The Last Ones Standing
Rewind to a little bit more than four months ago. Stop at February 17, 2012—opening day of the 2012 college baseball season.
On February 17th, every team in the country shared one dream. The dream of being the last team left. The dream of being the best. The dream of being College World Series Champions.
On June 26, 2012…that dream came true for one team… Confetti coming down, fireworks going off, everyone in the stadium cheering for them…it finally hit them…they were the last ones standing…the Arizona Wildcats—your 2012 College World Series Champions.
Perhaps one of the most complete teams in college baseball history, seeing the Wildcats win the national championship if you’ve seen them play at all during the 2012 postseason, wouldn’t surprise you at all.
After all, Arizona posted a flawless 10-0 record from regionals through the College World Series…but what may come as a shock to some who don’t follow college baseball closely before the College World Series is that the Wildcats weren’t even a national seed.
In fact as a team that sat comfortably in the top 25 throughout the season, Arizona never gathered too much hype. With the Wildcats flying under the radar a bit, they just took care of business week in and week out, making adjustments where needed, overcoming problems as they occurred, and ultimately bouncing back each game—never getting too high from a win or too low from a loss.
A baseball team that from top to bottom is full of champions.
It’s impossible to ignore the Wildcats postseason success on paper…batting .367 as a team with seven guys in their order over .300…a team ERA of 2.01…numbers that are unreal on college baseball’s biggest stage.
But the real success goes beyond the numbers…statistics say a lot about what a team has done in the past, but it’s what a team does in the moment that proves they are champions.
What Arizona did in the moment was execute a game plan and play beautiful baseball. Not perfect baseball…but great baseball.
Offensively, the Wildcats were able to find a way to be productive against the best pitcher that the College World Series has ever seen…Michael Roth, and were able to continue that success against one of the best closers that the College World Series has ever seen…Matt Price.
Defensively, they were able to turn plays that are too good to be true…gun downs that most teams wouldn’t dare to try, double plays that seemed impossible, and diving catches that robbed experienced batters of big hits.
On the mound, they were able to hold the back-to-back defending College World Series Champions to just three hits in the deciding game.
Possibly most impressively though is that after all is said and done, every guy on that Arizona team stepped up to the plate, took the opportunity they were given and ran with it in full stride.
The heroes on June 26, 2012 were Brandon Dixon and Trent Gilbert.
Dixon doubled down the left field line to put the Wildcats up 2-1.
Gilbert had a two-run single to right field to put an exclamation point on Arizona’s lead.
Gilbert is the 9-hole hitter. Dixon didn’t start the game.
When any player on your team can step up on any given day, you know you have a special group of players.
Coach Andy Lopez doesn’t like to give his players too much credit before they show him that they deserve it.
As he put it, he likes “show me guys.” Players that want to prove that they can do something when they might be doubted.
Lopez considered pinch hitting for these guys..but listened to Matt Siegel’s gut instinct instead and gave them their chances.
Both Gilbert and Dixon came through.
Any time you win a national championship it would be nearly impossible to not be ecstatic but Coach Lopez has a whole lot more to be excited about: he has a team full of “show me” players returning next year who know they can get it done and a national championship to show for it.
On top of that, he got his junior class that he has been excited about since they first got on campus, a national championship and the All-Tournament Team consisted of six Wildcats including Most Outstanding Player, Robert Refsnyder.
With that, all there is to be said is Congratulations Arizona and Coach Lopez on a phenomenal season and a well-deserved, hard-earned College World Series Championship.
And for the rest of the college baseball world, get used to hearing about the Wildcats because they aren’t going anywhere for quite some time.