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Baseball Begins Chip Hale Era in Texas

Feb 16, 2022

TUCSON, Ariz. — Arizona Baseball begins a new era this weekend, playing their first games under head coach Chip Hale at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas. The Wildcats will square off against Kansas State, Oklahoma, and No. 14 Texas Tech at Globe Life Field, the home ballpark of Major League Baseball's Texas Rangers.

All three games will be broadcast live by FloBaseball, with a subscription required to tune in.

For more, a complete weekend preview is below.
 

Date Opponent Time (MST) / Result Arizona Pitcher Opponent Pitcher
Friday, Feb. 18 Kansas State W, 8-6 RHP TJ Nichols (0-0, -.--) RHP Blake Adams (0-0, -.--)
Saturday, Feb. 19 Oklahoma 6:00 PM LHP Garrett Irvin (0-0, -.--) RHP David Sandlin (0-0, -.--)
Sunday, Feb. 20 #14 Texas Tech 1:30 PM RHP Dawson Netz (0-0, -.--) LHP Mason Molina (0-0, -.--)

Leading Off...

  • Arizona Baseball kicks off their 2022 campaign at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas. They will face Kansas State, Oklahoma, and #14 Texas Tech.
  • First-year head coach Chip Hale leads the Wildcats in 2022. Hale, a distinguished alumni and Arizona's all-time leader in games played, hits, and total bases, won a College World Series championship with the Wildcats in 1986 and a World Series championship with the Washington Nationals in 2019.
  • Arizona has won six conescutive games played in the state of Texas. Their last loss was a 7-9 decision at Houston on Feb. 24, 2019.
  • The Wildcats boast an all-time winning record against all three of this weekend's opponents: 3-1 against Kansas State, 15-3 versus Oklahoma, and 9-5 against Texas Tech.
  • Arizona has scored at least one run in 172 consecutive games, the longest active scoring streak in the Power 5.
  • The Wildcats have won 13 consecutive season-opening games. Their last opening day loss came against Georgia in 2008 (7-9).
  • Arizona opens the 2022 campaign ranked in every major national preseason poll. The Wildcats highest ranking is No. 10, from the NCBWA.
  • Sophomore catcher Daniel Susac was unanimously chosen as a First Team Preseason All-American after hitting .335 with 48 runs, 24 doubles, one triple, 12 home runs, and 65 RBI last year as a true freshman.

SOME SERIES THEMES: Arizona Baseball opens their 2022 season this weekend at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas...The Wildcats will square off against Kansas State, Oklahoma, and No. 14 Texas Tech...Arizona is led by first-year head coach Chip Hale, who returned to lead the program with which he won a College World Series championship as a player in 1986...Coach Hale's first game leading the Wildcats will take place at the same ballpark, Globe Life Field, as his final professional game as the Detroit Tigers third base coach...Arizona has won six consecutive games played in the state of Texas, with their last loss in the Lone Star State being a 7-9 decision at Houston on Feb. 24, 2019...The Wildcats have winning records over all three of their Showdown opponents; they defeated Oklahoma twice in 2021 at the Frisco College Baseball Classic to improve their record over the Sooners to 15-3...Wildcats sophomore catcher Daniel Susac was tabbed as a unanimous First Team Preseason All-American selection by the nation's major news outlets...Susac also recently was named to the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List...Transfer and left-handed reliever Holden Christian also earned Preseason All-America recognition, earning Second Team status from D1Baseball...Arizona opens the season ranked in the Top 25 in every major national preseason poll, including a No. 10 designation from the NCBWA, their highest ranking.

LID LIFTER: Arizona boasts a long run of success in season openers, having won 13 consecutive lid lifters dating back to the 2009 season. Arizona's last opening day loss was a 9-7 decision at Georgia in 2008. The last time Arizona opened a season away from Tucson was in 2016, when the Wildcats took a three-game series at Rice 2-1. This weekend marks the first time in program history that Arizona will open a season in a neutral site tournament. Finally, the Wildcats have won or tied 25 consecutive season-opening series — the last time Arizona dropped their first series of the season came all the way back in 1994, when they went 1-2 at home against New Mexico. During that two and a half decade stretch, the Cats have collected 13 series sweeps.

