Road to Omaha turns into dead end for UA baseball

Until yesterday, the only time a University of Arizona baseball team had met Pac-12 foe Stanford in a College World Series game was 36 years ago.  A 9-2 loss in that game eliminated the Wildcats from the 1985 CWS.

Fast forward to 2021 and the result was much the same.  Stanford eliminated the Wildcats with a 14-5 victory that destroyed what had been one of Arizona’s most promising opportunities to notch its fifth national title.

The Cats (45-18) finished the regular season as the conference leader in runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBIs, batting average, slugging percentage, and extra-base hits.  They were also third in home runs.

Their Pac-12 title this season was the program’s first outright conference championship in 29 years.

The excitement level in Tucson this season was off the charts.

Arizona, the No. 5 national seed, went into the Stanford game sixth in the nation in scoring (8.5 runs per game) and led all D-I programs with 532 runs.  There was good reason for optimism among the Arizona fan base, hungry for a shot at the national championship that has eluded them since the last one nine years ago.

One of the most prolific offenses in the nation looked like it was getting off to a good start when the Cats jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Vanderbilt, the reigning national champ, in the opening game.  But a bases-loaded single in the 12th inning won the game for Vandy, forcing the Wildcats into playing an elimination game Monday against Stanford, which had lost its opener to North Carolina State.

The game against the Commodores marked the first extra-innings game at the CWS since 2014.  It is also the fourth-longest game in CWS history, clocking in at 4 hours, 51 minutes.

A match-up with Stanford was another game that Arizona would have liked to avoid.  The Cardinal won their series meeting during the regular season, winning the final two games in the three-game series played at Stanford.  That series loss was one of only two the Cats suffered all season long.

Yesterday, Stanford took an overwhelming 10-0 lead by the fourth inning before the Wildcats’ bats came to life and cut the lead in half before the Cardinal added four more in the seventh inning to seal the win.

By time the dust settled on this slugfest, the Cardinal had collected 20 hits, including five doubles.  It was Arizona’s most lopsided loss in 31 CWS games, the last in 1979 when Cal State Fullerton beat them, 16-3.

Going into the CWS, Arizona hadn’t lost two games in a row since the middle of April.

They picked the wrong time to let it happen again.  It may have cost them a national title this time.

(Photo: Arizona Athletics)