UA Baseball Set For Opening Weekend
Feb. 18, 2010
Utah Valley at Arizona
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium
Series Schedule/Probable Starting Pitchers
Some Series Themes: The Wildcats and Wolverines each open their respective seasons this weekend, along with the rest of the nation … The Wildcats have won all eight meetings between the two teams in a series that started in 2005 … Arizona will test its mettle with one of the youngest squads in the nation, welcoming a total of 22 new players not on last year’s roster, including 20 who could see their first Division I action (Jacob Meskin and Grayson Adams return to the program after a year’s hiatus) … The Wildcats have a Pac-10 high of 17 freshmen on the roster, 11 of which are pitchers … The Wolverines are on the young side themselves, with 21 freshman or sophomores … Both squads hope to carry over solid seasons at the plate, after UA’s .314 average checked in second-best in the Pac-10 year ago while UVU hit an impressive .329 … Perhaps pitching could be something to watch for as both clubs struggled on the mound a season ago, but hope a year’s experience for pitchers will bring more promising results in the new decade … Friday’s 6 p.m. start time is the first of many on the season for season openers at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium, as UA has bumped a majority of its Friday start times to 6 p.m. … UA opens the season with 26-consectuive home games while UVU starts its season with seven straight away from its home city of Orem, Utah.
2,500-Win Club: Arizona’s first win this season will be the Wildcats’ 2,500th win as a program dating back to their first season in 1904. Only six other schools have reached the milestone, including Fordham (4,022 wins in 149 seasons), Texas (3,147 in 113 seasons), Southern California (2,645 in 115 seasons), Michigan (2,629 in 136 seasons), Stanford (2,589 in 116 seasons) and Arizona State (2,585 in 98 seasons). Good company for sure.
Set Up Shop: Starting on Friday, the Wildcats will play 26 games in the span of 38 days – all right at home in the friendly confines of Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium. Jumping ahead to the second weekend of the season against Long Beach State (Feb. 26-28), UA will then play 23 games in 31 days, a total of just eight off days over the next month as mid-week series commence.
Starting Fast: After opening the 2009 season with a 2-1 series victory against Sacramento State, the Wildcats have won 15 straight opening weekend series dating back to 1995 and have gone 37-9 on the first weekend of the year during this span ... Dating back 1994, Arizona is 14-2 on Opening Day with the lone losses coming to BYU in 2003 and at Georgia in 2008 ... Under ninth-year head coach Andy Lopez, UA is 20-4 all-time on opening weekend and has won six of eight season-opening games.
Home Sweet Home: The Arizona Wildcats open the 2010 season with 26-consectuive home games to be played at Jerry Kindall Field. That’s right, the Cats don’t hit the road until their Pac-10 opener at California on April 1 – and that’s no April Fools’ joke. It’s the longest stretch of home games in over 30 years for Arizona, which has stretches of 11 (2002) and 16 games (1998) to open seasons in recent years. The 1979 club opened its season with 24-straight games, but even that pales in comparison to the school’s longest streak. In 1967, the Wildcats hosted 39 home games before ever going on the road. As it relates to this year’s group, the Wildcats hope to continue success at home. Since the current Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium opened in 1967, the Wildcats have emerged victorious in 1,060 games overall, having won nearly 70 percent of the games played. UA has posted 39 home winning seasons since 1967 with an average of 25 wins per year at the field. In 1974 the Wildcats were nearly perfect in Tucson, posting a 37-1 home record, and they went 28-4 at home in 2007 to record the best home winning percentage (.875) since 1976.
Young Cats: With only two seniors and 17 freshmen, Arizona is the youngest team in the Pac-10 conference this season. In fact, the Wildcats have 23 underclassmen on their roster, which doesn’t include three junior college transfers to the program. A look around the rosters at other league schools finds that UCLA and California have 15 freshmen apiece. While the Conference is thin on seniors at most every school, only Oregon State has as few seniors as the Wildcats do.
Mix and Match: Do not be surprised to see head coach Andy Lopez mix and match his lineup over the first several weeks of the season. The Wildcats have a lot of young but inexperienced talent on the roster and players will need to prove themselves in game situations to earn their spots throughout the season. With multiple options at nearly every position on the field, flexibility is benefit that Lopez and his staff rarely had a year ago.
