Grand Canyon University won its first WAC conference tournament title last Saturday and looks to make noise in the NCAA Tournament as they face the No. 5 seeded Arizona Wildcats.
It was not an easy task for GCU this past weekend.
The Lopes flirted with elimination and had to come back from down three runs in the first round to the New Mexico State Aggies, and in the championship to the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. However, GCU won both games 5-4, securing them the WAC title.
“We have been coming from behind all year especially with two outs, it is nothing new to us,” Freshman Dustin Crenshaw said.
Although the Antelopes have won regular-season WAC titles in the past this is their first outright conference tournament win, giving them an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s an exciting time for the program. Although, we have won regular-season titles before it nice to get over that hump and win the WAC tournament outright,” Coach Andy Stankiewicz said. “We are looking forward to playing Arizona in the regional and see where we can go from there.”
Not only do the Lopes get an automatic bid to the big dance for winning the WAC tournament. The Lopes also will also get to use the title as a way of rivaling schools like ASU and U of A when it comes to battling it out for recruits in the off-season.
“Winning the WAC helps a ton especially in the State of Arizona where there are recruits everywhere and having to battle for those recruits with schools like Arizona State or Arizona makes that task harder. This can allow us to show recruits that you can be successful here on and off the field,” Coach Stankiewicz said.
In a COVID-19 plagued year, traditional ways of succeeding can go out the window. According to Coach Stankiewicz, the leadership of this team was one of the most pivotal parts in the team’s success and guidance through the obstacles that they faced this year.
“The leadership of this team is very important to its success; it takes all the guys coming back and being a leader for this year. The older guys are able to pass down some leadership and maturity to the younger guys on this team who are playing their first college baseball,” Coach Stankiewicz said.
Although the Lopes have already made history this year, they are looking to make even more as they take on the heavily favored No. 5 Arizona Wildcats in Tucson Friday night.
The Lopes (39-19) and Wildcats (40-15) have squared off twice this season. GCU got the better of the Wildcats in the first meeting 5-4 in ten innings, but then got crushed by Arizona 13-2 in the second meeting.
“Arizona is good, all you have to do is look at their history and recent records in account to see that,” Coach Stankiewicz said. “I think going to Tucson is good for us though because we don’t have to travel by plane and instead take a bus there. You can’t beat yourself in these games we have to throw strikes and we cannot afford to walk batters if we do that we are going to be in a tough spot. We know they are going to score runs, but we got to play smart baseball.”
Grand Canyon versus Arizona will take place Friday at 7 p.m. in Tucson live on ESPN3.