OPENING NIGHT ACES: For over a decade, the Wildcats have enjoyed dominant starting pitching performances on Opening Night. Since 2010, Arizona starting pitchers have posted nine quality starts and struck out 90 opposing batters across 77.1 innings. Every starter has pitched at least five innings, with six going seven or more — none have allowed more than three runs.

RUNNING WILD: Arizona has scored at least one run in 172 straight games — they have not suffered a shutout loss since falling 1-0 at Washington on March 17, 2018. The Wildcats 172-game scoring streak is the longest active streak in the Pac-12 and 31 more games than the next closest team, UCLA (141 games). It is also the longest active streak among all Power Five programs, and the third-longest streak in program history. Over the course of their 172-game scoring stretch, Arizona has been held to three runs or fewer just 27 times. On the flip side, during the streak they have scored five or more runs 94 times. Arizona and UCLA are the only two programs in the Pac-12 Conference with scoring streaks longer than 100 games.

POLL POSITION: The Wildcats will open the 2022 season ranked in the Top 25 by every major national outlet. Arizona checked in on the preseason rankings at No. 10 by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, No. 13 from Baseball America, No. 15 at D1Baseball and the USA Today Coaches Poll, and No. 22 from Collegiate Baseball. This marks the sixth consecutive year that the Wildcats have been ranked in the Collegiate Baseball preseason poll, and the ninth time they have been selected to the USA Today Coaches Poll preseason ranking (since 2004). The only other Pac-12 programs ranked in the D1Baseball preseason poll are Stanford at No. 6 and Oregon State at No. 18.

CATS COACHES: The Wildcats are led into the 2022 season by first-year head coach Chip Hale — he was hired by Arizona Vice President and Director of Athletics Dave Heeke on July 5, 2021. Hale, the Wildcats all-time leader in games played, hits, and total bases during his time in Tucson from 1984-87, brings nearly two decades of professional coaching experience to Arizona. During his collegiate career Hale helped steer the 1986 Arizona Wildcats to their third NCAA National Championship. His professional coaching career was highlighted by a stint as the manager for the Arizona Diamondbacks (2015-16) and a World Series championship with the Washington Nationals in 2019. Hale is assisted by associate head coach Dave Lawn, in his seventh season with the Wildcats, and first-year assistant coaches Trip Couch and Toby DeMello. Lawn has made four College World Series appearances with three different Pac-12 programs, sent 23 players to the Major Leagues, and won five conference championships. Couch, one of the nation's top recruiting coordinators, joins the Wildcats in the same role after splitting the last 11 years between Houston and South Carolina. Across his decades of collegiate coaching experience, Couch has made 11 NCAA postseason appearances, developed 12 All-Americans, and directly coached 37 MLB Draft selections. DeMello, the Wildcats volunteer assistant, will work with Arizona's hitters and catchers after serving in a similar role at Sacramento State, where he helped guide the Hornets to an NCAA Regional appearance in 2019. Arizona's staff is rounded out by director of baseball operations Will Gaines, director of player development Tyler Coolbaugh, and undergraduate assistant Brian Anderson.

STATE 48: The Wildcats 2022 roster features 10 players hailing from the state of Arizona. Other states represented on Arizona's roster include California (18), Utah (2), Illinois (2), Virginia (1), Florida (1), Nevada (1), Hawai'i (1), and Colorado (1). The Wildcats 10 Arizonans represent over 27% of the roster. Among the 10 Arizona natives on the roster, three current Wildcats also played their high school baseball in Tucson: Drew Calloway (Sabino HS), George Arias Jr. (Tucson HS), and Chris Barraza (Sahuarita HS).

