Arizona’s 2023 season is over following Saturday night’s 9-3 loss to Santa Clara, and the program under coach Chip Hale is in significant transition as it heads into Year Three of the Hale Era in 2024.
At least 15 players could be gone from this year’s roster.
Hale also hinted during Saturday’s postgame conference at the Fayetteville (Ark.) Regional that staff changes could occur.
“We are going to do a lot of work,” Hale said. “Obviously, when you don’t get to where you want to get, which is Omaha and winning national championships, you are always searching for what you need.
“We will search the portal high and low, and we will reevaluate our coaching. That’s my job. I am the leader of this staff and I have to decide and make tough decisions. We have to get better in all areas. The portal is open, and we have already been very active in it and see how that goes.”
Outfielders Mac Bingham, Chase Davis and Emilio Corona, all draft-eligible juniors at Arizona and three of the top four batters in Hale’s lineup, could be gone before next season.
Davis, projected to be a first-round pick in the MLB draft next month, is the most likely of the three to be moving on to the next level.
Davis, whose 39 career home runs are third-most in program history, offered his endorsement of how Hale is running Arizona’s program, which reached the NCAA tournament a third straight season. When asked of the direction of the program, Davis said, “the highest direction possible.”
“This man knows how to lead a squad. He is literally family to me and he knows that. He’s one of the best coaches I have ever had to be completely honest. As a man, forget the baseball, I just know he is someone that I can call late at night. He is awesome. He is my captain.”
Shortstop Nik McClaughry and third baseman Tony Bullard, two regular starters, are seniors who have exhausted their eligibility.
Often-used outfielder Tyler Casagrande is also senior as well as pitchers George Arias Jr., Derek Drees, and Chris Barraza.
TJ Nichols, Bradon Zastrow and Cam Walty are draft-eligible junior pitchers who may get a look from major-league scouts for the upcoming draft.
Walty, Zastrow and sophomore Aiden May were part of Arizona’s regular rotation.
Hale has 22 freshmen, sophomores and juniors who could return if they don’t leave via the transfer portal. Freshmen Hayden Lewis, Luke Moeller and Trevor Schmidt are already in the portal, according to D1Baseball.com’s Transfer Tracker.
The season was a memorable one for Arizona’s production at the plate led by Davis and Romero (a CDO graduate).
Davis and Romero finished with 21 home runs (third-most in a season in Arizona history) and Romero broke the 49-year-old season-RBI record held by legendary Ron Hassey. Romero’s 89 RBIs topped the 86 Hassey produced in 1974.
The Wildcats also hit 98 home runs, second only to the 115 smacked by the 1993 team that had George Arias, Jason Thompson, Todd Landry, Willie Morales, Robbie Moen, John Tejcek and Chris Gump.
“They are great people, they are great players and they have led this team and helped this team get to Omaha (in 2021),” Hale said of some of his players. “They were in two more regionals after that, it is pretty impressive.
“Our program is great because of the people. Winning is great and super, but we have good people that have played here and have gone on to be very successful people. Whether it is baseball, business, politics, or whatever it is going to be, they are going to be positive people in our society and that makes me proud.”
Salpointe graduate Mason White, a freshman second baseman who belted his 10th home run of the season in Saturday’s loss, is a player to build the lineup around. White and Corona, if he returns for his senior season and does not turn pro, could be very valuable in the middle of the lineup for Hale.
If somehow Bingham and Romero return, Hale’s lineup will shape up nicely.
Sophomore designated hitter Garen Caulfield and platoon catchers Tommy Splaine, a sophomore, and Cameron LaLiberte, a junior, can also be key contributors next season. Splaine also plays first base, which was occupied by Romero this season.
Among the 14 incoming recruits who have signed, two are left-handers from Pima College’s rotation — Alessandro Castro (Pusch Ridge grad) and Jaeden Swanberg (Salpointe). Pima coach Ken Jacome also produced Corona, May and Zastrow, so Hale is a firm believer in who he is getting from the successful Aztec program.
ARIZONA’S CLASS OF 2023 SIGNEES
|Easton Breyfogle||OF||Benilde-St. Margaret’s HS||Edina, Minn.|
|Andrew Cain||INF||Ironwood Ridge HS||Oro Valley|
|Alessandro Castro||LHP||Pima CC||Tucson|
|Cole Dillon||C||McLennan CC||Rockwall, Texas|
|Raul Garayzar||RHP||South Mountain CC||Rio Rico|
|Carson Johnson||RHP||Hamilton HS||Chandler|
|Owen Kramkowski||RHP||Walden Grove HS||Sahuarita|
|Bryce McKnight||RHP||Desert Vista HS||Phoenix|
|Josh Morano||LHP||Granada HS||Livermore, Calif.|
|Nico Newhan||INF||Maranatha Christian HS||Vista, Calif.|
|Zach Plasschaert||1B/OF||Saugus HS||Saugus, Calif.|
|Will Shelor||RHP||Hamilton HS||Chandler|
|Jaeden Swanberg||LHP||Pima CC||Tucson|
|Blake Wolters||RHP||Mahomet-Seymour HS||Mahomet, Ill.|
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.