Information for this report provided by the Arizona and Grand Canyon media relations departments:
The Arizona Wildcats (40-15, 21-9 Pac-12) start play in their 40th trip to the NCAA Tournament on Friday night at 7 when they host WAC champion Grand Canyon (39-19-1, 29-7 WAC) at Hi Corbett Field in the Tucson NCAA Regional.
Oklahoma State (35-17-1, 12-12 Big 12) and UC Santa Barbara (39-18, 29-11 Big West) will play in the first game at 1 p.m.
The winners of Friday’s games play Saturday night at 7 p.m. and the losers will face each other before that at 1 p.m. in an elimination game.
All Arizona games this weekend will be broadcast live on Wildcats Radio 1290 with Brian Jeffries on the call. The entire slate of game at the Tucson Regional will be televised on the ESPN family of networks, with Roxy Bernstein and former Arizona and Tucson Toros slugger Wes Clements on the call.
The Wildcats first matchup of the double-elimination Regional will be in-state for Grand Canyon, who Arizona faced twice in the regular season. Friday night’s game will serve as a rubber match for the Wildcats and Antelopes after they split the two-game home-and-home series.
- The Tucson Regional marks the 40th NCAA Tournament appearance for the Wildcats, which is tied for sixth most among all Division I programs (also: Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State).
- Arizona finished the regular season with an overall record of 40-15 and a Pac-12 mark of 21-9. The Wildcats compiled 40 regular season wins for the 13th time in program history while their 21 Pac-12 victories were the second-most conference wins in program history.
- The Wildcats 21-9 mark in conference play secured their first outright Pac-10/12 Championship since 1992. Arizona has won five Pac-10/12 Championships and five WAC Championships.
- Arizona has scored at least one run in 164 straight games. They have not suffered a shutout loss since falling 1-0 at Washington on March 17, 2017. Their 164-game scoring streak is the longest active scoring streak in the Pac-12.
- True freshmen Jacob Berry (15) and Daniel Susac (12) have combined for 27 home runs this year. They are the first pair of Arizona freshmen to both hit double-digit home runs in program history.
- Outfielder Tanner O’Tremba is the only current Wildcat with postseason experience. The sophomore made five tournament appearances with Texas Tech in 2019, including a start against Michigan in the College World Series.
SOME SERIES THEMES: The Arizona Wildcats host the Tucson NCAA Regional at Hi Corbett Field this weekend, welcoming Oklahoma State, UC Santa Barbara, and Grand Canyon to Tucson for the first round of the 2021 NCAA Baseball Championships…All Arizona games will be broadcast live on Wildcats Radio 1290 with Brian Jeffries on the call…All games at the Tucson Regional will be televised on the ESPN family of networks with Roxy Bernstein as Wes Clements on the call…The Tucson Regional marks the 40th NCAA Tournament appearance for the Wildcats, which is tied for sixth most among all Division I programs (also: Cal State Fullerton, Arizona State)…Arizona finished the regular season with an overall record of 40-15 and a Pac-12 mark of 21-9…The Wildcats compiled 40 regular season wins for the 13th time in program history, while their 21 Pac-12 victories were the second-most conference wins in program history…Since the final stretch of the 2019 season, which ended on a 10-game win streak, Arizona has rolled to the tune of an impressive 60-20 (.750) record with 18 series victories…The Wildcats enter postseason play ranked in all five major national polls as a unanimous Top 10 program…Arizona is currently ranked No. 5 by D1Baseball, the NCBWA, and the USA Today Coaches Poll and No. 6 by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball…The Wildcats are also currently No. 9 in the RPI against the 21st-toughest schedule in the country…Arizona’s offense continues it’s years-long trend of dominating the Pac-12 — the Wildcats wrapped up the regular season leading the conference in runs, hits, doubles, triples, RBI, walks, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, total bases, and extra-base hits while placing tied for third on the circuit in home runs…Their dominance extends beyond the Pac-12; Arizona is currently fourth in the nation in scoring with an average of 8.7 runs per game while their 477 runs rank second in Division I and lead all Power 5 programs…Sophomore infielder Tony Bullard was named Pac-12 Player of the Week on Tuesday after hitting .500 with two doubles, two home runs, and six RBI over the final weekend of the regular season…Arizona players have earned five Pac-12 weekly awards this season, the most since the 2012 squad picked up seven.
