Win and they're in: GCU opens WAC Tournament as #1 seed

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GCU Coach Andy Stankiewicz has lead the Lopes to the No. 1 seed at the WAC Tournament staring Thursday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) GCU Coach Andy Stankiewicz has lead the Lopes to the No. 1 seed at the WAC Tournament staring Thursday. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

It’s really simple for head coach Andy Stankiecwz’s Grand Canyon University Lopes: Win and they’re in. GCU opens the WAC Tournament on Thursday at Hohokam Park as the top seed.

“It's really exciting,” said Jake Wong, who will start the Lopes WAC Tournament opener. “This is something that we've all worked for all year to have that opportunity to possibly advance to an NCAA Regional.”

“It’s going to be big for us,” said Quinn Cotton, shortly before he found out he was named WAC Player of the Year. “We’ve had these days circled on our calendars for almost four years now."

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Joining Cotton with WAC honors is his coach, Stankiewicz. The former Yankees, Expos, Astros and D-backs infielder is in his seventh season at GCU. 

Most of his team committed to playing at the school before the new ballpark was built and the team was eligible for the postseason. GCU had to go through a four-year probationary period with the NCAA to move up to Division I. A WAC Tournament title would mark the completion of a bold vision.

“I'm really grateful for a lot of these young men who were willing to walk away from other schools who were already postseason eligible to say, I want to come here and build from foundation up,” said Stankiewicz, who won Coach of the Year in 2017, when his team couldn’t go to the postseason.

He’ll give the ball to Wong to open the WAC Tournament in Mesa on Thursday. Wong went to high school at Chandler Hamilton, making the moment on Thursday extra special.

"I've got quite a few people asking for tickets. Grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, there's going to be a lot of people,” said Wong, who tied for the conference lead with six wins. “I'm sure I'll have a bunch of friends, lot of eyes on me. They've helped me get to this point and looking forward to the opportunity to show them what I've got."

With a WAC Tournament title, the Lopes will get a chance to tell their story to the entire country.

"Everybody from Grand Canyon takes a lot in saying, ‘If you haven't heard of it, I'm sorry but you're going to hear from us soon,'” said Cotton, who was asked about GCU’s emergence last summer while playing in the Alaskan League. “The secret is getting out there. I think if we get into the NCAA Tournament and make some noise people are definitely going to know."

The Lopes need three wins to punch their ticket to the dance.

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