Fall Report: Arizona

Fall Report

In the summer of 2015, Jay Johnson inherited an Arizona roster full of veterans who had never been to the postseason, and he shepherded them to 49 wins and the brink of a national championship. Many of those key veterans departed after the season, but Johnson had no interest in “rebuilding.” He wanted to keep on winning in 2016, and he recruited accordingly.

“I’m not an overly patient guy, and the recruiting dynamic has changed so much, so we had to kind of come up with a hybrid plan,” Johnson said. “We’ve kind of focused on building each team one team at a time — so far so good.”

The reinforcements combined with a nice core of returning players helped Arizona turn in a very solid encore to the national runner-up season. The Wildcats went 38-21 overall, 16-14 in the Pac-12 and just missed out on hosting a regional. Instead they wound up in the Lubbock Regional, where they were eliminated by upstart Sam Houston State.

So now Arizona’s upperclassmen head into 2018 with two valuable years of postseason experience under their belts, and another strong group of juco transfers and freshmen will help fill the shoes of departed mainstays like JJ Matijevic, Jared Oliva, JC Cloney and Cameron Ming — all of whom played prominent roles in the 2016 CWS run.

Even without that group, Arizona has a strong core of experienced, talented returnees to lean upon. Five returning Wildcats earned some type of all-conference honors last year, led by All-Pac-12 selections Alfonso Rivas and Cesar Salazar. Both of those players look poised to do even bigger things as juniors this spring.


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