Wow. What a College World Series.
Unfortunately Arizona Baseball could not pull it out; a disappointing end to one heck of a first season for head coach Jay Johnson.
Ever since I moved to the Tucson in 2008 I've viewed Wildcat Baseball as what I like to call a “presidential program”.
They've been really good every election year.
The Andy Lopez era began in 2002. The Wildcats went to the CWS in 2004. Then in 2008 they advanced to the Super Regionals with a team that many tell me may have been the best squad talent wise that Lopez had at UA.
Then came the Pac-12 Conference and national championship team in 2012 and now a national runner up in 2016.
Arizona has produced a championship-caliber team every four years of late.
The question I've always asked is, can you build, not a consistent winner in college baseball, but a "consistent championship contender".
Can someone build a program that, like University of Arizona Softball in their prime, can go to the World Series every year and with a chance to win a national championship every season.
Is Jay Johnson capable of building that type of program or is it even possible in a sport where your best players tend to leave after three seasons.
While the 2012 champs were a junior dominated club, this 2016 squad had more quality seniors than we've ever seen here in Tucson.
It's not likely UA will ever have a veteran club like this again. That's one of the luxuries of NCAA Softball. Players stay all four years, teams can become more experienced.
Wildcat Softball set the standard with 22 consecutive Women’s College World Series appearances.
The most straight on the boys’ side? Seven for Oklahoma State (1981-87) but their never won it all.
The Cowboys in fact, who the Wildcats beat to advance to the CWS Finals, were making their first visit back to Omaha since 1999.
Since the turn of the century there have been 17 College World Series. Texas leads the way in appearances with eight.
That alone tells you how difficult it has become to field a “consistent championship contender”. The Longhorns have missed more CWS than they’ve been to.
Texas is the gold standard of college baseball with 35 CWS appearances in their history.
The Horns (2002-2005) along with Stanford (2000-2003) and North Carolina (2006-2009) made four consecutive appearances at the event in the early 21st century.
The Cardinal actually went five straight years (1999) but Mark Marquess’ crews of the Aughts never lifted the trophy.
The Longhorns did twice (2002 and 2005). However after missing the plane to Omaha the last two years, the greatest coach college baseball has ever seen, Augie Garrido, found himself leaving the baseball office he had occupied for 20 years, for that office next to athletic director where coaches to go to die.
The Tar Heels are one of five schools along with Cal State Fullerton, LSU, Miami and South Carolina to make six overall appearances at the College World Series this century.
The Tar Heels had as close to a dynasty as you could get. Their six visits to Omaha came in eight years.
But guess what? No national championships came out of that run.
The Gamecocks had a pair of three-year mini dynasties including their most recent (2010, 2011 and 2012) that netted them a pair of national championships (2010 and 2011).
South Carolina’s attempt to win three straight titles fell victim to those Wildcat heros named (Rob) Refsnyder, (Joey) Rickard, (Alex) Mejia, (Kurt) Heyer and (Seth) Mejias-Brean.
The great Rod Dedeaux USC teams set the pace for national baseball titles (12) and the Trojans have won the most consecutive national championships (five, 1970-1974). But their last came in 1998 and Southern California has not sniffed the summer Nebraska baseball landscape since 2001.
Oregon State has been to just four College World Series since the turn of the century, but the Beavers went to three straight (2005, 2006 and 2007) and won two national championships (2006 and 2007).
Guess what happened next? Oregon State after their 2007 title didn’t get back to Omaha again for six years (2013).
So much for building off that run to create a dynasty.
If we went deep back into the 1990s you can say Rice had a "consistent championship contender".
The Owls made all seven of their CWS appearances in an 11-year span (1997, 1999, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and 2008), winning one national championship (2003).
Stanford did the same thing (seven CWS trips) over that same span (1997-2008) but again no hardware resides in Palo Alto.
For the record, this year was the Wildcats third College World Series appearance this century. Arizona State has been four times (2005, 2007, 2009 and 2010).
The last of the Sun Devils national championships though came in 1981. The Cats well, fell just short of adding another title plaque to their wall.
So my next question for Jay Johnson when I see him again will be, how does he plan to achieve a “consistent championship contender” at Arizona.
What’s his blueprint for building a program that can make the trip to Omaha in years when I’m not trying to decide how to cast my vote for President.
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