OMAHA, Neb. — If Arizona baseball wants to earn its way to the championship round of the College World Series, it’s going to have to get past the same Florida State team that gave them so many fits in last Friday’s 12 inning, 4-3 win.
Kurt Heyer, the Wildcats’ No. 1 pitcher will start over James Farris, Arizona’s usual third starter. In the first game against Florida State, Heyer pitched 7.2 innings and tossed 128 pitches, giving up six hits, but striking out eight in the process.
Farris would be the usual starter but head coach Andy Lopez doesn’t believe in getting “cute,” as he puts it, with his pitching.
“I did that once in life, and I’ll never do that again,” Lopez said. “We’re gonna go with a guy that’s been with us for three years. I’d like to be able to fly home and say ‘We threw our best guy twice in five games.’”
The one time Lopez did try to beat the system, he saved his best pitcher for the second game of the 1996 regional, at which time he was the head coach at Florida. The Gators lost the first game, starting an emotional cycle Lopez cares not to repeat.
“We won the regional and finished third in Omaha, but I’ve never been so nervous, wound up and miserable in my life,” Lopez said. “We’re going to throw our guys when we’re supposed to throw them and try to play good baseball.”
The Wildcats will face a rejuvenated and patient Seminole team. Florida fought through two elimination games to put themselves back into a position where, if they defeat Arizona today, will force an elimination game Friday afternoon with the championship series on the line.
Arizona will also face freshman Brandon Leibrandt for a second time this World Series, who they were able to get three runs and six hits against in their last meeting. Right fielder Robert Refsnyder says the almost identical rematch can be a double-edged sword for both teams.
“It helps, but they’ve seen Kurt too for a long time,” Refsnyder said. “They had some good at bats against him. Hopefully, we can limit (Leibrandt) and get some base hits early. He seemed a little bit uncomfortable with guys on.”
Defensively, the Wildcats have been spectacular in their two games in Omaha, but will need to play almost a perfect game to limit the powerful Seminole batting order. According to Refsnyder, their last outing was not good enough.
“That one inning they scored two runs, we kind of stubbed our toe a little bit with poor defensive plays,” Refsnyder said.
Arizona is in the driver’s seat for tomorrow’s game, meaning they can lose and still be in the tournament for one more game. At this time of the season, gaining any and every advantage, especially another day of practice to prepare for a potential championship series, is crucial.
“When you get into a tournament like this, you have to win every single game, no thinking ‘Well we won, so now we can save,’” catcher Riley Moore said. “No. Every game counts, every game matters.”