Cats To Clash With No. 18 Titans
March 4, 2010
No. 18 Cal State Fullerton at Arizona
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium
Series Schedule/Probable Starting Pitchers
Some Series Themes: Arizona and Cal State Fullerton meet for what has become an annual series over the years, with the two storied programs having met every year since 2003 … Interestingly, Arizona traveled to Fullerton in 2003 for an NCAA regional, but two losses by the Cats (13-5 to Notre Dame and 5-2 to San Diego) prevented a UA-CSF matchup which would have added another year to the stretch of meeting … The traditionally strong Cal State Fullerton pitching staff is stout again, although early season numbers don’t necessarily reflect that as only projected Sunday starter Tyler Pill has a win to his credit and the team is 3-4 overall … Arizona hits .314 as a team, but opponents hit just .259 against Titan pitching, while UA’s staff has limited opposing batters to a .268 clip … Surely Arizona’s pitching will be tested again by a Big West program even though the Titans enter with a .236 team batting average. A low BA did not stop Long Beach State from hitting the UA pitching pretty well last weekend … The Wildcats have outscored teams 59-43 on the season (thanks in large part to a 18-1 victory over Utah Valley earlier), while the Titans have actually been outscored by the competition, 35-31 … Wildcat pitchers have issued just 23 walks in 68.0 innings pitched, while the Titans have a strikingly similar 22 walks in 63.0 innings pitched … Keep an eye on the bases as the Wildcats are 13-for-16 in stolen base attempts and the Titans 13-for-14 on the season.
UNLV Series Recap: The Wildcats dropped Game 1, 12-10, but left the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning with the tying and winning runs on base … Arizona outlasted the Rebels a day later, 5-4, in 13 innings as Alex Mejia’s sacrifice bunt turned into a throwing error and Bobby Brown came across with the winning run … In that second game, the Wildcats rallied with two runs in the bottom of the 12th to re-tie the game at 4-4 … Jett Bandy and Las Vegas native Joey Rickard provided the two RBI singles in the inning … Bandy continued his hot start at the plate, going 7-for-10 in the series with three runs scored … Bobby Rinard (LF) and Ethan Chavez (DH) picked up their first career starts in the series on Wednesday and each scored a run … Nine Wildcat pitchers appeared in the series, with freshmen Nick Cunningham and Tyler Hale seeing action in both games … Joe Allison saw his first action of the year and picked up the win on Wednesday with three strikeouts in 1.2 innings … Arizona out-hit the Rebels .300-.226 in the series, but was outscored 16-15 overall.
2,500-Win Club: Arizona’s 8-1 season-opening victory over Utah Valley was the 2,500th win as a program dating back to its first season in 1904. Only six other schools have reached the milestone, including Fordham (4,022 wins in 149 seasons), Texas (3,151 in 113 seasons), Southern California (2,648 in 115 seasons), Michigan (2,631 in 136 seasons), Stanford (2,592 in 116 seasons) and Arizona State (2,592 in 98 seasons). Good company for sure.
Miscellaneous Diamond Notes: A total of 14 different Wildcats have scored runs through seven games, while 12 have collected at least one RBI … Arizona’s pitching staff has yet to record a save in its four victories … Eight Wildcats have at least one sacrifice hit, led by Alex Mejia’s two … The Wildcats have committed a Pac-10-leading five balks … Arizona has walked two more times (34) than it has struck out (32) … UA has scored 30 runs in the first three innings of games but just 29 in the final six innings … Daniel Workman (4 BB, 2 SO) is the only UA pitcher who has more walks allowed than strikeouts, a list that includes 13 players who have pitched thus far … The 13-inning game against UNLV on March 3 was the longest game (by innings played) that Arizona had played since a 13-inning loss at California on April 1, 2006, which was the second game of a doubleheader … Steve Selsky and Jett Bandy each have five two-hit games on the season … Joey Rickard leads the Cats with four multi-RBI games … Robert Refnsyder has hit safely in all seven games … Bryce Ortega (leadoff) and Alex Mejia (No. 9) are the only two starters to appear in the same batting order spot in all seven games.
