Baseball Set To Open 2003 Season Vs. BYU
Jan. 28, 2003
100 Years Of Arizona Baseball: This year will mark the 100th year of Arizona baseball. Since beginning with a 6-1 record in 1904 under head coach B.L. Cosgrave, the Wildcat program has found enormous success in its first 99 seasons. Arizona has recorded 2,248 victories (seventh all-time among Division I teams), won three national championships, finished second three other times, appeared in 14 College World Series, made 29 NCAA regional appearances, had 128 players get drafted and sign professional contracts (of which 52 reached the Major Leagues) and placed 73 players on 54 different All-America teams.
Preseason Notes: Arizona is looking to improve off of last season's 31-24 overall record and 9-15 mark in the Pac-10 ... The Wildcats were picked to finish fifth in the conference this season by the Pac-10 coaches. USC, Arizona State, Stanford and Cal were all chosen ahead of the Wildcats ... Arizona enters the season with postseason aspirations. An appearance in the NCAA tournament would be the first for the Wildcats since 1999.
Season Openers: Dating back to 1904, the Arizona baseball team has recorded an impressive 72-24-1 record in season opening games for a .747 winning percentage. The Wildcats have won nine straight season openers dating back to 1994. A win over Brigham Young on Thursday would move the Wildcats one season closer to equaling the longest streak of 11-straight years with an opening game win established from 1953-65. Arizona has won the last eight straight season opening series, which includes four series sweeps.
For Openers: The Wildcats will open the 2003 season at home against Brigham Young on Jan. 30. The Wildcats and Cougars will be facing each other for the first time since Andy Lopez took over and for the 14th time since 1963. The two schools split their last meeting - one game apiece - in 2001. Arizona owns an 18-8 advantage in the all-time series, but the Cougars have won four of the last five games between the two.
Coming Back: The Wildcats welcome back 12 players from last season's 31-24 team. Among the 12 are six pitchers, one catcher, three infielders and two outfielders.
Coming In: Arizona will rely heavily on a number of newcomers to the program this season. A total of 22 new faces will take part in the 2003 season. Joining on are 10 pitchers, a catcher, seven infielders and four outfielders.
Gone From 2002: The Wildcats lost four starters from last season's team. Seniors Brad Hassey, Chris Cunningham and Justyn St. Clair all saw their eligibility expire, while sophomore Marc Kaiser transferred to Lewis and Clark College in Idaho. Arizona will need players to step up to replace Hassey's team-leading 50 runs scored, .315 average and nine home runs, as well as Cunningham's 13 home runs and 53 RBIs, both team highs. Kaiser's loss will impact both the pitching and offense. On the mound the right-hander went 5-4 as the Sunday starter, while batting .291 with 45 runs and 31 RBIs on offense.
The Schedule: Coach Lopez has made it a priority to upgrade the Arizona schedule in terms of the talent of the competition the Wildcats will face. The 2003 slate reflects the beginning of the upgrade. In addition to facing the perennial tough Pacific-10 schedule, Arizona will also take on defending national champions and top 10 ranked Texas, top 10 ranked Baylor, Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, Minnesota and traditional foe New Mexico this seasons in non-conference action.
Schedule Changes: There have been a couple of alterations to the schedule since it was first released. The three-team tournament in Surprise, Ariz., scheduled for Feb. 21-23, has been canceled. In its place the Wildcats will face Minnesota in a three-game series in Tucson that weekend and will play a single game against Oklahoma State on Monday instead. Also the game time for the Jan. 31 game against BYU has been changed from 1 p.m. to 3.
Starting Lineup: Although not totally set, it appears that Arizona will open the season with the following lineup:
C Nick Hundley */ Richard Mercado1B Pat Reilly2B Moises Duran3B Trevor Crowe *SS John HardyLF Brad Boyer */ Chipper Crum *CF Derek Decater */ Dallas Haught *RF Brian Anderson / Jeff Van HoutenSP Sean RiersonSP Joe LittleSP Richie Gardner *CP Mark Worrell ** Denotes Newcomer
Carry Over From Last Season: The sophomore class has a number of hitting streaks on the line that carried over from last season. Both Pat Reilly and John Hardy have six-game hitting streaks entering 2003, while Richard Mercado and Jeff Van Houten each have active three-game streaks.