SUSAC NAMED TO GOLDEN SPIKES WATCH LIST: Sophomore catcher Daniel Susac added to his long list of preseason honors on Tuesday, earning a selection by USA Baseball to the Golden Spikes Award Preseason Watch List. The 55-player watch list is the first step in USA Baseball's process of identifying the nation's greatest amateur baseball player. The Golden Spikes Award has been presented annually since 1978. Susac, a unanimous First Team Preseason All-American, is the 10th Arizona player to be honored with inclusion on the Preseason Watch List since 2008 and the first since Austin Wells graced the list prior to the 2020 season. He is no stranger to USA Baseball, having competed with the Collegiate National Team last summer. Susac earned time in nine games with seven starts and picked up a pair of hits in their season finale against the USA Baseball Olympic Team. Previous winners of the Golden Spikes Award include the likes of Kris Bryant (2013), Bryce Harper (2010), Stephen Strasburg (2009), Buster Posey (2008), Tim Lincecum (2006), Terry Francona (1980), and many more.

DAN THE MAN: Sophomore catcher Daniel Susac leads the way for Arizona on offense in 2022. A unanimous Freshman All-American and the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year in 2021, Susac enters this season as a unanimous First Team Preseason All-American and likely first round draft pick. As a true freshman, Susac hit .335 with 48 runs, 12 home runs, and 65 RBI. He set an Arizona freshman record with 24 doubles and set program freshman conference records in hits (45), doubles (12), extra-base hits (21), total bases (83), and slugging percentage (.669). He wrapped up his first Arizona campaign by accepting an invite to play for USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team, where he earned time in nine games and collected a pair of hits in their season finale against the USA Baseball Olympic Team.

FAMILY AFFAIR: Joining Daniel Susac this season is freshman right-handed pitcher Anthony Susac, Daniel's younger cousin — both attended Jesuit High School in Sacramento. Anthony was a four-year letterwinner who finished his prep career ranked as the No. 4 right-handed pitcher and No. 15 overall prospect in California in the 2021 class according to Perfect Game. The Susac's baseball bloodlines run deep, with Daniel's oldest brother, Andrew, boasting a six-year Major League career and his next oldest brother, Matt, playing Division I baseball at Nevada.

CALIFORNIA CONNECTION: Sophomore catcher Daniel Susac and sophomore right-handed pitcher TJ Nichols, both hailing from the Sacramento area, have played baseball together since they were seven years old. The two figure to feature prominently into the Wildcats plans in 2022, with Daniel leading the offense and Nichols set to be a centerpiece in Arizona's pitching staff. While the two attended different high schools — Susac Jesuit HS, Nichols Oakmont HS — the two have shared the field as battery mates for hundreds of games and thousands of pitches.

HOLD 'EM CHRISTIAN: Senior left-handed pitcher Holden Christian, a transfer from Loyola Marymount, is set to take up the mantle as Arizona's closer in 2022. A four-year letterman with the Lions, Christian posted a career ERA of 3.34 with five saves across 102.1 innings. As a senior in 2021 he found tremendous success, notching a 0.97 ERA and four saves en route to earning First Team All-WCC and ABCA Second Team West All-Region honors. The southpaw picked up a D1Baseball Second Team Preseason All-America selection leading into his first Power Five campaign.

LEFT SIDE, STRONG SIDE: Arizona's presumptive 2022 starting third baseman, Tony Bullard, and shortstop, Nik McClaughry, became two of the Wildcat's most important contributors late in the 2021 season. McClaughry took over as Arizona's everyday starting shortstop in late March of last season while the Wildcats hosted Oregon — he finished the year hitting .316 with 37 runs, 10 extra-base hits, 32 RBI, and a sparkling .967 fielding percentage. Bullard played in 47 of Arizona's 63 games, with 39 starts — his star exploded in the postseason when started every game and hit .382 with nine runs, two triples, four home runs, and nine RBI.