Arizona coach Andy Lopez shared a handshake and a hug with South Carolina’s Ray Tanner after his team clinched a national title Monday. Soon after, Lopez was gushing, at every opportunity, about the Gamecocks in media interviews.
Sincere words from Lopez, too. He called Michael Roth a “legend.” And SC’s closer, Matt Price? “My God,” Lopez said, rendered speechless.
Not that the Wildcats needed any validation for what they accomplished this year — they just won a CWS title! — but taking down the two-time defending champs along the way adds some significance to the moment for Lopez and his players.
They knocked off South Carolina in the same (seemingly magical) fashion that the Gamecocks won the past two championships — timely hitting, efficient defense and dominating pitching. Arizona made the clutch plays. Beat SC at its own game.
“It probably means a heck of a lot more for me personally for us to have won this national championship against Ray because I know what he’s done there in the time that he’s been there,” Lopez said.
Lopez has accomplished plenty in his career, too.
He’s only the second Division I coach in NCAA history to win a national title at two different schools (Augie Garrido’s the other). Lopez led Pepperdine to the championship in 1992. He also took Florida to the CWS twice.
In CWS history, his two title-winning teams both rank in the top four for team ERA during CWS play.
Lopez, probably overly humble, deserves much of the credit for this Wildcat championship, even if he’ll deflect it. Listening to him speak Monday night, though, it wasn’t hard to tell that this season was a thoroughly satisfying one. And it ended quite triumphantly.
“We were fortunate to win against an outstanding pitching staff and an outstanding program,” Lopez said.