The Pac-12 is undefeated thus far in the College World Series, but that will all change tonight when the Arizona Wildcats and UCLA Bruins square off in the winner’s bracket in Omaha.
Arizona, which won a 12-inning, 4-3 thriller over Florida State Friday faces a UCLA squad that thumped Stony Brook 9-1. The win improved Arizona’s record to 34-27 in 16 CWS appearances. It also improved Arizona record against the Seminoles in CWS play to an impressive 5-1.
Arizona coach Andy Lopez was a star shortstop for UCLA when he captained the 1975 team. His wife, Linda, graduated from UCLA so the ties run deep. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that Arizona and UCLA shared the same charter flight to Omaha last week. Still, while both are thus far representing the conference well, each will only be looking out for its own best interests Sunday night in a critical game where the victor won’t have to play again until Thursday while the loser faces an elimination game Tuesday against either Stony Brook or Florida State.
UCLA (48-14) took two of three games against the Wildcats this season at Arizona’s Hi-Corbett Field. Arizona (44-17) took the series opener 4-3 over the Bruins. However, UCLA bounced back to win the second game 15-3 before winning the rubber game 6-2 back in April.
Not much has changed since that meeting as both clubs have played stellar baseball. Arizona is a perfect 6-0 in postseason play, and with a victory tonight could continue to take the “easier” path to advancing through the round robin tournament, double-elimination tournament.
Tonight’s winner earns a full three day’s rest before having to again take the field. The loser will instead play Tuesday in an elimination game, and then face the daunting task of having to win three consecutive games to reach the best-of-three championship series.
The good news to this point for both Arizona and UCLA is 21 of the past 31 national champions have won their opening game. Remaining on the path of least resistance is crucial, and that is exactly what’s on the line tonight.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on ESPN2 beginning at 6 p.m.