- Arizona is participating in their 40th NCAA Tournament in 2021, tied for the sixth most in Division I history with Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State.
- The Wildcats sport an all-time winning record of 70-46 (.603) in the Regional/District round of the NCAA Baseball Championship, with 19 Regional/District championships (last: 2016).
- Since the NCAA Baseball Championship format change in 1999, Arizona has advanced to four Super Regional competitions, including one hosted at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson in 2012.
- Under head coach Jay Johnson, the Wildcats have made the NCAA Tournament in 3-of-5 full seasons (not including COVID-shortened 2020 campaign).
- Arizona’s postseason record under coach Johnson is 12-6. The Cats have gone 5-3 in NCAA Regionals, 2-0 in NCAA Super Regionals, and 5-3 at the College World Series under coach Johnson’s direction.
- Outfielder Tanner O’Tremba is the only current Wildcat with NCAA Tournament experience. The sophomore made five postseason appearances with Texas Tech in 2019, including a start against Michigan in the College World Series.
BULLARD NAMED PAC-12 PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Arizona Baseball third baseman Tony Bullard has been selected as the final Pac-12 Player of the Week for the 2021 season, the conference announced on Tuesday afternoon. Across three games in last week’s regular season finale against Dixie State he logged a .500 (6-for-12) batting average with three runs scored, two doubles, two home runs (one grand slam), six RBI, a 1.167 slugging percentage, and a .500 on-base percentage. Bullard’s standout performances pushed Arizona to the 40-win mark in the regular season for just the 13th time in program history. Bullard’s selection marks the fifth Pac-12 weekly honor for a Wildcat this season, the most the program has received since earning seven (three players, four pitchers) during the 2012 season. Bullard joins teammates Branden Boissiere, Daniel Susac, Chandler Murphy, and Chase Silseth as Arizona recipients of Pac-12 weekly awards this year. The Riverside, California native kicked off the weekend with a 1-for-4, one RBI performance in the series-opener against the Trailblazers. His RBI single in the Arizona half of the second inning plated the first of four unanswered runs from the Wildcats as they pulled on a comeback victory. His breakout outing came in Friday’s game two, in which he went 3-for-4 with two runs, one double, two home runs, and a career-high five RBI. Bullard blasted a solo home run in the bottom of the second inning and followed up with a grand slam home run in the bottom of the third, giving him the first multi-homer game of his career. Bullard again picked up multiple base knocks in Saturday’s regular season finale, a thrilling 5-4 walk-off victory for the Wildcats. He finished the game going 2-for-4 with one run and one double, his eighth two-bagger of the season. The six-hit performance against Dixie State raised Bullard’s season batting average from .242 to .271 and accounted for six of his 21 RBI on the year.
PAC-12 CHAMPIONS: Last weekend, by way of an Oregon loss to California in the second game of their final series, the Arizona Wildcats secured the 2021 Pac-12 Championship outright. Arizona finished the conference slate with a record of 21-9 and a win percentage of .700 to earn their first outright Pac-10/12 Championship since 1992. The outright championship for Arizona was the program’s first since division play ended in 1999. With the outright conference title in hand, the Wildcats have now won 10 league titles in program history, five of which have been Pac-10/12 Championships. Arizona’s 21 conference wins this season are the second-most in program history, behind only the 1989 squad’s 23 Pac-10 victories.
RECORD WRECKERS: Freshman catcher Daniel Susac spent the Wildcats 30 Pac-12 contests dominating the circuit, and in turn has thoroughly rewritten many of the Wildcats freshman conference records. During Pac-12 play, Susac hit .363 (45×124) with 28 runs, 12 doubles, one triple, eight home runs, 34 RBI, a .669 slugging percentage, and a .397 on-base percentage. In those 30 games, Susac picked up multiple hits in 12 of them and drove in multiple RBI seven times. He also reached base safely in each of the Wildcats final 18 conference contests. When it was all said and done, Susac broke or tied eight Arizona freshman conference records, leaving his mark on the program for years to come. Fellow freshman Jacob Berry tied with Susac in hits and home runs during conference play to also break and tie those records, respectively. Additionally, Berry has already set Arizona freshman overall records with 35 extra-base hits (Shelley Duncan, 33, 1999) and 149 total bases (Shelley Duncan, 135, 1999) and looks to expand his records in the postseason.