Heyer Standards: Arizona freshman pitcher Kurt Heyer set the bar pretty high for himself in his collegiate debut. He was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week and one of “Louisville Slugger’s” National Player’s of the week as announced by Collegiate Baseball for his effort against Utah Valley. Additionally, CollegeBaseballInsider.com named Heyer as its West Region Pitcher of the Week. In just six innings of work, the 6-foot-2 right hander struck out 13 batters, tying for second-most ever in a single game by a UA freshman pitcher. A native of Huntington Beach, Calif., Heyer struck out 13 of the 22 batters he faced, allowing just one run on three hits and only one walk. Heyer’s performance paced the Wildcat pitching staff to 17 strikeouts, the most for a UA staff in a single game since the Wichita Regional opening game against Oral Roberts in 2007. Heyer’s 13 strikeouts were the most for a UA pitcher in over two seasons, dating back to Preston Guilmet’s masterful 15-strikeout performance against Stanford in 2007.
‘K’urt Heyer: Entering this weekend’s action, freshman Kurt Heyer leads all Pac-10 pitchers with 20 strikeouts. Of his 20 strikeouts, seven have been looking, which checks in second in the league. Heyer’s arm has accounted for 20 of UA’s 67 strikeouts as a team (29.8 percent) despite throwing just 17 percent of UA’s innings as a team.
Set Up Shop: The Wildcats are in the midst of a season-long homestand in which it will play 23 games in 31 days, a total of just eight off days over the next month as mid-week series commence. Counting UA’s opening weekend series against Utah Valley, the Cats play 26 games in 38 days to open the season.
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.
Clean Takeoff: Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jett Bandy has been UA’s top offensive performer in the team’s first seven games. Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 doubles a year ago, is the club leader in average (.485), slugging (.848) and on-base percentage (.514). He also leads in runs (12), hits (16), home runs (3) and is tied with Joey Rickard in RBI (11). Just as impressive, in 33 official at-bats, Bandy has struck out only once on the season. For his career, Bandy has struck out just 20 times in 197 at-bats, or once every 10 at-bats. Pretty good figures for a power bat in the lineup.
Carry Over: Jett Bandy’s hot start to 2010 can be traced back to the second half of the 2009 season when he was one of UA’s steadiest offensive weapons. Including the final 22 games he played as a freshman, Bandy is hitting a robust .388 (45-for-116) with nearly half of his hits going for extra bases (14 2B, 6 HR). In the 29-game span, Bandy has collected 31 RBI and scored 25 runs. As a freshman, Bandy earned freshman All-American recognition by Collegiate Baseball and set a UA record for freshmen by being hit by a pitch 14 times. He has yet to be plunked in 2010.
Strikeout Facts: Arizona pitchers have record 67 strikeouts in 68.0 innings pitched, a significant improvement in the ration from last year’s numbers when the staff struck out 379 in 486.1 innings pitched. At the same time, the UA staff is issuing fewer walks. In 2009, UA pitchers struck out 1.76 hitters for every walk allowed; In 2010, that number has jumped to 2.9 strikeouts for every walk. A big part of that turnaround has been Kurt Heyer’s first two outings in which he has a Pac-10 leading 20 strikeouts but just one walk. Bryce Bandilla has 13 strikeouts and just three walks in his first three appearances.
.300 Club: Through seven games, the Wildcats are hitting .314 as a team, in line with recent UA clubs that have finished the season around that mark. In fact, Arizona’s last seven teams have hit .300 or better for the season. The best figures were turned in by the 2003 and 2005 clubs, which each hit .328 respectively. Last year’s ’09 team was next in line with a .314 average. The 2004 College World Series team hit .305 as did the 2006 team. The Wildcat clubs of 2007 (.306) and 2008 (.301) also were above .300.
Instant Impact: Perhaps no freshman position player has had a greater overall impact for the Wildcats than centerfielder Joey Rickard. In his first seven collegiate games, Rickard has compiled a .367 average (11-for-30) and the team’s second highest slugging percentage (.667) thanks to a double, a triple and two home runs. He leads the team with four stolen bases and is tied with Jett Bandy for the most RBI (11). A native of Las Vegas, Rickard delivered a two-out, run-scoring single to left field against UNLV on March 3 to tie the game at 4-4 in the 12th inning before UA eventually won in the 13th.
