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Arizona Wildcats baseball team ranked 18th

The defending national champions will open the 2013 season at No. 18 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.

Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

The Arizona Wildcats are the defending national champions, but they aren't favored to repeat, or even close to it. The Wildcats are ranked No. 18 in the Collegiate Baseball poll, the first major preseason ranking to be released for 2013.

Arizona has some good pieces returning from last year's team, notably the Pac-12's batting champion Johnny Field and one of last year's best freshman Riley Moore, but they have some holes to fill. Kurt Heyer is gone, leaving a gaping hole on Friday nights that Konner Wade will be asked to fill, while the departures of Robert Refsnyder, Alex Mejia and Seth Mejias-Brean will put a dent in the offense.

What will make things especially tough on the Wildcats is the strength of the Pac-12. UCLA is ranked No. 5 in the Collegiate Baseball poll, while Oregon, Stanford and Oregon St. are all top-10 teams as well. Rival Arizona St. checks in at No. 16. If Arizona can once again claim the conference title they shared with the Bruins in 2012, they will have to put things together quickly and be clicking by mid-March, when they open Pac-12 play with series versus Oregon St. and Oregon.

The 2013 season gets underway on February 15 against Coppin St. at Hi Corbett Field, where the Wildcats will honor their 2012 national championship team and take to the field as national champions for the first time in more than 25 years.