OMAHA, Neb. – Arizona coach Andy Lopez hasn’t named a starter yet for Game 2 of the best-of-three College World Series final against South Carolina. But it could very well be junior right-hander Kurt Heyer, and he likely will throw very deep into the game.
Tonight, in Game 1, Lopez is going with sophomore right-hander Konner Wade, who has thrown 127 1/3 innings and has five complete games this year.
Heyer’s stats make that look like child’s play. He has thrown 153 innings, an average of eight per start, and has seven complete games, which is tied for fourth-most nationally. Heyer, a sixth-round Major League Baseball draft pick this year, is 13-2 this season with a 2.24 earned-run average, 113 strikeouts and 28 walks.
Throw in three complete games for Arizona’s other starter, James Farris, and the Wildcats have 15 this year, compared to just one for USC – by senior ace Michael Roth against Kent State on Thursday. He threw 106 pitches in that game.
Heyer would be throwing on three days of rest Monday. His 7 1/3-innings start on Thursday was his second of the World Series, as the Wildcats have played just three games, compared to five for USC. There’s a good chance USC will start Roth on three days of rest Monday. Roth leads USC with 130 1/3 innings this year.
USC coach Ray Tanner expects Lopez to stick with his starters, despite hiccups, in this series.
“That’s been their formula,” Tanner said. “He’s had different kinds of teams. He’s had great bullpens. (This year), he leaves his starters out there. I don’t think that we’re going to be in a position to move them.”
As for the possibility of Roth starting Monday for the final time in his career, Tanner said, “If he feels good and he’s not going to have a risk of injury, then he’ll probably get an opportunity to pitch. If he’s not ready to go, then we won’t run him out there.”
TEAMS SHARE HOTEL USC and Arizona are both staying at the Hilton in Omaha, which makes for an interesting championship series.
“The Hilton Hotel Battle Royale,” Roth said. “That’s the new name for it. We’ve been seeing these guys all week. Probably the worst part is, at some point in this next week somebody’s going to be celebrating and the other team has to hear it. That’s probably the only downside. And there’s no free breakfast.”
STAGE FOR PAC-12 Schools currently in the Pacific-12 have a strong recent history in the College World Series. UCLA lost to USC in the 2010 final. Oregon State won it all in 2006 and 2007. Before that, the previous two current Pac-12 schools to win the title were Southern California in 1998 and Stanford in 1988.
When Arizona’s best power hitter, Robert Refsnyder, played in the Cape Cod League last summer, he realized the conference didn’t have the national baseball reputation that he thought it did, especially when compared to the Southeastern Conference, which won the last three titles.
“When I went to the Cape and was talking with my fellow teammates, and they’re (from) all over, they always joke about: What’s the ‘Pace’ 10? What’s the ‘Pace’ 12? So that’s kind of where I kind of realized we need to try to gain some respect nationally.”
Refsnyder has done his part. He has a team-high seven home runs and 64 runs batted-in this season, and a .548 slugging percentage, second on the team.
South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner, left, and Arizona head coach Andy Lopez pose with the national championship trophy during a press conference at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska, Saturday, June 23, 2012. South Carolina will meet Arizona in the finals of the College World Series. (Gerry Melendez/The State/MCT)×