|Arizona throws coach anniversary party |
|Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 7:00 pm |
|By ERIC OLSON |
AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Arizona coach Andy Lopez celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first national championship by winning his second.
It was 1992 when Lopez brought unheralded Pepperdine to the College World Series and beat Cal State Fullerton in the championship game.
Arizona’s sweep of South Carolina in the CWS finals — completed with Monday night’s 4-1 victory — was not nearly as stunning as what Pepperdine accomplished two decades ago.
The Wildcats (48-17) were the hottest thing going in college baseball the last six weeks.
But believe Lopez when he says he’s soaked up the journey to this title more than he did in winning the first one. The two decades between titles showed him how elusive championships can be.
“When I was 38 years old and I showed up in Omaha and we won the national championship, I had no clue,” he said. “I was a young guy, my kids were all little guys and I was trying to see if I could figure out if I could survive in this profession. More than ever, I do have an appreciation.”
The Wildcats ended South Carolina’s two-year run of dominance at the College World Series and rewarded Lopez for persevering through the hard times that came with rebuilding the downtrodden program he took over 11 years ago.
Lopez thought he had a title-caliber team in 2008, but the Wildcats lost a crushing three-game super regional at Miami that he laments to this day.
He was devastated again in 2009 when his team failed to make the national tournament.
A strong recruiting class two years ago formed the core of the team that won Arizona’s first national championship since 1986, and fourth overall.
“They’ve just been a joy,” said Lopez, flanked by his key players. “I mean, how many times have I told you I love suiting up with you guys? Said it today before the game. And I really do, I like suiting up with young guys that go to class, go to study hall, hustle on the field, clean up the clubhouse on their own.
“I’m extremely, extremely fortunate to be in this profession and work with young people like this.”
Arizona used strong pitching on consecutive nights to sweep the Gamecocks. James Farris, who hadn’t pitched since June 3, and Mathew Troupe combined to limit the Gamecocks to three hits a night after Konner Wade threw his third straight complete game in a 5-1 win.
Brandon Dixon’s tie-breaking double started a three-run ninth inning for Arizona on Monday.
Dixon, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, sent a grounder down the third-base line past LB Dantzler’s outstretched glove for his first hit of the CWS.
Tyler Webb relieved Matt Price (5-5), and Trent Gilbert drove in his second and third runs of the game with a two-out single that broke open the game.
Published in The Messenger 6.26.12