Rebels, 9-3, but had to come from behind to get the job done.  And then Ole Miss jumped all over the Cats in the second game, collecting 16 hits as Arizona threw four different pitchers trying to stop the bleeding, but eventually fell, 12-3.

But the Wildcats (45-16) surprised everyone on Sunday when they claimed the series win by unloading on the Rebels, piling up 20 hits en route to a dominating 16-3 victory to punch their ticket to the College World Series where they will meet Vanderbilt in the Saturday opener.

The Rebels had fallen to the most explosive offense in the Pac-12.  That final game was the 26th this season in which the Wildcats have tallied double digits on the scoreboard.  Six Arizona batters had multiple hits and all but one of the starters contributed at least one hit.  And Jacob Berry and Ryan Holgate piled on as each added a home run to the onslaught.

This game was all but over by the fourth inning when the Cats scored seven runs to boost the lead to 10-1.

This trip to Omaha will mark the program’s 18th appearance in the CWS.  This will be the second time that Arizona has played its way into the CWS during the five years that head coach Jay Johnson has been running the program, but the last time was 2016.

Vanderbilt is coming into the Saturday contest with a season record almost identical to Arizona’s, 45-15, and the SEC power has momentum on its side.  The fourth-seeded Commodores are on a five-game postseason win streak, having rolled through the Nashville Regional by beating East Carolina twice, and then shut out Presbyterian and beat Georgia Tech twice to win the super regional.

Arizona and Vandy are part of an eight-team field and will be joined by another top-10 team, No. 9 Stanford, and North Carolina in their double-elimination bracket at TD Ameritrade Park.

The Cats begin their quest for a fifth national championship Saturday at 4 p.m.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)