Andy Lopez figures his life will return to normal about 6:05 Friday night.
That's when his Arizona baseball team plays its first game of the 2013 season, ending what has been a hectic offseason for the 59-year-old coach.
“I know I've been the flavor of the month and the resident genius,” Lopez said. “When you win in Omaha, suddenly you're the guy with all the answers.
“It's been enjoyable. The other day, I was asked to come speak to the (Arizona) state legislature. I thought, 'Holy smokes, I hope they're interested in learning about bunt defense strategies.'”
Lopez's team begins defense of the national championship it won last June at the College World Series on Friday, the opening day of competition for Division I baseball teams across the country. Arizona begins the season with a three-game home series against Coppin State.
The Wildcats will take the field missing some of the biggest contributors to last season's title drive, but with enough returning talent to make a repeat visit to Omaha hardly out of the question.
Pitching ace Kurt Heyer is gone, but Lopez has four other top pitchers back, including CWS hero Konner Wade. The Wildcats have to replace four position-playing starters, including shortstop Alex Mejia and third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean. Designated hitter Bobby Brown also has departed.
Lopez is hoping that outfielder Johnny Field, second baseman Trent Gilbert and catcher Riley Moore can develop into the kind of on- and off-the-field leaders that Mejia, Mejias-Brean and Robert Refsnyder were a season ago.
“We're excited to get this thing started,” Lopez said, “and see what this group of guys can accomplish. It's a good group.”
One that brings a slightly different attitude into the 2013 season. Lopez sees the residual impact of winning in Omaha in the approach the veteran players, especially his pitchers, bring to practice.
“As a whole, the guys we have back have a little more confidence,” Lopez said. “I think that's especially true for those four pitchers that did such a good job for us in Omaha.”
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Wade will replace Heyer in the No. 1 spot in the rotation after compiling an 11-3 record and a 3.96 ERA as a sophomore. The right-hander was spectacular in the Wildcats' NCAA tournament run, posting a 4-0 record and a 1.29 ERA that included wins in Omaha over UCLA and South Carolina.
James Farris, who started the national title game win over the Gamecocks, moves into the No. 2 role. He was 7-3 last season and walked just 20 hitters in 10623 innings.
Set-up man Stephen Manthei is a candidate for the other rotation spot, as are several young pitchers Lopez said performed well in the fall. Closer Mathew Troupe and Tyler Crawford anchor a solid bullpen that allowed just one run in 713 innings in Omaha.
Arizona's gap-hitting, speed-driven offense proved to be a perfect fit for spacious TD Ameritrade Park last June. Four of the team's top five hitters — Refsnyder (.364), Mejia (.357), Mejias-Brean (.355) and Brown (.348) — played their last collegiate games in Omaha.
“Last year's lineup was pretty special,” Lopez said. “This year, we are going to have some guys in new situations. Instead of certain guys being asked to bunt, they are now going to be asked to deliver base hits.
“We have some talented players and if they stick to our approach — put the ball in play, hit the ball low and hard — then we will be able to put the pressure on the defense.”
Arizona's national title was Lopez's second. He guided Pepperdine to the 1992 championship. After the Waves won, Lopez said, he appeared on a couple of radio programs and maybe did one spot on television.
They threw a parade for the Wildcats when they returned from Omaha last June. Lopez was besieged with news media requests. He made more than 30 appearances ranging from giving motivational speeches for companies to addressing the local Rotary Club — in August and September alone. He has done several autograph signings and rode on a float at Arizona's homecoming parade.
“I remember getting asked after we got back about the negatives of winning a national championship,” Lopez said. “I said, 'Whoa, there are no negatives other than people who expect you to win another one.' To me, that's what every young guy and every coach in the country wants. As far as I'm concerned, I've been blessed by what happened last June.”
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