UA-UNC Open Three-Game Set Today
March 12, 2010
Northern Colorado at Arizona
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium
Series Schedule/Probable Starting Pitchers
Some Series Themes: The Wildcats (8-4), fresh off a Wednesday double-header sweep of Saint Joseph’s, host a Northern Colorado club (3-5) that is fully rested after no mid-week games since splitting four games at the Bearkat Invitiational in Huntsville, Texas, last weekend … UA continues its 26-game homestand, while the visiting Bears have yet to play a home game … The Wildcats shuffle their weekend rotation again for the back half of the series, bumping Daniel Workman to Saturday and adding Bryce Bandilla on Sunday … UNC’s starters – James Quisenberry (0-1, 6.97), Joe Sawicki (1-0, 3.00) and Joe Willman (2.70) – have been steadying arms for the staff that has a 5.62 team ERA … The UNC starting trio has pitched over 50 innings on the season and allowed just 27 runs, while the rest of the staff has surrendered 28 runs in half as many innings … At the same time, the Wildcats seek to solidify their bullpen which has been shaky, at times, but resilient, accounting for half of UA’s wins on the season despite no saves … UA will put its .334 team batting average on the table against a UNC team that is seeing its opponents hit .320 on the season … The Bears hit .261 as a team and will see what they can do against the UA staff that has held opponents to a .272 clip through 12 games … Start of Spring Break on the UA campus this weekend.
Series History: Arizona owns a 35-3 advantage in the series that dates back to 1954. The initial meetings saw the Wildcats win a pair of games against UNC (and one against Wyoming) in the District 7 Playoffs held in Greeley, Colo., by scores of 8-2 and 8-5 as UA advanced to the College World Series. The programs last met in 2007 in Tucson, when Arizona swept the series in three games.
St. Joseph’s Series Recap: Tuesday evening series opener against Saint Joseph’s was postponed to Wednesday as rain prior to the start of the game left the field unplayable. The postponement did not slow down the Wildcats, however, as they cruised to a 17-3 victory and Game 1 and rolled 12-2 in Game 2 … Arizona hit .470 as a team in the two games with 14 extra base hits, 13 of which were doubles … Steve Selsky paced the UA offense throughout the day, going 7-for-11 with five runs scored and three RBI … Jett Bandy continued his torrid start to the season with a 4-for-4 game in the opener and finished the day 5-for-8 with four runs scored … UA’s leftfielders – Robert Refsnyder in the first game and Bobby Rinard in the second – combined to hit 6-for-11 in the two games with three runs scored and a pair of RBI … Rafael Valenzuela was an extra base machine, roping four doubles while scoring six runs and driving in four … Vincent Littleman made his first career start and got the win in Game 1, while Bryce Bandilla picked up his second win of the season in a relief role in Game 2 … Augey Bill and Michael Lopez saw the first action of their respective careers on the mound … The UA defense turned a pair of double plays and committed just one error in the series.
Miscellaneous Diamond Notes: UA has rapped out 10 hits or more in a game 10 times this season, while the pitching staff has allowed just two double-digit hit games to opponents … The three extra inning games played by the Cats in 2010 are the most since playing five in 2008 after only one such game in 2009 … The UA pitching staff has yet to pitch a shutout, but has been close on three occasions when it has allowed just one run … UA swiped nine stolen bases (in 10 attempts) against Saint Joseph’s and is now 24-for-29 on the season, second-best in the Pac-10 … After losing three straight games, the Wildcats have now won four straight games, their longest winning streak of the year and the longest since a six-game winning streak near the end of the regular season in 2008 (UA’s longest winning streak in 2009 was three games) … Arizona batters have walked 49 times in 12 games for an average of 4.1 walks per game. Last season, the Wildcats averaged 3.2 walks per game … On the other hand, opposing hitters have walked 36 times in 12 games for an average of 3.0 walks per game compared to 3.9 a season ago … UA is hitting .334 overall, .361 with runners on base, .370 with runners in scoring position and .299 with the bases empty … Eight Wildcats have had hitting streaks of four games or more, led by Robert Refnsyder’s seven-game streak to open the year and Steve Selsk’s current seven-game stretch. Bobby Brown and Seth Mejias-Brean each have five-game streaks going, while Rafael Valenzuela and Bryce Ortega have four-game streaks … UA has played four-consecutive games in under three hours after a five-game stretch of games lasting at least 3:50.
Cats in the Pac: On offense, the Wildcats rank fifth in batting (.3334), fifth in slugging (.476), fourth in on-base percentage (.418), second in runs scored (107), second in triples (6), sixth in home runs (7), third in walks (49) and have the third-fewest strikeouts (62). Individually, Jett Bandy checks in the top-5 of most all categories, including batting (.490, 2nd), slugging (.863, 4th), on base percentage (.559, 2nd), runs scored (19, 1st), hits (25, t-1st), RBI (15, 2nd), doubles (7, 2nd) and home runs (4, t-2nd) … As a pitching staff, UA is seventh in ERA (4.30), eighth in opposing hitting (.272), third in batters struck out (109), and has the fourth-fewest walks (36). Individually, Kurt Heyer is tied for second with 26 strikeouts and leads the league with 12 strikeouts looking. Nick Cunningham is tied for the second-most appearances with seven … Additonally, the Wildcats rank tied for second in the league in double plays (13), have the second-most stolen bases (24), and have been caught stealing the third-fewest amount of times (5), are third in sacrifice bunts (13) and tied for first in sacrifice flies (7).
