Mat Troupe stood on the UCLA pitcher's mound in early May, 18 miles from his hometown of Northridge, Calif., and what to him seemed like a million miles away from success.
He was in the middle of a two-inning, four-run performance and the closer, who 11 months earlier recorded the final four outs of the Arizona Wildcats' national championship win, was lost.
"I was on that mound and extremely confused," Troupe said. "I had no plan. I wasn't throwing strikes. I wasn't being aggressive. I wasn't doing any of the things that a pitcher needs to do to be successful."
Troupe walked seven batters the next weekend at Arizona State over three appearances and recorded just three total outs. He finished the season with respectable numbers - a 6-0 record with a 3.29 ERA and nine saves, but it wasn't the sophomore season Troupe was expecting.
"I know I have the stuff to be successful," Troupe said. "I just haven't attacked the zone the way I need to. It's not a fear factor. I've pitched in the College World Series. I just tend to lose it, and I lost it.
"I know it's there; I know how good I can be."
Troupe will get a chance to back up his words next season, but it will be in a different role.
The right-hander will move into the starting rotation in 2014, while sophomore-to-be Tyger Talley will shift into the closer's role.
"He needs to work through some control issues, and we're going to put him in a starting opportunity," UA coach Andy Lopez said. "He's going to work on some things in the offseason, and I think he'll be a real asset for us in that role."
Troupe will begin the transition to starter this summer in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League when he suits up for the Orleans Firebirds.
Here are three more storylines to watch during the offseason:
1. The development of the younger players. The Wildcats seem to have a bona fide star in shortstop Kevin Newman. Like Troupe, Newman will spend the summer in the Cape Cod League.
Newman still has two years to improve and will likely be a middle-of-the-order bat for the Wildcats for the next two seasons.
Lopez said he likes the class that just completed its freshman season. Combine Newman with outfielders Zach Gibbons (49 starts, .320 batting average, 33 runs) and Scott Kingery (30 starts, .261 batting average, 22 runs) and pitchers Cody Moffett (3.13 ERA in 37 1/3 innings) and Talley (3.82 ERA in 33 innings), and Lopez thinks he has a solid foundation to build around.
Gibbons and Kingery will stay in Tucson to try to bulk up, and Moffett will play in the Alaska Baseball League.
"I'm excited these guys will be a year older," Lopez said. "These guys have been here for one year and didn't make it to the postseason. I'm excited to use that as motivation."
That group will team with 2013 sophomores Tyler Crawford, Joe Maggi, Riley Moore and Trent Gilbert to give the Wildcats a solid foundation.
2. Surviving the draft. Lopez likes the group of incoming freshmen but may end up losing some of them in this week's Major League Baseball draft.
The biggest concerns are Colorado high school third baseman Bobby Dalbec, ranked as the 287th-best draft prospect by Baseball America; junior college left-handed pitcher Thomas Pannone, ranked No. 357; California high school second baseman Willie Calhoun, ranked No. 386; and California high school right-handed pitcher Billy Roth, ranked No. 421.
"You can't control that stuff," Lopez said. "We're recruiting just in case they do go."
The Wildcats also figure to lose current players Konner Wade, Brandon Dixon and Johnny Field. Pitcher James Farris could also depart.
3. A tougher schedule? Arizona's strength of schedule was 58th-best in the country this year and played a role in the team's RPI being lower than desired.
Next year's nonconference slate appears to be stronger.
Lopez and the Wildcats will open the season at home against Kent State, a 2012 College World Series team. Mississippi State, Seton Hall and Long Beach State will also pay visits to Hi Corbett Field in 2014.
The UA will also travel to UC-Irvine for a midweek series early in the season.
"The RPI is an interesting thing," Lopez said. "We think this schedule should help us with it."
Where some of the Arizona Wildcats will spend their summers:
Cape Cod Baseball League
LHP Tyler Crawford, Orleans Firebirds
2B Trent Gilbert, Bourne Braves
1B/OF Joe Maggi, Falmouth Commodores
C Riley Moore, Orleans Firebirds
SS Kevin Newman, Falmouth Commodores
RHP Mat Troupe, Orleans Firebirds
Alaska Baseball League
RHP Nathan Bannister, Alaska Goldpanners
LHP Cody Moffett, Alaska Goldpanners
California Collegiate League
IF/OF Cody Ramer, Conejo Oaks
West Coast League
RHP Jesse Scholtens, Bend (Ore.) Elks
Staying in Tucson to work with the strength and conditioning staff
C Jordan Berger
OF Zach Gibbons
OF Scott Kingery
1B Ryan Koziol
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at 573-4330 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @DSBerk