BABY BOMBERS: True freshmen Jacob Berry (15) and Daniel Susac (12) have combined to hit 27 home runs this year. They are the first pair of Arizona freshmen to both hit double digit home runs in a single season in program history. On top of that, Berry and Susac are the most prolific true freshman power duo in the nation this season. Just one other school in the country (Texas Tech) has two players classified as freshmen each with 11+ home runs, but both of their players are not first-year freshmen. Susac and Berry’s eight home runs in Pac-12 play tied Shelley Duncan’s conference freshman HR record set in 1999. Their extensive accomplishments have earned them extensive national recognition — Berry was tabbed to midseason watch lists for the Golden Spikes Award and Bobby Bragan Collegiate Slugger award and earned a semifinalist selection for the Dick Howser Trophy, while Susac was named a semifinalist for the Buster Posey National Collegiate Catcher of the Year Award.
RUNNING WILD: Arizona has scored at least one run in 164 straight games — they have not suffered a shutout loss since falling 1-0 at Washington on March 17, 2018. The Wildcats 164-game scoring streak is the longest active streak in the Pac-12 and 27 more games than the next closest team, UCLA (137 games). Over the course of their 164-game scoring stretch, Arizona has been held to three runs or fewer just 26 times. On the flip side, during the streak they have scored five or more runs 88 times. Arizona and UCLA are the only two programs in the Pac-12 Conference with scoring streaks longer than 100 games. UCLA was last shut out by a pitching staff coached by current Arizona associate head coach Nate Yeskie.
THE BIG FOUR-OH: With two wins over Dixie State last weekend, Arizona reached 40 regular season wins for the first time since going 40-15 in 2007 and for just the 13th time in program history. In those 12 previous 40+ win regular seasons, twice the Wildcats went on to win the College World Series (1976, 1986). Andy Lopez posted one 40+ win season (2007), Frank Sancet notched four (1956, 1961, 1962, 1970), and Jerry Kindall accomplished the feat seven times (1974, 1975, 1976, 1978, 1985, 1986, 1989).
THE ‘PEN IS MIGHTIER: The Arizona bullpen has made significant strides since the calendar turned over to April 1 — in 32 games since then, the Wildcats pen has gone 14-3 with a 3.02 ERA (51ERx152.0IP) while allowing opposing batters to hit just .220. In the 23 games prior to April 1, Arizona’s bullpen had logged a 5.55 ERA (59ERx95.2IP) and allowed opposing batters to hit .265. Five key pieces of the Wildcats bullpen turnaround have been Gil Luna, Quinn Flanagan, Dawson Netz, TJ Nichols, and Chandler Murphy, who have combined to make 47 relief appearances and log a 1.37 ERA (14ERx92.0IP) and an 11.45 K/9 since April 1.
CONFERENCE OF CHAMPIONS: With a record of 21-9 in Pac-12 contests, the Wildcats handily secured a winning conference record. Arizona’s 21 Pac-12 wins are five more than the previous Jay Johnson era record of 16 wins the 2016 and 2017 teams captured. The Wildcats will have posted a winning Pac-12 record for the fourth time in five tries under coach Johnson. Prior to his arrival in 2016, Arizona had finished above .500 in conference play three times in 10 years.
