James Farris was once exactly where every college baseball pitcher wants to be — at the College World Series, in front of 23,872 fans, starting the most important game of the season.
With the Arizona Wildcats a win away from a national championship, Farris, then a sophomore, delivered 7º brilliant innings, giving up just two hits and one run. The Wildcats beat South Carolina 4-1 for the title and Farris, despite not getting the win, was the hero, out-dueling Gamecocks ace Michael Roth.
“I think about that game and that season every day,” Farris said. “It’s impossible not to. That was a hell of a ride my sophomore season and I’ll never forget it.”
The hope for Farris when he left Omaha’s TD Ameritrade Park that night was that his clutch performance was just the beginning. He had visions of pitching on the same mound the next year, going for back-to-back championships.
Instead, June 25, 2012, was as good as it got for the Gilbert Highland High School product.
After helping the Wildcats win the 2012 national title, Farris has gone 10-11 over the past two seasons. The Wildcats narrowly missed out on the NCAA tournament last season. This year, they’re 20-32 in coach Andy Lopez’s most disappointing season at Arizona.
Tonight, Farris will take the ball for the final start of his UA career as Arizona opens up its final series of the season, a three-game home set against Abilene Christian.
That’s right. Twenty-three months after pitching his team to a national title, Farris will throw his final pitches as a Wildcat against a 17-34 team.
Not every story has a happy ending.
“These last two years were definitely a lot different than I expected,” Farris said. “But going through the lows, you have to work extra hard and I’ve learned a lot about myself. The next time in my career I struggle, I can look back at this experience and see how I got through it. But it hasn’t been a lot of fun.”
Last year, Farris served as the UA’s Saturday starter behind Konner Wade. He went 5-5 with a 4.18 ERA and was drafted by Houston in the 15th round of the draft.
Disappointed by being left out of the NCAA tournament and armed with a desire to complete his degree in regional development and environmental studies, Farris decided to turn down Houston and return to Tucson for his senior year.
“Any decision I make, I’m not going to second-guess,” said Farris, who has one more semester left before he can graduate. “I should have done better this year. I put it on my shoulders that I didn’t. But I don’t regret coming back.”
Farris tossed a shutout last weekend against Cal for just his second Pac-12 win of his senior season. In the league, he’s 2-5 with a 4.08 ERA as the team’s Friday night starter. Overall, he’s 5-6 with a 3.53 ERA.
His numbers are average — if not a couple of ticks above — but Farris’ senior season has primarily been about disappointment.
“He pitched his guts out on a team that wasn’t very good,” Lopez said.