Arizona Baseball

End to Arizona’s season brings anticipation of future of Chip Hale’s program

Chip Hale’s first season has come to a close with Arizona reaching the NCAA Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional championship series, so now it is time to look forward — not back — because that’s how it usually goes after a successful season as a new head coach.

Arizona can speak of that eager eye toward the future with the hires this school year of Jedd Fisch, Tommy Lloyd, Caitlin Lowe and Hale.

Fisch went 1-11 in his first year trying to bring Arizona football back from the dead, and the program certainly now has a pulse with the Pac-12’s No. 1-rated recruiting class of 2022 and impact transfers coming to the program.

Enthusiasm over Lloyd following his ability to win the Pac-12 regular season and tournament championships might be tempered with the departure of Bennedict Mathurin, Christian Koloko and Dalen Terry to the NBA early but high expectations remain.

Lowe defied the critics and the odds by taking a sophomore-heavy team that started 0-8 in the Pac-12 to being one of the last six teams competing in Oklahoma City for the Women’s College World Series title.

Hale ended his first season Monday with a 22-6 loss to Ole Miss in the Coral Gables Regional championship round, but that final score is miniscule to the big picture. Not one question was asked about the game in the postgame press conference, nor should there have been.

Only talk of the future was discussed. Hale has started putting his mark on the program as a Wildcat great and former big-league manager and he received the ultimate endorsement from All-American catcher Daniel Susac.

“The second-best decision I ever made was coming to Arizona, but the best one was staying here,” said Susac, a certain first-round draft choice this year, referring to staying with the program after Jay Johnson left to coach LSU.

“I don’t think the program could be in better hands. The coaching staff and the players all understand it. They get it.”

Arizona finished 39-25 with two victories in NCAA regional play with a roster he largely inherited from Johnson. Pitching coach Dave Lawn was the only bridge to this staff from last.

Arizona Daily Star beat reporter Michael Lev tweeted this statement on Sunday: “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: Chip Hale inherited an imbalanced team. Almost all right-handed batters. They’ve struggled against righty pitchers with good breaking balls. Too easy for opposing managers to match up against the ’22 Wildcats.”

Despite this, Arizona was two wins from reaching the Super Regionals.

“I’ve done a lot of things in pro ball whether it’s playing, coaching or managing and the joy this season gave me to be back at my university that I’m so proud of, to fill a position that Jerry Kindall held who I hold in the highest regards, it’s very special,” Hale said.

Existing draft-eligible players whose names have appeared on draft lists include Susac, rightfielder Tanner O’Tremba and centerfielder Mac Bingham. Right-handed reliever Quinn Flanagan is not mentioned at draft sites but the junior will certainly get a look after going 5-1 with a 1.63 ERA with two saves.

Garrett Irvin is a senior left-handed starter who went 5-4 with a 3.38 ERA and limited opponents to a .235 batting average.

Davis will return next season as Arizona’s highest touted prospect after batting .289 with 18 home runs and 54 RBIs in his first full year in the lineup.

Hard-throwing right-hander T.J. Nichols (6-4, 5.50 ERA) will also will be scouted heavily because of his fastball in the high 90s.

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Arizona’s roster, mostly left over from the Johnson era, lists 18 players from California compared to 10 from Arizona.

Hale’s first recruting class signed in November has 12 prospects from Arizona and two more who played for Ken Jacome’s program at Pima College who are from New Mexico.

Three players are from California and one from Colorado, Minnesota and Illinois. Andrew Carroll, a right-hander who Arizona lists as from Tulsa, Okla., pitched for Scottsdale Chaparral.

This signals a significant shift in the recruiting focus from Johnson, who was not nearly as active scouting local talent as Hale’s staff.

One of the high school players who might get drafted is outfielder Brendan Summerhill from Chicago Whitney Young. Summerhill batted .541 with 10 home runs and 43 RBIs this season.

‘It’s warm every single day,’’ Summerhill told the Chicago Sun-Times about his reason for choosing Arizona. ‘‘They’re the sunniest city in America. Three hundred sixty days of the year, there’s sun.’’

‘‘He’s going to have a choice,’’ Young coach Chris Cassidy told the Sun-Times. ‘‘I think he’s going to get drafted. It just depends on where he’s going to go. And then it’s kind of, ‘What is it that you want to do?’ ’’

Former CDO standout Kiko Romero, a rightfielder with Central Arizona College who has signed with Arizona, is another prospect who might be drafted high enough to turn pro rather than play with the Wildcats.

Romero batted .407 in the NJCAA World Series with six home runs and 11 RBIs to help lead Central Arizona to the NJCAA World Series national championship Saturday. Romero was named NJCAA World Series Tournament MVP, Outstanding Offensive Player and to the All-Tournament Team.

Romero batted .467 with 12 home runs during the season.


NamePosPrevious SchoolHometown
TJ AdamsOFRed Mountain HSMesa
Andrew CarrollRHPChaparral HSTulsa (OK)
Demetrio CrisantesINFNogales HSNogales
Tyler DavisRHPYavapai CollegePeoria
Kenan ElartonRHPValor Christian HSCastle Pines (CO)
Xavier EsquerINFPalo Alto HSPalo Alto (CA)
Kade HuffCHorizon HSScottsdale
Mason KelleyRHPRed Mountain HSMesa
Hayden LewisRHPChaparral HSScottsdale
Aiden MayRHPPima CCAlbuquerque
Maddox MihalakisINFHopkins HSHopkins (MN)
Luke MoellerCDesert Mountain HSScottsdale
Kiko Romero1B/OFCentral Arizona CCTucson
Trevor Schmidt1B/OFServite HSAnaheim (CA)
Drew SommersLHPCentral Arizona CCCarlsbad (CA)
Brendan SummerhillOFWhitney Young HSChicago
Nicholas WarrenCIronwood Ridge HSTucson
Mason WhiteINFSalpointe Catholic HSTucson
Bradon ZastrowLHPPima CCFarmington (NM)
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