Commentary

Lopez has Arizona in position to win

Originally Published: June 22, 2012
By Jason King | ESPN.com

OMAHA, Neb. -- When Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez visits the home of a high school or junior college prospect, his message is always the same.

[+] EnlargeAndy Lopez
Bruce Thorson/US PresswireAndy Lopez is one of three men to lead three different programs to a College World Series.

"You come here," Lopez tells them, "and you'll play in a College World Series."

It's a bold promise -- but one that Lopez backed up yet again this season when the Wildcats advanced to college baseball's biggest stage. This year, though, Lopez's players may experience something even better.

One week after opening play in the CWS, Arizona is on the cusp of winning it.

Kurt Heyer allowed just two runs in seven-plus innings and Robert Refsnyder homered and went 3-for-5 to lift the Wildcats to a 10-3 victory over Florida State before 20,596 fans at TD Ameritrade Park.

The win propels the Wildcats -- who are 3-0 in Omaha -- into the championship round of the College World Series. Lopez's squad will face either Arkansas or defending champion South Carolina in a best-of-three series that begins Sunday.

"We're playing solid baseball," Lopez said. "We still have our flaws. It's a game played by young people and we sometimes do some young things."

Perhaps, but it certainly doesn't happen often on a Lopez-coached team.

Now in his 24th season as a Division I head coach, Lopez is one of three men to lead three different programs to a College World Series. Lopez guided Pepperdine to the NCAA title in 1992 and helped Florida to the CWS in 1996 and 1998.

This is his second trip here with Arizona, which he has coached since 2002. In fact, if Lopez's 1998 Wildcats squad had reached Omaha, he could've boasted that every recruiting class he has signed as a college head coach had played in the World Series.

So it certainly isn't tough to understand why he's comfortable making his yearly promise to prospects.

The Wildcats have played so well during the past few weeks that Lopez was asked Thursday if he felt his team was "invincible."

"I'm quite confident we're not invincible," he said. "But for the most part, we understand the definition of good baseball."

Dominant as they were at times Thursday, the Wildcats also received a little help.

Florida State committed three errors in the first inning that led to six runs for Arizona. The onslaught continued in the fourth, when home runs by Refsnyder and Bobby Brown helped give the Wildcats a 10-1 lead.

[+] EnlargeMike Martin
AP Photo/Dave WeaverAndy Lopez said he feels badly for Florida State's Mike Martin, who has yet to win a title.

"Sometimes you're the dog, sometimes you're the fire hydrant," Florida State coach Mike Martin said.

Martin has often felt like the latter during his 15 trips to the CWS with the Seminoles. Martin is one of the winningest coaches in the history of college baseball, but in 33 seasons he has yet to claim a national title.

"Things just didn't go right," Martin said. "They outplayed us. They deserved to win. It's over with. You roll onto the next year."

Lopez indicated he felt badly for Martin following Thursday's game.

"My heart goes out to Mike and his program," Lopez said. "He's just an unbelievable coach. Those guys win 40 games like I make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. They do it every year."

So, too, does Arizona, which is two wins away from its first NCAA title since 1986.

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