The University of Arizona baseball team has earned a No. 5 national ranking in Baseball America's preseason poll released on Jan. 24. The Wildcats are the second-highest ranked Pac-12 team, following No. 2 Stanford.
Arizona (39-21, 15-12 Pac-10) returns 18 members from the 2011 club that finished one win shy of the College Station Regional Championship at Texas A&M last June. It was the Wildcats second-consecutive postseason berth and the program's seventh postseason appearance in the last nine years under head coach Andy Lopez.
Junior pitcher Kurt Heyer, a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree, headlines the Wildcat pitching staff as a Collegiate Baseball Preseason All-American. Junior shortstop Alex Mejia was named a preseason All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association and is one of five starting position players returning from the conference's top hitting lineup a year ago.
The Wildcats were unranked in the final Baseball America poll at the end of last season, but last summer the publication cited Arizona as one of its top eight early choices for the 2012 College World Series in Omaha. Arizona, which has won three national championships, has made 15 all-time appearances in the College World Series, including in 2004 under Lopez.
In 2012, Arizona will play 16 games against opponents ranked in the preseason poll, including nine contests in Tucson. The Wildcats will host three-game series against No. 2 Stanford (March 30 - April 1), No. 14 UCLA (April 13-15) and No. 17 Arizona State (May 25-27). UA will play seven games against ranked teams away from home, including a pair at No. 6 Rice (March 13-14), two at Arizona State (April 17 and May 16) and three at No. 23 Oregon State (March 23-25).
The Wildcats will play 35 total games at Hi Corbett Field this spring, beginning with the home-opening series against North Dakota State Feb. 17-19. The team began preseason workouts at its new home facility last week as refurbishing continues in the clubhouse, coaches' offices and other areas of the stadium.
Earlier this month, the inaugural "Select-A-Seat" event was held at Hi Corbett Field where fans had an exclusive opportunity to purchase reserved seats and choose their specific seating locations for the upcoming season. Season ticket sales have increased by 250-percent to more than 500 this year with more than three weeks still remaining before the season opener.
Season tickets are on sale now in person or by phone (520-621-2287) through the McKale Ticket Office, which is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Tickets also are available online. Single game tickets go on sale beginning Jan. 30.
The season-opening series against North Dakota State will coincide with the annual Arizona Baseball Alumni Weekend. Former head coaches Frank Sancet and Jerry Kindall will be honored for the opener on Feb. 17, which will include a post-game fireworks show.
On Feb. 18, the 1962 Arizona baseball team will be recognized for its 50-year reunion. More information on Alumni Weekend and the season-opening series will be announced in February.