Arizona baseball team confident as it prepares for Vanderbilt in College World Series

The University of Arizona’s baseball season has culminated in Omaha, Nebraska, where the Wildcats will take on defending national champion Vanderbilt on Saturday at Ameritrade Park. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

OMAHA – Jay Johnson knows advancing to the College World Series is an opportunity that few players experience. The University of Arizona baseball coach credits his team’s disciplined mentality for getting there.

“It’s a day-to-day, game-to-game, pitch-to-pitch, inning-to-inning type thing,” Johnson said. “We need to really utilize our experience and our discipline. That in itself will help us play to our maximum potential which gives us a great chance to be successful.”

The Wildcats (45-16) are ready to make a run in the 2021 NCAA College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska. Arizona will face the defending national champion from 2019, Vanderbilt (45-15), at 4 p.m. Saturday

The 2021 Pac-12 champion took down Ole Miss in the Tucson Super Regional to punch its ticket to Omaha for the first time since 2016.

That year, the Wildcats advanced to Game 3 of the championship series before falling to Coastal Carolina.

Although a runner-up finish is admirable, Arizona wants more and believes it has a good shot to take the title this year. Freshman catcher Daniel Susac believes this team is different from others in his past.

“No matter where we are, it seems like we are always together,” Susac said. “Locker room, field, cages, even off the field. Everyone’s together.”

Pitching is crucial to a team’s success in the College World Series. Susac knows better than anyone the capabilities of Arizona’s staff.

“On any day our pitchers can be as good as anyone in the country,” Susac said.

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The Wildcats will also need a good amount of offense to take on Vanderbilt’s standout pitchers Kumar Rocker and Jack Leiter.

Still, Johnson believes the variety of talent on this year’s team will help and that “we’re built to win any type of game.”

“We aren’t going to be pigeon-holed into any one way or type of game that’s going to put us in a tough deal,” he said.

The College World Series is the largest stage in college baseball. Teams and players feel the pressure to deliver.

Johnson’s approach to the intense environment is to make sure his players ate compartmentalizing their time in Omaha. He wants them to enjoy the experience but block out the external factors that may distract them from their goal: winning a national championship.

The Wildcats were ranked 10th in Collegiate Baseball’s preseason poll, their highest preseason ranking in any poll since 2013, and their incoming recruiting class was ranked fourth in the nation by D1Baseball.

The game will start at 4 p.m. MST on ESPN.

Erin Slinde erin slin-dee
Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Erin Slinde expects to graduate in August 2021 with a master’s degree in sports journalism. Slinde has done color commentary and play-by-play for the ASU volleyball team on the PAC 12 Plus Network.