OMAHA, Neb. - The Arizona Wildcats have been on fire in the postseason, winning seven consecutive regional, super regional and College World Series games.
There's no telling just how far their run will go.
Heck, it's hard to get the Wildcats to agree when, exactly, their hot streak started.
"After the Oregon series. When we lost that, things got serious," outfielder Johnny Field said. "Since then, it's been do-or-die baseball. Then we played Cal - or was it USC - and then maybe ASU? Those were big weekends."
The Wildcats had a chance to reflect - and question - on Tuesday, the second of three consecutive off-days leading up to Thursday's CWS semifinal game.
Arizona (45-17) is one victory from its longest winning streak of the year, and three wins from its first national championship since 1986.
So when did things turn? Here are three theories:
THEORY NO. 1: Arizona's been this good all along. Baseball America ranked the UA fifth in its preseason poll and projected the Wildcats as one of the eight programs with a chance to advance to the College World Series.
It was easy to see why: The Wildcats start five upperclassmen - shortstop Alex Mejia, third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean, outfielders Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard and designated hitter Bobby Brown - in their everyday lineup. Ace Kurt Heyer and closer Stephen Manthei are both juniors.
Coach Andy Lopez describes the group as one of the best, most mature he's ever been around. As a result, the Wildcats have been allowed to explore Omaha with relatively few restrictions. The team practiced at Creighton University on Tuesday, then visited an Omaha children's hospital. The team was on its own Tuesday night.
"It's a group that's been around me for three years, and you get to know a group of athletes in three years very easily," Lopez said. "They like to play. They like to compete. They don't - they're not in awe of many things. It's an easy group to be around."
THEORY NO. 2: It started with Stanford.
Arizona swept the nation's No. 2 ranked team in a three-game series March 30-April 1 at Hi Corbett Field, proving - in front of a combined 10,656 fans - that the Wildcats could hang with one of the country's mostly highly regarded teams. The club had split two games at No. 8 Rice in early March and had taken two of three against Oregon State in the second week of conference play.
But Stanford was different. The Wildcats rallied from a three-run deficit in the ninth inning during the March 30 opener and won 8-7. The victory moved the UA into first place in the Pac-12.
"I though it was the Stanford weekend; I really did," Lopez said. "From everything I had heard, it was Florida and Stanford (at the top), and everybody else was just sort of in the pot. As a coach, I thought, 'Well, let's see how we match up here.' And after the sweep, I thought, well, this group might be pretty good.'"
THEORY NO. 3: Trickery did it. Still, many believe that Arizona's run to Omaha began in the eighth inning of the Wildcats' May 11 win at Cal. That's when shortstop Mejia executed a hidden-ball trick, stopping a Golden Bears rally and allowing pitcher Heyer to preserve a two- run lead.
Cal's Danny Oh led off with a single, and Andrew Knapp followed with a line-drive hit to left field. Johnny Field threw the ball back to the infield, where Mejia took the ball and faked a throw back to Heyer. Oh took a walking lead off of second base, and Mejia tagged him with the ball, and the rally was stopped before it started.
"We swept them and started rolling," Mejia said.
Mejia has used the hidden-ball trick a half-dozen times in his career.
"When they've got a little momentum," he said, "this'll help take some of it back."
Since that hidden-ball trick, Arizona has won 15 of 17 games.
"That was a big momentum-changer in that game," Field said. "And that game was a big one."
On StarNet: Read more and see photos from the Wildcats' run through the baseball College World Series at azstarnet.com/sports
Lopez 'leaning toward' starting Heyer on Thursday
OMAHA, Neb. - The Arizona Wildcats haven't named a starting pitcher for Thursday's College World Series semifinal game against Florida State, but coach Andy Lopez said he is "leaning toward" ace Kurt Heyer.
Heyer pitched in the UA's CWS-opening win over FSU but did not factor in a decision. He threw off the mound in Tuesday's practice at Creighton University. Lopez and UA trainers will evaluate Heyer on Wednesday before deciding.
"I'd like to throw him. I like Kurt. I don't think it's that big of a decision," Lopez said. "If he says he feels pretty good, we'll go with him."
Should Heyer start, righty James Farris - the No. 3 starter - would move to the bullpen for the next few games. Konner Wade, fresh off a five-hit shutout of UCLA, would pitch Friday if necessary.
Shortstop Alex Mejia practiced Tuesday for the first time since injuring his ankle against Florida State but did not take batting practice. The junior is expected to play Thursday.
Streaking through Omaha
The Arizona Wildcats enter Thursday's College World Series semifinal game as one of the hottest teams in college baseball. The UA has won:
• Eight games in a row. Since May 27, the Wildcats have: defeated Arizona State in the teams' regular-season finale; beat Louisville twice and Missouri once in the NCAA regionals; won two straight against St. John's in the super regionals; and upset No. 3 seed Florida State and No. 2 seed UCLA in the College World Series. The UA's last eight opponents have a combined record of 248-125 (.664).
• 10 of their last 11. Arizona's last loss came May 26, when ASU defeated the UA 9-7 at Hi Corbett Field. The Wildcats had the tying and winning runs on base with two out in the ninth inning, but Bobby Brown struck out.
• 15 of their last 17. The Wildcats' previous loss came May 19 at USC, when the Trojans won 8-4 at Dedeaux Field. UA starter Konner Wade carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning but ended up taking the loss.
• 19 of their last 23. Oregon took two of three from the UA in early May, marking just the second time all year the Wildcats lost a conference series. UCLA took two of three from the UA in April.
• Who: Arizona vs. Florida State
• Where: Omaha, Neb.
• When: 2 p.m. Thursday
• TV; radio: ESPN2; 1290-AM