Arizona likes plenty of space to work
Omaha stadium is wide open, but not as big as Wildcats' home
OMAHA, Neb. -- Arizona feels right at home at spacious TD Ameritrade Park.
The Wildcats moved this season from their campus stadium to cavernous Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Ariz. Like Hi Corbett, TD Ameritrade places a premium on pitching and defense and rewards hitters who can find gaps.
The Wildcats' 20 home runs are the fewest of any team in the College World Series, and they hit just eight of them at Hi Corbett.
Hi Corbett's dimensions are 366 feet down the left-field line, 349 to right and 392 to center. The power alleys are 410 in left and 405 in right.
TD Ameritrade isn't quite as big but is still larger than most college stadiums. New bat standards have reduced offense, and even the best-hit balls are subject to being kept in the stadium by a south wind that blows in most days.
Coach Andy Lopez said his batters have had to change their mentality this season and shorten their swings. They're fourth in the nation with their .329 batting average, third in triples with 35 and 10th in doubles with 129.
Lopez said Hi Corbett also has helped his team become sharper on defense. Konner Wade induced 14 groundball outs while pitching a complete-game shutout against UCLA on Sunday night, and the Wildcats committed no errors.
The heat in Tucson hardens the Hi Corbett infield, which means grounders come at fielders fast.
''When you come to a facility like this and it's soft, it's kind of nice,'' Lopez said. ''I think it plays to our advantage defensively.''
Third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean said he doesn't have to play on edge when he's on the softer infield at TD Ameritrade.
''I get some hard shots at my head at Hi Corbett,'' he said. ''It just slows the game down a lot for us. Especially with Konner pitching, he's a groundball pitcher. It just really helps us, it's real soft and we get to play catch.''
Lopez wanted to move to Hi Corbett to improve the Wildcats' chances of landing home regionals and super regionals. The Wildcats had been in regional finals six of the previous eight years, all on the road.
Playing at home in the NCAA tournament this year for the first time since 1992, the Wildcats won three consecutive in the regional and then beat St. John's (N.Y.) in a two-game super regional.
After beating Florida State and UCLA, the Wildcats are one win away from the best-of-three finals in Omaha.