‘K’urt Heyer: Entering this week’s action, freshman Kurt Heyer is second among all Pac-10 pitchers with 26 strikeouts. Of his 26 strikeouts, 12 have been looking, which checks in tops league. Heyer’s arm has accounted for 26 of UA’s 109 strikeouts as a team (23.8 percent) despite throwing just 14.7 percent of UA’s innings as a team.
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.
Mejias-Brean Recognized: Freshman Seth Mejias-Brean, who had some early-season struggles at the plate, broke out in a big way in the Cal State Fullerton series March 5-7. The third baseman delivered a clutch game-winning single in the 11th inning of the opener and then drove in three runs in the 10-1 series clincher two days later. For his performance, Mejias-Brean was named to the Primetime Performer Weekly Honor Roll by collegebaseball360.com. In his last five games, Mejias-Brean is hitting .462 with nine RBI. He is also without an error in the field.
Clean Takeoff: Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jett Bandy has been UA’s top offensive performer in the team’s first 12 games. Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 doubles a year ago, is the club leader in average (.490), slugging (.863) and on-base percentage (.559). He also leads in runs (19), hits (tied with 25), home runs (4) and RBI (15). Just as impressive, in 51 official at-bats, Bandy has struck out only twice on the season. For his career, Bandy has struck out just 21 times in 215 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 .403 (54-for-134) with nearly half of his hits going for extra bases (18 2B, 7 HR). In the 34-game span, Bandy has collected 35 RBI and scored 32 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 was plunked three times against Cal State Fullerton March 5-7, and is one shy of reaching UA’s career top-10 in the category.
Workmanlike Performance: Arizona junior pitcher Daniel Workman turned in his best performance of the season on March 7 against Cal State Fullerton. The right-hander tossed 6.0+ innings while earning his first victory of the season as he helped UA win the series against Titans in the deciding third game. Workman scattered seven hits and allowed one run, which was unearned. He struck out three batters and did not issue a walk. The performance came on the heels of a mid-week start against UNLV on March 3 in which he did not factor into the decision. In the game against the Rebels, Workman tossed 4.1 innings while working on a limited pitch count. He allowed just one earned run in the game. For the week, Workman pitched 10.1 innings and accumulated a 0.87 ERA.
Double the Fun: The Wildcats have hit at least one double in 11 of the 12 games this season. A year ago, UA hit a double in 52 of 55 games, including the first 30 of the season. Adding in the final two games of 2008, the Wildcats have doubled in 65 of their last 69 games (94 percent). Interestingly, after hitting 133 doubles a season ago (2.42 per game), UA had just 17 through the first 10 games of 2010 (1.7 per game). However, the Wildcats belted 13 triples in the double-header against Saint Joseph’s on March 11, improving the season total to 30 and putting UA’s clip at 2.5 per game. Jett Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 a season ago, again leads the club with seven to date.
Rickard in the Clutch: Freshman centerfield Joey Rickard is hitting .347 through his first 12 games as a Wildcat – all starts. He leads the team with seven stolen bases and has scored 11 runs and collected 13 RBI – third-most on the club to date. But perhaps most impressive is the fact that Rickard has found a way to deliver some clutch hits. Rickard is hitting an even .375 (6-for-16) with two outs in an inning and 10 of his 13 RBI have come with two outs. 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.
Singles For Selsky: The power numbers are not there yet for sophomore Steve Selsky, but that could be a good thing as it has not resulted in a dip in his batting average. Selsky has refrained from over-swinging and has let base hits come to him one single at a time. The right fielder is tied for the team lead in hits with 25 – which also leads the Pac-10 with Jett Bandy – but only four have gone for extra bases (three doubles and a triple). The result has been a .446 average that is second-best on the club. He has 14 runs scored and 12 RBI through 12 games.
Steady Ortega: Junior Bryce Ortega has not started the season the way he had hoped offensively, but it has not slowed down his production in other areas – or his career numbers. And if Wednesday’s action was any indication, his offensive numbers could be turning around soon, too. Ortega went 4-for-9 at the plate in the two games, bumping his average from .175 to .224 in one day’s work. On the season, Ortega has team-high eight walks and has scored 12 runs. He now has scored 103 runs in his two-plus seasons at Arizona. For his career, Ortega is a .314 hitter with 19 doubles, five triples, five homers and 63 RBI. He is 35-for-39 in stolen base attempts (89.7 percent), which is the second-best success ratio in UA history in the category. Currently, the only percentage that is better than Ortega’s is T.J. Steele’s 90-percent success rate from 2006-08. Lastly, Ortega has more career walks (64) than strikeouts (59).