Head Coach Andy Lopez: Andy Lopez enters his second season at Arizona with a career 718-442-6 (.618) record. In his three previous coaching stops, Cal State Dominguez Hills, Pepperdine and Florida, he has averaged eight more wins in his second year than in the first. At Florida his second-year team won a school record 50 games, 18 more than the year before, and advanced to the College World Series.
Andy Lopez's First vs. Second SeasonsCal State Dominguez Hills Pepperdine Florida1983 15-27 (.357) 1989 41-19-1 (.680) 1995 32-24 (.571)1984 25-35-1 (.418) 1990 37-23 (.617) 1996 50-18 (.735)
The Fall Season: The Wildcats played 14 intra squad games last fall and a number of players stood out in the early competition. Returning starter Joe Little led all pitchers with 21 strike outs in just 16 innings pitched. The southpaw also tallied an impressive 2.25 ERA. Newcomer Richie Gardner got a leg up for the third spot in the starting rotation with a 3-0 record and a team best 1.13 ERA in 16 fall innings. Fellow newcomer Jordan Brown went 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA and 12 strike outs. Junior Sean Rierson, the staff ace the past two seasons, tallied nine K's and a 2.40 ERA in 15 innings pitched. Offensively, junior Mo Duran led all players with a .412 average and six home runs. John Hardy trailed closely with a .409 average and a team-high 14 RBIs. Newcomers Nick Hundley and Trevor Crowe impressed in their first appearances in the Cardinal and Navy, hitting .310 and .386 respectively. Crowe led all players with 17 hits, 10 stolen bases and 16 runs scored, while Hundley chipped in with 12 RBIs and a pair of home runs.
The Jim Click Alumni Weekend: The Arizona baseball program will host its alumni the weekend of Feb. 7-9. The weekend, sponsored by Jim Click, will feature Arizona's three-game series with nationally ranked Baylor, a dinner reception, golf, a brunch on Sunday morning, recognition of Arizona's three national championship teams and an autograph session prior to the UA-Baylor game on Sunday. The program has moved away from inviting back just the players active in professional ball to all the former alumni, whether they are still active in the game or not. For further information, please contact the baseball office at (520) 621-4102.
Give Us Some Mo: Junior Moises Duran returns in 2003 after posting nine home runs and 42 RBIs last season (both are the most for any returning player on this season's team). The 5-foot-9 infielder has been Arizona's most consistent player in both the fall and the preseason thus far and Lopez and the coaching staff will rely heavily on the veteran to provide leadership on the field and in the dugout.
It's All In The Arms: Juniors Sean Rierson and Joe Little return to anchor the Arizona pitching rotation. Rierson, a 26th-round selection in the 2002 MLB draft, has two full seasons of starting experience under his belt. Named by Baseball America as one of the top three control pitchers in the Pac-10, Rierson has walked just 47 batters in over 217 career innings. Little, who moved from the bullpen to the starting rotation last year, has shown impressive poise and control on the mound thus far. The lefty's velocity is up from last season and his pitching repertoire has been equally effective against both right- and left-handed hitters.
Standing Pat: Sophomore Pat Reilly took full advantage of the opportunity afforded him in 2002. A non-scholarship member of the team, Reilly worked his way into the starting lineup half way into the season and never relinquished his spot at first base. In 27 starts, Reilly hit .317 with 28 runs scored, 10 doubles, two home runs and 25 RBIs. He also etched his name in the into collegiate baseball history with a NCAA record 29 putouts in a single game. Now on scholarship, Reilly is the incumbent at first heading into 2003.
Newcomers To Contribute: The new faces on Arizona's roster this season will be counted upon to help out right away. Freshmen Trevor Crowe, Nick Hundley and Brad Boyer are all expected to be in the starting lineup on opening day. Classmate Derek Decater, who is recovering from off season shoulder surgery, will play an important role in the upcoming weeks both in spacious centerfield and at the plate. JC transfers Mark Worrell and Richie Gardner will assume the closer and No. 3 starter roles, respectively. Fellow JC transfer Dallas Haught, a mid-year transfer, has been impressive in the outfield and on offense thus far in the preseason.
Pemble and Zlotoff Return: The Wildcats have just a pair of seniors on this season's team. Both Brian Pemble and Wes Zlotoff return to the team this season for a fifth and sixth season of eligibility. Left-handed reliever Pemble redshirted the 2002 season in order to recover from a broken arm suffered in 2001. Zlotoff, who made a team-high 22 appearances on the mound last season, was granted a medical hardship sixth season by the NCAA.
TOMORROW | 7:00pm PTLive