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Andy Lopez Coach Of Year
Article printed in July 13 edition of Collegiate Baseball
 
TUCSON, Ariz. — Andy Lopez, head baseball coach at the University of Arizona, has been named National Coach of The Year by Collegiate Baseball newspaper.
It marks the third time that Lopez has been honored by Collegiate Baseball as Coach of The Year. He also was chosen in 1992 after he guided Pepperdine to the national championship and then once again in 1996 when he led Florida to the College World Series.
 
Under Lopez, Arizona won its fourth overall national baseball championship at the recent College World Series with a perfect 5-0 record. In a rare achievement, the Wildcats never trailed in the 2012 CWS as Arizona became only the third team in history to accomplish this feat.
 
The mark of every great coach is the progress his teams make as the season unfolds.
 
And under Lopez’ guidance, the team was magnificent late in the year as the Wildcats won 11 consecutive games to close the season and captured 18 of its last 20.
Arizona ended the College World Series with a team ERA of 1.12 over five games (eight runs in 48 innings).
 
During the entire 2012 NCAA tournament, the Wildcats posted a superb 1.91 ERA as Arizona went unbeaten in 10 post-season games.
 
Lopez became only the second coach to win an NCAA Division I baseball national title at two different schools (Pepperdine, 1992) and this year with Arizona.
 
Lopez and his assistant Shaun Cole, who both work with the pitchers, were faced with a difficult dilemma as the season unfolded. The relief pitchers being utilized were not consistent and struggled a great deal at times.
 
Lopez felt that their three key starting pitchers must go as far as possible in games and asked his starters to aim for this goal. It was a philosophy that he has utilized in the past when relief pitchers struggled. But never to this level.
 
Arizona’s three main starters threw 16 complete games (seven by Kurt Heyer, six by Konner Wade and three by James Farris). This trio threw eight over the Wildcats’ final 19 contests.
 
Years ago, pitchers started what they finished. And Lopez brought this old concept to the forefront that had not been seen at the College World Series in 50 years.
Behind 7.6 innings from Farris in the title game 4-1 win over South Carolina, Arizona became just the fifth national champion in Division I baseball history – and first since 1957 – to get at least 7 1/3 innings from its starter in every game of the CWS.
 
The only other teams to accomplish the feat were Oklahoma in 1951 (four games), Holy Cross in 1952 (seven), Michigan in 1953 (five) and California in 1957 (five).
If you look at the Arizona starters for the entire 2012 NCAA tournament (regional, super regional and CWS games which included 10 games), Arizona starters went at least 7 1/3 innings in every game, averaging 8.5 innings per start — unheard of in this day and age of baseball where starters go five or six innings followed by a setup man and then a closer.
 
Another masterful stroke by Lopez is how he handled RHP Konner Wade early in the season when he suffered from a serious control problem.
 
At one point his ability to throw strikes was so poor that he was missing the plate by two feet on pitches, and Lopez refused to let batters stand in during bullpens for fear they would get hurt.
 
In a game against New Mexico St., Wade threw 20 balls in 22 pitches and was pulled after one inning.
 
But with careful and diligent work both mentally and physically with Wade, he started to improve. His incredible ball movement that was a serious problem suddenly became a weapon as he threw strikes.
 
At the College World Series, he was brilliant. In two complete games against UCLA and South Carolina over 18 innings, he only surrendered only one walk with seven strikeouts and gave up one run for a 0.50 ERA against two of the best teams in the nation.
 
A veteran of 30 years as a collegiate head coach, Lopez has an overall record of 1,090-664-7.
 
He is one of just three skippers in all of NCAA Division I history to lead three different schools to the College World Series (Arizona, Florida, Pepperdine).
 
Going into the 2012 season, 113 players coached by Lopez have signed professional contracts.

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