MILESTONE MEN: Several Wildcats are quickly approaching or have recently reached significant statistical milestones:
- C, DANIEL SUSAC
- 20 doubles: One double shy of tying Arizona freshman record (Jett Bandy, 21, 2009)
- DH, JACOB BERRY
- 36 extra-base hits: Breaks Arizona freshman record (Shelley Duncan, 33, 1999)
- 78 hits: Five hits shy of tying Arizona freshman record (Brad Boyer, 83, 2003)
- 64 RBI: Four RBI shy of tying Arizona freshman record (Shelley Duncan, 68, 1999)
- .371 AVG: Close to breaking Arizona freshman record (Dave Page, .374, 1981)
- .710 SLG: Currently on pace to break Arizona freshman record (Shelley Duncan, .640, 1999)
- .463 OBP: Currently on pace to break Arizona freshman record (Austin Wells, .462, 2019)
- OF, DONTA’ WILLIAMS
- 40 career hit by pitch: 4th most all-time in program history. Two HBP shy of tying Brad Glenn (2006-09) for 3rd all-time
- RHP, VINCE VANNELLE
- 11 career saves: 8th all-time on Arizona’s career saves leaderboard. Two saves shy of moving into a tie for 6th all-time with Joe Estes (1983-86) and Carlos Rico (1991-92)
- Seven saves in 2021: Tied for 10th most in a single season in program history. One more save would move him into a tie for 7th all-time
CAST AWAY: Arizona’s bullpen has excelled at stranding inherited baserunners this year — as a group they have combined to inherit 186 baserunners and allowed only 63 of them (33.9%) to come around and score. Three relievers — senior right-hander Preston Price, freshman righty Dawson Netz, and freshman southpaw Riley Cooper — have been particularly adept at leaving baserunners longing. Price has inherited 22 baserunners and only allowed three (13.6%) of them to score. Price has inherited at least one baserunner in 10-of-12 appearances this year and has been saddled with multiple inherited runners in 7-of-12 outings. Twice this season — March 5 vs. Oklahoma and March 26 vs. Oregon — Price has inherited a bases-loaded situation and did not allow a single run to score. Cooper’s 31 inherited runners leads the team and only seven (22.6%) of them have scored. Netz has picked up 21 inherited baserunners through his 22 appearances and allowed just six (28.6%) of them to score.
NEW GUYS GOT GAME: Arizona Baseball checked in at No. 4 in D1Baseball’s Newcomer Rankings released in January, giving the Wildcats the best incoming class of student-athletes on the West Coast. The prep portion of the class is highlighted by outfielder Chase Davis (No. 34), catcher Daniel Susac (No. 41), and right-handed pitcher/infielder T.J. Nichols (No. 89), three outstanding high school products who ranked among the top 100 players in last spring’s Prep Baseball Report Top 500. They are joined by a trio of outstanding transfers in outfielder Tanner O’Tremba (Texas Tech), right-handed pitcher Austin Smith (Southwestern), and right-handed pitcher Chase Silseth (Southern Nevada). Four additional Arizona newcomers from the high school ranks landed among the PBR Top 500 last spring: Outfielder/right-handed pitcher Kyle Casper (No. 211), third baseman/first baseman Jacob Berry (No. 214), first baseman/left-handed pitcher TJ Curd (No. 272), and right-handed pitcher Ryan Kysar (No. 484).
ON THE OFFENSIVE: Over the course of the regular season, the Wildcats offense once again proved to be one of the most explosive run-scoring threats in the nation. Arizona currently either leads or ranks among the top three teams in the Pac-12 in nearly every statistical category and is averaging 8.7 runs per game, the fourth-best mark in the nation. There are numerous carryovers in the Wildcats lineup from the 2019 team that averaged 9.8 runs per game and five returning regular starters from the 2020 squad that all were hitting above .300 before the season was cut short. Jacob Berry (.371), Branden Boissiere (.362), Kobe Kato (.351), Daniel Susac (.344), Ryan Holgate (.344), Nik McClaughry (.336), and Donta’ Williams (.335) all currently rank among the top 15 players in the Pac-12 Conference in batting average.
GRAND CANYON INFO
Grand Canyon University is making its first NCAA Division I baseball postseason appearance, heading into what many consider the toughest field of the 16 regionals in the NCAA tournament. The Lopes are doing so as the No. 4 seed in the double-elimination, four-team Tucson Regional. And their first game is against a University of Arizona team that is the top seed in the regional and carries a No. 5 national seeding among the 64 teams in the NCAA tournament.
None of which fazes the battle-tested Lopes, who embark on this postseason journey filled with confidence.
“Our guys know how to play. They showed that all year,” said GCU’s Andy Stankiewicz, the WAC Coach of the Year whose team split a pair of games against Arizona during the regular season. “They put in the time and the work and believe we can play with anybody. That’s by design in the way we schedule and build our program. We don’t just want to be a good mid-Division I program. We want to be a good Division I program.”
Tucson Regional bracket: https://www.ncaa.com/brackets/baseball/d1/2021/regionals/105
Four of seven writers at DIbaseball.com tabbed the Tucson Regional as the toughest in the country. Collegebaseball.info had Tucson listed as the second toughest, while calling GCU “one of the toughest four seeds in the tournament.”
