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article imageWildcats coach embraces pressure to repeat Omaha victory Special

By Kim Hartman     Feb 12, 2013 in Sports
Tucson - Many baseball coaches say the most difficult year is the one that follows a World Series win.
But Andy Lopez doesn’t feel that way at all.
“If there is pressure to win another World Series, I hope I experience this kind of pressure for six or seven years to come,” Lopez said. “I would like to always come off a World Series and have feelings of expectation on me.”
The University of Arizona head coach enjoyed his second career Men’s College World Series victory last season and looks to continue his team’s winning ways in 2013.
“I mean, what’s the alternative?" Lopez said. "Would you rather come off a World Series win, or not get to the post-season nine years in a row? I’ll take this one.”
A brand new mix of players now enter a fresh season, beginning on Friday, trying to accomplish what they did last year. From Lopez’s 2012 Championship team, 15 are returning to the Wildcats lineup.
“We come into every year with high expectations, so this year is no different,” sophomore catcher Riley Moore said. “Omaha was our goal last season, and it is this season again.”
For the second year in a row, Moore will be catching all Wildcat pitchers. The starting rotation for the upcoming season will all be returning juniors: Konner Wade (Friday), James Farris (Saturday) and Stephen Manthei (Sunday).
“No one wants to plateau here,” No.2 starter Farris said. “We all want to get better and progress in the program.”
Mid-week starters will include long relievers Tyler Crawford, Nick Cunningham and Mathew Troupe.
“I feel good about the first 5 or 6 guys at this point,” Lopez said. “I mean, we’ll see how things go when the lights come on and we start keeping score, but I like what they’ve done so far and they all have strong (baseball) resumes.”
Freshmen starters for the 2013 season will be shortstop Kevin Newman, replacing St. Louis Cardinal draftee Alex Mejia, and outfielder Scott Kingery. Kingery was slowed at the beginning of the school year with mononucleosis but Lopez has been very impressed with his play since returning.
Freshmen Cody Ramer, Ryan Koziol, Cody Moffett, Tyger Talley and Nathan Bannister will also be in the playing mix.
“Team chemistry is good right now,” Lopez said. “For me, it’s hard to fully gauge until we get an enemy – you know, someone in a different uniform who is trying to get you out that’s not your roommate who you go and have a hamburger with after the game. But I really like this group. I think they want to do well.”
Lopez also said the returners are doing very well at getting the freshmen accustomed to Arizona baseball.
“The older players are doing a great job at helping the younger players, both on and off the field,” Lopez said. “The juniors and seniors know that it’s not just about playing good baseball, but it’s about being a good person, going to class, not being a headache.”
Many upperclassmen embrace their leadership role and enjoy having the opportunity to guide the younger players.
“I feel like I can impart my wisdom and advice to other players now, and not just be a freshman catcher like I was last year,” Moore said. “I like being able to give my two cents and help them in certain situations.”
Opening day for Arizona is Friday, Feb. 15 at Hi-Corbett Field against the Copper State Eagles. Gametime is scheduled for 6 p.m.
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