Flying Under the Radar: Since Andy Lopez took over the Arizona baseball program the Wildcats have made a return to the national scene. After disappearing nationally nearly all together from 1994-2001, Arizona has made five postseason appearances (2003-05, 2007-08) in the last seven seasons, has played for four regional championships (2004-05, 2007-08) – winning two of them (2004 and 2008), won a super regional title (2004), and made its 15th trip to Omaha (2004). Impressive feats on that very basic level, but when you factor in that UA still hasn’t hosted a postseason game at home since 1992, the simple fact that Lopez and Wildcats have been able to achieve so much on the road makes it just that more impressive.
The “Veterans”: Look at this year’s roster and you’ll find exactly two seniors: Nogales, Ariz., native Rafael Valenzuela and Grayson Adams. Valenzuela is a multi-talented player who can play essentially any position on the field, while Adams rejoins the program after missing last season following Tommy John surgery that kept him out of baseball. Bryce Ortega leads the junior class returning after a First Team All-Pac-10 season a year ago. It is interesting to note that coaches may slide Ortega to second base with the emergence of freshman Alex Mejia as a masterful defensive shortstop. Redshirt junior Daniel Workman should team with sophomore Kyle Simon to lead the starting pitching staff. Sophomores Jett Bandy and Steve Selsky return after impressive freshman seasons that earned them Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-America accolades. Bandy has moved back to his natural position of catcher while Selsky will anchor the right field position.
New Coaches: Head Coach Andy Lopez has introduced two new coaches to the program. Sean Cole, who served as the baseball operations director last season, as assumed an assistant coaching position this season and he will work with the pitching staff. Brett Scyphers, a former player under Lopez in the 2005-06 seasons before becoming a three-year team manager, has been named the volunteer assistant coach. The duo brings a youthful combination of playing experience and baseball knowledge that hits home with players. Both officially joined the program prior to the start of the fall practice season.
Mr. Versatility: One of the Cats’ two seniors on the team is Rafael Valenzuela, whose position may change on nearly a daily basis. A Nogales, Ariz., native, Valenzuela has the skills to play any position on the infield or find a home in the corners in the outfield as he has done in each of the last two seasons on occasion. Valenzuela saw spot action at first base a year ago and may see more time there this season in addition to his more natural spots at second base or even third base. The senior could even be considered UA’s emergency catcher should the Cats need to go more than two-deep at the position in a game.
Selsky Back: A year ago, freshman Steve Selsky was one of UA's top hitters during his first month of Division I baseball. In early March, his average was as high as .382 after nine games. But, his early season success fizzled out and he saw his average drop to .243 by April 10. However, Selsky bounced back to become one of Arizona's top hitters, batting .385 in his last 24 games with 21 runs scored and five of his seven total home runs coming during the stretch. He collected 30 hits in his last 78 at bats, which raised his average over 70 points to its final .318 mark for the season. Selsky also showed an impressive arm in the field, throwing out five runners from his left and right field positions during the season.
Jett Re-Fueled: Like his classmate Selsky, Jett Bandy got off to a hot start, cooled down in the middle of the season, and then turned it on down the stretch of the 2009 season. Bandy approached the .300 mark when he hit .296 on March 11. Two weeks later, Bandy bottomed out at .243 on March 27. But over the last half of the season, Bandy is hit .349 (29-for-83) in the games he played dating back to the Washington State series (April 17-19). Of his 29 base hits, 11 were doubles, which helped him tie teammate Dillon Baird for the top mark on the team and in the Pac-10 with 21 for the season. Bandy also ripped three home runs in his late-season hot streak, in which he had a career-best 12-game hitting streak. On the season, Bandy was hit by a pitch 14 times, which set a new UA freshman record (previously held by Brad Glenn with 12 in 2006). This year, you’ll find Bandy behind the plate at his natural position of catcher.