Littleman on the Mound: Freshman Vincent Littleman made the first start of his career against Saint Jospeh’s this week, earning his first victory. The lefty tossed 5.0 innings, allowing just two runs to go with five strikeouts. On the season, Littleman has 10 strikeouts in 10.1 innings of work in three appearances, of which the first two were in relief. In relief appearances against UNLV/CSF, the left-hander pitched 5.1 innings and allowed one run, which was unearned. He scattered four hits in his two games pitched, and collected five strikeouts against two walks.
Way To Go, Joe: Junior Joe Allison may have only pitched two innings last week, but he picked up a pair of wins out of the bullpen. Allison collected the win against UNLV on March 3 with a 1.2 inning effort from the bullpen in which he struck out three Rebel hitters. Two days later, against Cal State Fullerton on March 5, Allison picked up the win after coming on and facing just two hitters in the top of the 11th inning. Despite hitting a batter, Allison ended the inning and sent the Wildcats to the dugout before winning the game in the home half of the inning. On the season, Allison is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in his two appearances.
Save What? Arizona is the only team in the Pac-10 without a save in 2010. That is an oddity not only because the Wildcats have eight wins, but also because the UA single season and career saves records charts have been re-written by the likes of Mark Melancon, Daniel Schlereth and Jason Stoffel in recent years. This year, it seems the Wildcats’ bats are saving more games than the pitching arms. The Cats have three walk-off victories this season and have won the other three games by margins of 8-1, 18-1 and 10-1, when there was no save opportunity. UA is 7-1 in games that it leads after six innings.
Top 25 Wins: Taking two-of-three games from No. 18 Cal State Fullerton March 5-7 was significant to the Wildcats for a handful of reasons. But, perhaps the most significant reason was that they picked up a pair of wins over a Top 25 team. In 2009, Arizona was just 1-14 against Top 25 teams, including 1-9 against such teams in Tucson. Starting off 2-1 at home against ranked foes should give the Wildcats a confidence boost when they face some of the remaining ranked teams on the schedule later this season.
Don’t Miss The Scoring: You better get to the ballpark on time if you want to see the Wildcats scoring. On the season, Arizona has scored 80 runs in the first five innings of games compared to just 22 runs over the final four innings. The Wildcats most productive innings have been the first (19), second (19) and fifth (15) frames while out-scoring opponents 80-37 in the first five innings. If you stick around to the end of the game, you might see some thrilling finishes. Arizona has played – and won – three extra innings games on the season by outscoring teams 5-2 in extras.
Double Play Combo: Shortstop Alex Mejia and second baseman Bryce Ortega, who was UA’s starting shortstop for his first two season, have developed some early-season chemistry as a dynamic defensive duo up the middle. The Wildcats have turned 12 double plays on the season with Ortega and Mejia factoring into 11 each. Mejia leads the Pac-10 in total assists (46), while Ortega checks in third with 42. That’s some good early season work for the middle of UA’s infield.
The Beneficiaries: Three Wildcat pitchers have been the beneficiaries of the work by Mejia and Ortega in turning double plays. Kyle Simon has induced three double plays on the season, while Stephen Manthei and Daniel Workman have two each. All three pitchers have good sinking action on their pitches that plays into the hands of the double play combo.
Targeting Bandy: Sophomore Jett Bandy was hit three times by a pitch in the Cal State Fullerton Series (March 5-7). In his career, Bandy has been plunked 17 times by a pitch, including 14 as a freshman, which set a new freshman record in the category at UA. The tally of 17 is already just one shy of tying two other players (Les Pearsy and Gar Millay) for 10th-most in a career for a Wildcat.
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 (4,024 wins in 149 seasons), Texas (3,155 in 113 seasons), Southern California (2,650 in 115 seasons), Michigan (2,633 in 136 seasons), Stanford (2,596 in 116 seasons) and Arizona State (2,596 in 98 seasons). All-time, Arizona is 2,507-1,329-22.
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.
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.
Strikeout Facts: Arizona pitchers have recorded 109 strikeouts in 115 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 3.0 strikeouts for every walk. A big part of that turnaround has been Kurt Heyer’s first three outings in which he has 26 strikeouts but just one walk. Bryce Bandilla has 22 strikeouts and just four walks in his first five appearances.
.300 Club: Through seven games, the Wildcats are hitting .334 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.
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. On the season, UA has 13 sacrifice bunts in 12 games.
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).
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 1,066 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 … Since the opening weekend, Bobby Rinard (three starts), Etahn Chavez (one start), Cory Bernard (one game), Vincent Littleman (two appearances) and Jared Forestieri (two appearances) have made debuts.
New Coaches: Head Coach Andy Lopez has introduced two new coaches to the program. Shaun 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.
On Deck: The Wildcats host Wichita State for a two-game series beginning on Tuesday, March 16, at 6 p.m. at Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium. UA-WSU will conclude the series on Wednesday at 6 p.m. before the Wildcats host Sacramento State in a three-game series March 19-21.