There are numerous reasons for that Lopes’ reputation – and their optimism heading into the regional. Here are three of them:
1. Pierson Ohl
Ohl headlines a deep staff of GCU starting pitchers. The second-team All-American and WAC Pitcher of the Year is 10-1 with a 2.36 ERA and 100 strikeouts to just 12 walks in 95 1/3 innings.
“Very good pitcher,” Arizona coach Jay Johnson said of Ohl, who did not pitch against the Wildcats in the teams’ two regular-season games. “Throws a ton of strikes. He’s a very confident kid.”
Ohl has been at his best in big games. In three games this season against Power 5 teams (Missouri, Oklahoma State and Oregon State), Ohl had a 1.83 ERA in 19 2/3 innings. And in the WAC tournament semifinals against second-seeded Sacramento State, he threw a three-hit shutout over seven innings of an 11-0 victory. Even in his only loss of the year, against Oklahoma State, Ohl surrendered just one run on four hits and no walks while striking out eight in seven innings.
Stankiewicz said that’s a reflection of how hard Ohl has worked to hone his craft, adding a breaking ball to his repertoire this year to complement a fastball and changeup. Pitchers who are successful in big moments “just stay within themselves and they don’t try to be someone they’re not,” Stankiewicz said. “He understands how to pitch.”
Stankiewicz saved Ohl for the second game of the WAC tournament against Sacramento State rather than pitch him in the opener, but has not yet revealed his pitching lineup for the Tucson Regional.
Arizona won’t announce its Game 1 starting pitcher until Friday, but it will likely be either Chase Silseth (8-1, 5.29 ERA, 89 strikeouts, 24 walks in 83.1 innings pitched) or Garrett Irvin (5-2, 3.93, 61 Ks, 33 walks in 75.2 IP).
Ohl was MVP of the WAC tournament after his dominating performance against Sacramento State. But, collectively, the bullpen may have been even more important. In the Lopes’ two other victories, they were able to overcome a pair of 4-1 deficits thanks to a bullpen that threw 12 2/3 scoreless innings during the tournament.
Closer Frankie Scalzo (2.25 ERA, 12 saves) and Coen Wynne (2.55 ERA) anchor the back end of the bullpen, while Nick Hull (1.56 ERA) and Connor Markl (6.98 ERA) were instrumental in long relief roles that gave GCU’s hitters time to mount comebacks in 5-4 victories over both New Mexico State and UTRGV.
“This is the most competitive group of guys I have ever been a part of,” Scalzo said. “We compete with one another day in and day out and I think it shows on the field.
“People for sure sleep on us. I don’t think people understand how good and how well-put together we are. You can look at our bullpen core and list the seniors that are there. But we have a bunch of freshmen that we build off of also.”
3. Nonconference schedule
Stankiewicz has always scheduled tough nonconference games to prepare GCU for postseason play. This year, the Lopes split two midweek games against Arizona, winning at home 5-4 in 10 innings on April 13 before losing at Arizona, 13-2, on May 4 – games in which neither team threw their normal weekend starting pitchers.
GCU also split two games against Arizona State and dropped the first two games of a series against Oklahoma State before settling for a 4-4 tie in the finale after the Cowboys hit a two-out ninth-inning solo homer and the game was called due to a travel curfew.
“Those are great challenges,” Stankiewicz said of the tough nonconference schedule. “And I am encouraged by the way our guys met those challenges. More than anything else, our guys walked away knowing they can compete with anybody. … They understood we were playing those games for a reason, to prepare for this moment.”
Senior center fielder Brock Burton, who made several key defensive plays in the WAC tournament, said nonconference victories over teams like Arizona give the team confidence heading into the regional.
“We like to compete against the best of the best,” Burton said. “Doing it early in the season, I think we got a chance to see where we stacked up against those teams. Now we have an opportunity to send them home.”
In the past three years, the Lopes are 4-5-1 against the teams competing in the Tucson Regional. In other words, they’re not just “happy to be here” as they compete in their first D-I NCAA tournament.
“I tell the guys all the time there are no guarantees in life,” Stankiewicz said. “I am proud of the guys and what they have accomplished. At the same time, we have an opportunity to do something really special and those opportunities don’t come around very often. We’ve come too far. If we stay focused, have great energy and a great belief in ourselves… let’s go.”