Welcome Back: The Wildcats welcome back a pair of players who were a part of the program back in 2008. Grayson Adams, a right hand pitcher, and Jacob Meskin, a catcher, are back wearing the red and blue. Last season, Adams took the year off from baseball rehabbing from Tommy John Surgery that forced him to miss his planned senior season. He’ll be back and figure into UA’s pitching plans as a redshirt senior. Meskin transferred to Pima Community College for the 2009 season, where his improved play was noticeable and he’ll challenge for the starting job behind the plate as one of only two catchers on the team.
2009 Quick Review: The Wildcats wrapped up the 2009 season with an overall record of 30-25 and a 13-14 mark in the Pacific-10 Conference, good enough to tie for fifth in the league ... Arizona made a late-season push for a third-consecutive NCAA tournament bid by winning 14 of its last 20 games overall and 10 of its final 12 Pac-10 contests, but missed out on postseason play for just the second time in the last seven seasons ... The Wildcats led the Pac-10 in batting average (.314), and ranked second in slugging percentage (.487) and runs scored (419) ... Dillon Baird captured the Pac-10 batting crown finishing the season with the eight-best single season average in league history (.433) ... Baird, a finalist for the Pac-10 Player of the Year Award, was joined by Dwight Childs and Bryce Ortega on the All-Conference team.
2009 Offensive Review: After consecutive seasons in which the UA pitching staff turned in record-breaking season performances, it was the Cats' bats that carried them in 2009 ... Arizona scored 419 runs (7.62 runs per game) on the season - second most in the conference ... The Wildcats led the Pac-10 in hitting with a .314 team average and checked in second in slugging with a .487 average ... Arizona hit a conference-best 133 doubles on the season, the most for a UA club since 2005 (153) and the 10th-most in the last 50 years ... The club's .314 batting average is the highest since the 2005 season (.328) and the seventh-best for a UA team since 1990 ... Interestingly, Arizona batters were hit by a pitch 74 times on the season, a mark that ties for third most in program history. But, the Wildcats drew the fewest walks in school history - 177.
2009 Pitching Review: A year after losing five of the top seven pitchers on its staff - including two in the first round of the '08 MLB draft - a significant drop-off was nearly inevitable for Arizona as 10 of its 13 pitchers were either freshmen or sophomores with no more than 15 combined innings pitched ... The result was a bumpy first half of the season as the Wildcats struggled to settle on a weekend rotation behind Preston Guilmet while also having to piece together a mid-week staff ... UA pitchers struck out just 379 hitters on the season, the fewest since 2003 (345) ... The 355 runs allowed were also the most allowed since 2003 (367), while the 5.46 staff ERA was the highest since 2000 (7.48) ... No Wildcat tossed a complete game, marking the first time since 1998 and only the second time in school history a pitcher did not throw a complete game ... The staff was able to turn things around down the stretch helping UA in its late-season surge. In the last 15 Pac-10 games, the UA staff turned in a 4.12 ERA, limiting opponents to just a .255 average to go along with 103 strikeouts in 133.1 innings against just 47 walks.
2009 Draft Recap: One year after seeing a school-record 11 players drafted in the 2008 draft - including two first round selections - a total of six Wildcats were selected in 2009, including seniors Preston Guilmet and Brad Glenn, who each turned down professional from the '08 draft ... The two seniors were joined by classmate Cory Burns, and juniors Dwight Childs, Dillon Baird and Jason Stoffel ... All-time, 206 Arizona baseball players have been drafted, including 67 in the last 11 seasons. Of the 206 selections, 54 have been taken in the first five rounds ... The six draftees in 2009 push Arizona's total draftees to 39 under head coach Andy Lopez, who took over the program in 2002.
Pos. Player Organization Round (Overall)
RHP Jason Stoffel Detroit Tigers 4th (114)
RHP Cory Burns Cleveland Indians 8th (245)
RHP Preston Guilmet Cleveland Indians 9th (275)
1B/3B Dillon Baird L.A. Angels 11th (351)
C Dwight Childs Cleveland Indians 18th (545)
IF/OF Brad Glenn Toronto Blue Jays 22nd (700)
On Deck: The Wildcats will take Monday off before returning to the practice field Tuesday-Thursday to gear up for an early season clash with regional power Long Beach State. The three-game series will begin on Friday, Feb. 26, at 6 p.m. at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium.
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