South Carolina to Face Arizona in CWS Championship Series: Notes on the Wildcats

June 18, 2012; Omaha, NE, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks head coach Ray Tanner (12) talks with Tyler Webb (38) during the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks during the seventh inning of game eight of the 2012 College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park. Arkansas won 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

After eliminating Arkansas last night to earn a third-straight trip to the Championship Series, the South Carolina Gamecocks are now getting ready to face the Arizona Wildcats. In this post, we'll break down a few key points about this opponent.

--Historically, this is one of the nation's most successful college baseball programs. Overall, it ranks seventh in total CWS wins with 36, fourth in finals appearances with seven, and it has won three titles.

--However, things haven't been as rosy lately, and only a year ago, there were rumors (perhaps unfounded) that this program was being considered for elimination due to budgetary concerns regarding the program's solvency. This year's performance has allayed those concerns, though:

Lopez and athletic director Greg Byrne combined forces to create the perfect June storm -- an exciting move off campus to Hi Corbett Field; a talented, veteran team; a 138 percent increase in attendance; a chance to host postseason play for the first time in 20 years; a group of guys oozing with chemistry and getting hot at the right time.

--After tying UCLA for the Pac-12 conference championship with a 46-17 / 20-10 record, The Wildcats are in the midst of a little win streak of their own. They have won straight through the playoffs, winning their three regional games by over ten runs in each contest, edging St. Johns in two tight games in the Supers, and winning straight through the CWS, including two over Florida St., one of the favorites. Arizona has outscored its opponents 79-26 during that stretch.

--This is Arizona coach Andy Lopez's fist appearance in the Championships Series with the Wildcats. Lopez has been the head coach at 'Zona for 11 years. It's his program's second appearance in the CWS, the first coming back in 2004. Before arriving in Tuscon, Lopez won a national title while the coach at Pepperdine in 1992.

--The Wildcats hit the ball extremely well. They rank fourth in the country in BA at .330. A shocking seven of the batters in their regular rotation are hitting over .300, with an eighth at .297. They also rank fifth in the country in runs scored and 14th in slugging percentage. Johnny Field, their leadoff guy, is hitting .373 for 47th in the nation and he's seventh in the nation in runs scored with 70. Robert Refsnyder, the cleanup guy, has batted in 64 runs, good for 20th in the nation. SS Alex Mejia is hitting .361; he won Pac-12 POY, partially on the strength of his stellar fielding.

--Arizona's pitching hasn't fared as well in the offense-happy Pac-12. Their ace is excellent. His name is Kurt Heyer and he's 13-2 with a 2.24 ERA. However, their next-best starter, Konner Wade, has a 4+ ERA, although he does have a 10-3 record. None of the 'Zona relievers is pitching for a sub-3 ERA.

All in all, you have to admit that the Wildcats present a worthy opponent as the Gamecocks try to defend their back-to-back titles. Should be a great series. Go 'Cocks!
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