Arizona Baseball: Improbable College World Series Is Start of New Wildcats Era

Adam WellsFeatured ColumnistJune 26, 2012

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 25:  Arizona Wildcats pose for a team photograph with trophy after a 4-1 win and a 2-0 series sweep of the South Carolina Gamecocks during game 2 of the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Field on June 25, 2012 in Omaha, Nebraska.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Harry How/Getty Images

It took 25 years and a long rebuilding effort from head coach Andy Lopez, but the Arizona Wildcats are back on top of the mountain in college baseball. 

There was a time when the Wildcats were one of the most dominant programs in baseball. From 1976-1986, this program won three College World Series championships, made it to Omaha in five of those 10 seasons and the NCAA tournament in six of those 10 seasons. 

After the 1986 championship, the program dipped in quality. There were still pockets of success, particularly in the 1990s, but nothing like what it used to be.

Even during the early years of Lopez's tenure—he took over as head coach in 2002—Arizona was having a difficult time moving out of the middle of the pack in the mid-2000s.

In 2005, the team finally made it to the NCAA tournament, losing in the regionals. Then in 2008, the Wildcats had one of their most talented teams in recent memory. Lopez even said that he thought that team was better than the 2012 team that just won a championship, but also added that "it's the hottest team that wins."

No one saw this Arizona team winning the College World Series, much less winning all 10 of its games and outscoring opponents 91-28 in this tournament. 

They were a solid team, but I think on an honest day even Lopez would tell you that top to bottom Stanford and UCLA were more talented. 

Then going up against South Carolina, the two-time defending champions, in the final series was going to be the end of their run. 

But this pitching staff was able to do something special, and the offense did enough to support those arms. They were the first team in 55 years to have their starting pitchers go at least 7.1 innings in every College World Series game. 

Yet now that we have seen what this team is capable of, and what Lopez has built, there is nothing stopping the Wildcats from becoming the next great dynasty in college baseball. It is a great program, with a terrific coach who knows how to recruit. 

Players will be eager to go there knowing they will have a chance to win, and they will be playing in one of the premier conferences in the country and be showcased for major league scouts and talent evaluators. 

No one expected Arizona to win a national championship this season, but it will not be long before we are talking about this program as the most dominant in college baseball.