TUCSON, Ariz. — Johnny Field knew the moment he hit the ball it was gone.
After he connected — with the bases loaded for Arizona — he stopped, looked and tossed his bat aside. The only question was the distance.
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“I was looking for that (slider), and I knew I got it,” said Field, who was named Tucson Regional MVP. “It felt good. I felt it off the bat. It was a big hit.”
Exactly how big didn’t matter, of course, because gone is gone.
And now Arizona is moving on, advancing to the NCAA Super Regionals after Sunday night’s 16-3 win over Louisville in front of 3,485 fans at Hi Corbett Field.
The Wildcats also dominated the Cardinals on Saturday and won the two games by a combined score of 32-7. Louisville had to defeat Missouri earlier Sunday — doing so by a score of 11-3 — to get the chance to play UA again Sunday night.
“I’m very proud of our guys,” Arizona coach Andy Lopez said.
It’ll be the Cats’ first Super Regional since 2008, when they were eliminated by Miami two games to one in Coral Gables, Fla. Arizona hasn’t made a World Series appearance since 2004.
UA likely will get the chance to host this year’s Super Regional but won’t find out for sure until Monday. If that happens, it’ll be a first for Arizona, which will play Chapel Hill Regional winner St. John’s.
“Let’s hope so,” Lopez said of the chance to host.
Sunday night’s double-digit victory capped one of Arizona’s most impressive regional performances since 1986, when it scored 50 runs in a four-game sweep of its opponents. That was also the last time UA won the NCAA title. UA scored 47 runs in three games over the weekend and has now win 11 of 13 games since May 11.
“It’s pretty special what we did this weekend,” Field said. “We’re about as hot as we’ve been all year.”
It’s often said that in order to succeed in the NCAA tournament, a team has to be lucky, injury-free and good.
So far, the Wildcats have hit the trifecta.
“Good pitching, good defense and good hitting,” Lopez said of what his team has provided of late. “(That’s instead) of luck. But I’ll take some luck right now. I’ll take some now if you have it.
“We’re banged up a bit, but everybody is.”
The “good” part starts with the hitting, of course. Arizona had 14 hits Sunday night, going through five Louisville pitchers. It didn’t help Louisville that its defense committed six — yes, six — errors. Six of UA’s runs were unearned.
For all intents and purpose, the game was over in the third inning. That’s when Field took charge with one swing.
On a 1-1 count, Field connected for what was only his third homer of the season but likely the biggest of his career. And that’s saying something for a player who’s typically the centerpiece of Arizona’s impressive offense. He led the Pac-12 with a .379 average this season and entered Sunday’s game at .382. That number didn’t go down after he went 4 for 6 with a double and single to go along with his homer, a towering shot over the left-field wall that traveled an estimated 400 feet.
Arizona put no doubt in the rout in the sixth inning, scoring four runs to add to what was already a 5-0 lead. The big blow was Joey Rickard’s triple to deep center that scored Joseph Maggi and Riley Moore, each of whom had singled earlier. Field followed with a double to score Rickard, giving him seven RBIs for the game, a Tucson Regional high.
Moore finished with four hits and four runs scored for the Wildcats, who hit .472 as a team and had 58 hits in their three games in the regional.
UA scored four more runs in the seventh and three in the eighth to turn it into a laugher.
“That offense is locked in,” said Louisville coach Dan MCDonnell. “That’s the best team we’ve played all year.”
Overshadowed in Arizona’s weekend of offensive dominance was its strong starting pitching. On Sunday night, starter James Farris (7-3) scattered 12 hits and did not allow a serious threat until the game was decided.
“We may not be as deep (as a pitching staff), and in 2008 we were pretty
special from a bullpen standpoint,” Lopez said. “This year, they could
probably sue me for riding (the starters) so much. I’ve hung with the
starters as long as I can.
“But you do what you do to get to this position. They are overshadowed, but I don’t think it bothers them too much.”
UA ace Kurt Heyer threw a complete-game four hitter in Friday’s 15-3 win over Missouri, and Konner Wade followed with eight strong innings in Saturday night’s 16-4 win over Louisville.
“It’s an easy group to coach, and that’s the key thing,” Lopez said of his Super Regional-bound team. “They play hard.”