Arizona Baseball Earns Pac-12 Honors
On the heels of a Pac-12 championship win and being named a Regional host, Arizona was honored this week with a handful of Pac-12 honors - including Coach of the Year, Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year.
Heading into this weekend's Tucson Regional, baseball coach Andy Lopez has been named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, and shortstop Alex Mejia has been named the Pac-12 Player of the Year and the conference's Defensive Player of the Year.
Also, five other Wildcats have been named to the 25-player All-Conference team, with one honorable mention selection.
Arizona (38-17) opens NCAA Regional action at home against Missouri (32-26) on June 1 at 8 p.m. (MST) at Hi Corbett Field.
For Lopez, the honor is his first in his 11 seasons at the school.
Lopez has guided the Wildcats to a 38-17 overall record and a Pac-12 co-championship. The league title is Arizona's first conference crown since 1992, and the school is hosting an NCAA Regional for the first time since that same season.
Interestingly, Lopez's Pepperdine club won the Tucson Regional in 1992 and advanced to the College World Series, where it won the national championship.
At Arizona, Lopez has returned the program to the national stage. The Wildcats have advanced to an NCAA Regional in eight of the last 10 seasons, including in 2004 when the school advanced to the College World Series for the first time since 1986.
In the eight seasons prior to Lopez becoming the head coach, Arizona qualified for just one NCAA Regional (1999).
The 2012 Pac-12 co-championship marks the sixth time Lopez has led a school to a Division I conference title. He coached Florida to a pair of Southeastern Conference titles and Pepperdine to three West Coast Conference crowns.
Lopez has twice been named national coach of the year (1992, 1996) and has been named a conference coach of the year eight previous times in his career, including in 1996 at Florida, four times at Pepperdine, and three times at Division II Cal State Dominguez Hills.
A 1975 graduate of UCLA, Lopez has won 1,080 games in his 30 seasons coaching collegiate baseball, including a 393-246-1 mark at Arizona. Lopez has now guided Division I teams to the NCAA postseason 17 times in 24 seasons.
Joining Mejia on the All-Pac-12 team is designated hitter Bobby Brown, outfielder Johnny Field, pitcher Kurt Heyer, third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean and outfielder Robert Refsnyder. Outfielder Joey Rickard was tabbed as an honorable mention selection.
Mejia, an all-conference honoree a year ago, becomes Arizona's first conference player of the year since Trevor Crowe won the honor in 2005. A native of Sylmar, Calif., Mejia's spectacular defensive play, improved offensive skills and leadership on and off the field drew attention from the league coaches to earn him the top honor.
Arizona's starting shortstop in all 172 games he has played at the school, Mejia turned in a career-best season. He finished third on the team and No. 5 in the Pac-12 with a .357 batting average and led all Pac-12 players with 81 hits during the regular season.
Mejia ranked No. 9 with 47 runs scored and tied for No. 10 with 46 RBI, while he was tied for No. 3 in conference with five triples and ranked third on club with three home runs.
Brown, a fifth-year senior, established himself as one of the conference's top run-producers as a designated hitter. A left-handed hitter, Brown entered the season with just 40 starts, 164 at bats, 49 hits and 23 RBI entering the year. In his final campaign, Brown finished the regular season ranked No. 10 in the Pac-12 with a .343 batting average.
His slugging percentage of .560 ranked No. 5 in the conference and, despite not playing in 10 games and not starting 15, Brown finished tied for No. 7 in the Pac-12 with 47 RBI. He started the final 32 games of the season at designated hitter with a .383 batting average, including the first four homers of his career.
Field, who started all 55 games in the outfield, finished the regular season as the Pac-12 batting champion with a .379 average. Field also led the conference and ranks No. 7 nationally with a .494 on base percentage, topped the Pac-12 with 59 runs scored and ranked No. 2 with 80 base hits.
The Las Vegas, Nev., native drew a Pac-12-high 39 walks on the season, and was hit by a pitch 10 times (against just 24 strikeouts). He batted .459 (50-for-109) over last 27 games, collecting 11 doubles, three triples and two homers to go with 31 runs and 16 RBI while reaching base at a .560 clip.
Heyer earned All-Conference recognition for the third straight season and was a candidate for Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year, which was awarded to Oregon's Alex Keudell. The Wildcats' right-hander turned in a remarkable junior campaign, posting an 11-2 record and a 2.03 earned run average, the lowest among Pac-12 starting pitchers during the regular season.
Heyer registered the second-most strikeouts (91) in the Pac-12, and walked just 20 while throwing a league-leading 119.2 innings for Arizona to date. He threw five complete games over the course of his final eight Pac-12 starts, and had six total complete games on the year to lead all Pac-12 pitchers.
Mejias-Brean, a junior who started all 55 games at third base, garners his first All-Conference accolade. The Tucson native finished season ranked No. 7 in the Pac-12 with a .351 batting average and developed into one of the league's top run-producers. He was one of two Pac-12 players (Refsnyder the other) to score at least 50 runs (50) and have at least 50 runs batted in (52).
Mejias-Brean led Arizona and ranked tied for second with a career-high 17 doubles, 11 of which came during the 30-game conference slate. He turned in a career-best 21-game hitting streak earlier in the season and carries an eight-game streak into postseason play.
Refsnyder, a starter in right field for all 55 games, was named to the All-Conference team for a second consecutive season. He finished the regular season ranked in top-6 in the Pac-12 in batting (.359, No. 3), slugging (.558, No. 6) and on-base percentage (.447, No. 4).
Refsnyder was one of the league's top run-producers, finishing No. 2 with a career-high 57 RBI and hit.427 with runners in scoring position. He finished No. 3 in conference with 53 runs scored and tied for No. 4 with 78 hits, while leading Arizona with 27 extra base hits, including team-best six homers. He also placed second on club with 12 stolen bases, good enough for a tie for No. 6 in league.
Rickard was an All-Conference selection a season ago and earned honorable mention recognition this year as UA's starting centerfielder. The team's leadoff batter in all 51 games he played, Rickard batted .310 on the season with 46 runs scored, which was No. 10 among Pac-12 players.
The Las Vegas, Nev., native stole a team-high 16 bases on the season to finish with the second-most in the conference. With four games missed in April, Rickard saw a streak of 156 consecutive games played, sixth-longest in school history, come to an end.
The six All-Pac-12 selections for Arizona mark the second consecutive year in which the school has placed a half-dozen players on the squad. The six selections in each of the last two years are the most for Arizona in single seasons since also putting six on the Pac-10 South All-Conference Team in 1993.