OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Arizona doesn't plan on being a one-year wonder even though the catalysts for the Wildcats' first national championship since 1986 probably are heading off to professional baseball in the next few weeks.
Coach Andy Lopez said a strong group of freshmen and sophomores on this year's 48-17 team is capable of offsetting the expected departures of junior stars like Alex Mejia, Robert Refsnyder and Kurt Heyer.
In addition to the promising returning personnel, Lopez said, Arizona has an intangible working in its favor: confidence.
The Wildcats' 11th-year coach said the good vibes his Pepperdine team carried into the next season after winning the 1992 national title elevated the play of both veterans and newcomers.
"We lost a ton of guys. People were thinking we weren't going to be very good," Lopez said Tuesday. "We won 43 games and made it to the (regional) championship game in Tempe, playing for the right to come back to Omaha.
"I don't believe you can put a value or a number on that experience that you gain in playing Florida State and UCLA and South Carolina in front of 24,000 people in Omaha. There won't be a day that goes by that the guys we have coming back won't reflect on that. I think what happened is really going to help the guys we have coming back."
So, can the Wildcats repeat?
"You'll have to ask Ray Tanner. He has the lock on that," Lopez said, referring to the coach whose South Carolina team had its bid for three straight national titles end with Arizona's 4-1 victory in Game 2 of theCollege World Seriesfinals Monday.
The undisputed leaders of Arizona's 2012 team were the juniors, guys who joined the program after the Wildcats failed to make the 2009 NCAA tournament.
As freshmen in 2010, they went three games and out in regionals. Last year, they lost to Texas A&M in the regional final.
This year the Wildcats won a Pac-12 co-championship and all 10 of their games in the NCAA tournament, sweeping South Carolina in the best-of-three finals.
Arizona never trailed in any of its five CWS games. Texas in 1949 (three games) and LSU in 1991 (four games) are the only other teams to make it through a CWS without playing from behind.
Overall, the Wildcats won their final 11 games and 18 of their last 20.
"I think it's no secret the juniors, they're the main contributors throughout the season," said freshman second baseman Trent Gilbert, who broke open Monday's game with a two-run single in the ninth inning.
Slick-fielding shortstop Alex Mejia established himself as one of the best in the nation and was drafted in the fourth round by the St. Louis Cardinals.
CWS Most Outstanding Player Robert Refsnyder, taken in the fifth round by the New York Yankees, batted .476 (10 for 21) with two homers, five RBIs and six runs scored in Omaha. He also threw out Adam Matthews when he tried to go from first to third on a single in the first game of the finals.
Heyer, a sixth-round pick of the Cardinals, led the nation with 13 wins and 153 innings, and he pitched complete games in seven of his 19 starts.
Arizona's staff had a 1.13 ERA at the CWS (eight runs in 48 innings) and 1.91 ERA (20 runs in 94 innings) in the NCAA tournament.
The Wildcats' starters went at least 7 1-3 innings in every game of the NCAA tournament.
Third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean (eighth round, Reds) and center fielder Joey Rickard (ninth round, Rays) are other juniors who probably will sign pro contracts.
The Wildcats also lose senior designated hitter Bobby Brown, one of five players who batted .348 or better for the season.
There is ample talent returning, though.
Sophomore left fielder Johnny Fielder batted a team-leading .370.
Four freshmen played major roles. Joseph Maggi established himself at first base in the second half of the season and shared time with Brandon Dixon, who had the tie-breaking hit in the ninth inning Monday. Riley Moore started all but three games at catcher and Gilbert all but one game at second base.
The pitching staff returns sophomores Konner Wade, whose last three starts were complete-game victories, and James Farris, who limited South Carolina to two hits in 7 2-3 innings Monday. The top two relievers, Game 2 winner Mathew Troupe and Tyler Crawford, were both freshmen.
"I like the core of pitching we have returning," Lopez said. "We're going to be young at some of the positions. We have a chance to be pretty good on the mound with Wade, Farris, Troupe, Tyler Crawford and a couple of guys you didn't see pitch in Omaha."
The Wildcats lost their top recruit, right-handed pitcher Brady Lail of Salt Lake City, who accepted a $225,000 signing bonus from the New York Yankees last week after getting drafted in the 18th round.
Lopez also is waiting to see what second baseman Jackson Willeford of Ramona, Calif., will do after being drafted in the 12th round by Kansas City. The signing deadline is July 15.
Twelve newcomers are expected to join the Wildcats in 2013, and Lopez already has a heralded future recruit in high school All-America first baseman Michael Hoard of Tucson, who has pledged to sign with Arizona for 2015.
"To see the program in the hands of young guys like this," Refsnyder said, "it's very promising for Arizona. And for young guys in high school to see Arizona on the main stage and to win a national championship, that can only help recruiting."