No R&R for RR: Rest and relaxation has not been a luxury for UA freshman Robert Refsnyder, who has started six of UA’s seven games. A native of Laguna Hills, Calif., Refsnyder has seen action at three different positions, including four starts in left field and two at third base. On several occasions he moved to first base in late innings of game from one of his previous positions. The shuffling in the field has not rattled his approach at the plate however. Refsnyder is hitting .423 with eight runs and six RBI and has hit safely in all seven games for the Wildcats.
Unselfish Play: Arizona’s 5-4 victory in 13 innings over UNLV on March 3 included a record-tying performance by the Wildcats. UA executed five different sacrifice bunt plays to move runners up, tying the school single-game record previously establish at California on April 1, 2006. Interestingly, that game also lasted 13 innings. The last of this year’s five sacrifice hits proved to be the game winner as Alex Mejia successfully put a bunt down with a runner a second and an errant throw to first allowed the winning run to come in to score from second.
It’s a Matter of Time: Each of Arizona’s last four games has lasted at least 3:50, with the Feb. 27 game against Long Beach State falling just two minutes shy of the four-hour mark. The 3:58 game is the longest of the season for the Wildcats, whose games are lasting on average 3:26. Interestingly, UA’s opening weekend series against Utah Valley zipped along with all three games checking in under three hours despite an extra innings game and an 18-1 win for the Cats. This weekend’s opponent, Cal State Fullerton, is averaging 3:03 for time of play with a season-long game time of 3:29 against Oregon in the season opener.
MLB Players: Arizona has a rich tradition in baseball and the excellence has continued well into the Andy Lopez era, evidenced by the number of former Wildcats who play in the major leagues. In 2009, 10 different Wildcats – eight coached by Lopez – played at the highest level of baseball. Here’s the list: Brian Anderson (CWS, BOS), Trevor Crowe (CLE), Shelley Duncan (NYY), Trevor Hoffman (MIL), Nick Hundley (SD), Mark Melancon (NYY), John Meloan (OAK), Brad Mills (TOR), Ryan Perry (DET) and Daniel Schlereth (AZ).
Familiar Faces: Despite having one of the youngest clubs in the nation, the Wildcat lineup last weekend featured some familiar faces that showed experience can pay of. Senior Rafael Valenzuela and sophomores Jett Bandy and Steve Selsky got off to excellent starts offensively in the first two weeks. Selsky checks in second on the team in batting average (.424) and has scored six runs and collected six RBI. Valenzuela is hitting .375, scored seven runs and batted in eight, including five two-out RBI. Bandy meanwhile hit a home run in each game of the opening series and leads the team with in runs scored (12) and is tied in RBI (11).
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.
Home Sweet Home: The Arizona Wildcats are in the midst of a 26-game homestand to open the season 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 1,063 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.
Wildcat Debuts: A handful of Wildcats made their debuts in the Utah Valley series … Most notable, perhaps, was freshman RHP Kurt Heyer, who got the win in his first start and was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week … Freshman CF Joey Rickard turned in an impressive opening weekend, going 7-for-12 at the plate with three runs and four RBI. He hit his first career home run … Freshman OF/INF Robert Refsnyder got a pair of starts in left field and hit .333 at the plate … Freshman SS Alex Mejia helped lead the Wildcats defensive and collected two RBI and two runs scored while batting .300 in his first series … Freshmen Seth Mejias-Brean and Cole Frenzel split time starting at third base … Junior college transfers Josh Garcia and Jacob Meskin (played at UA in ’08) also saw time as starters at DH and catcher, respectively, while OF Bobby Rinard appeared in one game … Freshman RHp Stephen Manthei turned in a strong long-relief appearance on Sunday, going 4.1 innings of shutout baseball … Freshman set-up men Nick Cunningham and Tyler Hale took over for Heyer late in Friday’s game and looked solid, while Mark Hawkenson pitched one shutout inning on the weekend.
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.
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.
On Deck: The Wildcats will continue their season-long 26-game homestand to open the year as they host St. Joseph’s in a two-game series beginning on Tuesday, March 9. Game 1 will begin on Tuesday at 5 p.m. with Game 2 on Wednesday at 1 p.m.