The Arizona Wildcats capped off an undefeated run through the NCAA postseason with a 4-1 win over South Carolina. This makes them a well-deserving champion, and they have their starting pitchers to thank.
While Arizona's offense was impressive, and their defense certainly helped the pitchers out, it is the starters that turned in a performance for the ages—one that will not be equaled.
In the climate of pitch counts, innings restrictions and specialized pitchers, you just don't find performances like the Wildcats starters have turned in. A large part of this was born of necessity. The bullpen was the clear weakness of this team.
Of course, necessity would not have mattered had these three starters—Kurt Heyer, James Farris and Konner Wade—not had the ability to pull this off. Let's take a look at the numbers.
Consider that Farris' 7.2 innings, one run, two-hit performance in Monday's clincher was the shortest performance of the starters this postseason and the only one that didn't result in a win, and you get an idea of the kind of performances these guys turned in.
This postseason, the Wildcats played 10 games. They won all 10. Nine of those wins went to the starters. Five of those wins were complete games. Heyer actually pitched more than a complete game when he went 9.1 innings in an extra-inning affair.
That is a averaging a complete game every other start—more if you consider Heyer's extra-inning effort as a complete game. This is mind boggling, and it simply does not happen anymore—not anywhere.
How rare is the complete game these days? Well, Arizona's opponent in the championship, South Carolina, had just 14 complete games...in their entire conference!
That's right. There were just 14 complete games pitched in the SEC this year. There are 12 teams in the SEC! Arizona had more than one-third of that in their postseason.
What Arizona's three starters, Heyer, Wade and Farris, have done in the postseason is mind boggling. It is a feat that was far more commonplace in a different era in baseball, and in today's game it is a funny looking but marvelous outlier—the likes of which we will never see again.