Cats Continue Homestand, Host UMass

March 6, 2009

Arizona (6-4) vs. Massachusetts (2-1)
Tucson, Arizona
Jerry Kindall Field

Friday, March 6 – 7 p.m.
Saturday, March 7 – 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 8 - Noon

Arizona Projected Starters
Friday: RHP Preston Guilmet (0-1, 5.19 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Donn Roach (1-1, 6.10 ERA)
Sunday: TBA

Some Series Themes: The Wildcats and Minutemen will face each other in the diamond for the first time in the history of the two programs … Arizona continues a 13-game home stand and by the conclusion of Sunday’s game will have played 13 games in 17 days to open the season … UMass comes to Tucson with a 2-1 record, including a split against Northwestern and a 25-4 rot of Fairfield last Sunday … Both teams seem to have capable lineups offensively, with the Wildcats hitting .318 as a team and the Minutemen at an early .353 clip … While UA has improved defensively from its opening weekend in which it committed 11 errors in three games, both teams committing an average of more than two errors per game … After a solid outing against Holy Cross, the UA pitching staff enters the weekend with an ERA of 5.20 while UMass boasts a 3.00 team ERA.

Holy Cross Series Recap: Arizona bounced back from a weekend in which the team hit .243 as a team against Georgia in a trio of losses to rout the Holy Cross Crusaders by scores of 15-4 and 8-1 … The Wildcats hit .351 as a team in the two games and hit eight doubles, three triples and a home run … UA continued to be aggressive on the base paths, stealing eight bases in as many attempts … Senior Brad Glenn began to crawl out of an early season slump, going 3-for-9 in the series and scoring two runs, collecting four RBI and blasting his first home run of the season … A pair of 2009 newcomers – Codi Harshman and Kyle Stiner – earned their first starts to injury/illness to regulars on Wednesday, and both turned in stellar performances. Stiner went 2-for-3 at the plate, scored three runs and had three RBI, while Harshman went 3-for-3 and scored three runs to go along with three stolen bases … Eight pitchers made appearances in the two games, combining to allow only five runs and post a 2.00 ERA for the two games … Matt Chaffee earned his third win of the season on Tuesday in relief, and Bryce Bandilla collected his first career win in relief on Wednesday.

Arizona vs. UMass — The All-Time Series: This weekend’s games will mark the first meeting in the history of the two programs.

A Quick Glance at the Minuetmen: UMass enters this weekend’s series with a 2-1 record, including a 25-4 romp over Fairfield last Sunday … Fully rested, the Minutemen will play their first road games of the season … UMass has seven players who have started all three games, including Adam Tempesta, who is hitting .500 (8-for-16) on the season with a double, a triple and a home run … Austin Weymouth (.429, 6-for-14) leads the club with five runs scored and has added four RBI … The staff boasts a 3.00 ERA, having allowed only nine earned runs in 27 innings pitched … Friday starter Jared Freni leads the staff with a 0.00 ERA in six innings pitched, but earned a no decision in his first.

Closing Time: Jason Stoffel continues to close out games for the Wildcats at a record-breaking clip. In fact, each save he earns the rest of the way in his career will break his own career record for saves. On Feb. 20, Stoffel earned his 19th career save to surpass Mark Melancon as the program’s all-time leader in the category. Now, the Baseball America pre-season first team All-American stands alone with 20 career saves. On the season, Stoffel has pitched in 10.1 innings and allowed only two runs (1.74 ERA), while striking out 14 batters against no walks.

Off to the Races: The Wildcats are in the midst of a rigorous schedule that includes only six off days in the first month of the season. The Wildcats are in the middle of a stretch of 18 games in 24 days. Fortunately, last week’s road trip to UNLV were the only games on the road. UA will continue a 13-game home stand with UMASS (three games) this weekend, then will turn around and welcome Oklahoma State and Michigan to town next week to close out the home stand.

Butler Stepping Up: Junior catcher Daniel Butler has been on of the top surprises early in the season, showing an improved bat to compliment his defensive skills. Butler has started seven of UA’s first eight games at catcher or DH and has gone 11-for-26 (.423) at the plate, which leads the team. He has scored six runs and driven in seven, while slugging .577 and reaching base at a .571 clip.

Mix and Match: Due to a handful of nagging injuries, head coach Andy Lopez has been forced to shuffle his lineup on nearly a daily basis. In fact, only sophomore outfielder Bobby Coyle has started every game in 2009, and even he has been moved back and forth defensively between left field and center field. In all, 14 different Wildcats have started a game, with 12 making at least four starts through the first 10 games.

Swipin’ Bags: The Wildcats were second in the Pac-10 in stolen bases with 91 in 2008, and this 2009 version may be in line to challenge that mark. Through 10 games, Arizona has stolen 23 bases and been caught only twice (92 percent) – mark that leads the conference in both total steals and success rate. Bryce Ortega and Hunter Pace (both 6-for-6) lead Arizona in the category, but 10 different players have stolen at least one base.

Banged Up: Several Wildcats are battling through non-serious injuries early in the season. UA starter Matt Veltmann has been dealing with an ailing back injury that has lingered from pre-season workouts, while Rafael Valenzuela and Dillon Baird both suffered injuries in the Georgia series. Valenzuela tweaked a hamstring in last Saturday’s game and missed last Sunday’s game, while Baird injured his shoulder while diving for a ball in foul territory late in Saturday’s ballgame. Bryce Ortega then missed Wednesday’s game with a minor back injury, and Steve Selsky missed his first game with an illness. All players are day-to-day, but Veltmann’s weekly start will likely be pushed back to Sunday to recover from treatment earlier in the week.

Moving Up: Bryce Ortega opened the season batting out of the No. 9 slot in the order. Last week he was moved up to the No. 2 spot, and was inserted as the leadoff hitter on Sunday when Rafael Valenzuela missed a game with a hamstring injury Ortega’s rise to the top of the order is due to his consistency, proving to be on of the club’s top offensive threats early in the season. Ortega leads the team with 13 runs scored (five more than the next Wildcat) and is tied for the most RBI on the team with nine. The sophomore shortstop is hitting .400 (13-for-32) on the season and has an on-base percentage of .541. Once on base, Ortega has been the top base-stealer, stealing five bases in five attempts.

Two-Out Pitching Needs to Improve: One of the areas the Arizona pitching staff needs to improve is pitching tough with runners on base and two outs. Opponents, who are hitting .304 overall against UA pitching, are hitting even better with runners on base in scoring situations. With runners on base and two outs, opponents are hitting .342 (30-for-86) on the season. With runners in scoring position and two outs, opponents are hitting .355 (22-for-62) on the season. Comparatively, those opponents are hitting only .286 off UA pitching with no runners on base.

Hitting in the Clutch: While the season is young, the Wildcats have proven clutch at the plate with runners in scoring position. Arizona is hitting .333 on the season with runners in scoring position and .650 with runners on third and less than two outs, which includes scoring 26 runs in 40 chances. Of course, more chances in the situations would be nice, too.

Young, But Talented: A total of 12 players with no prior Arizona experience have already played key roles for the Wildcats this season either as starters or key reserves. Offensively, Steve Selsky and Jett Bandy have found every day roles in the lineup, while newcomers are in the regular pitching rotation. That does not include Matt Chaffee or Joe Allison, each who are in their second year in the program but making their most significant contributions.

Quick Start: Freshman Steve Selsky has wasted no time establishing himself as one of the top players in the UA lineup. Through his first nine games (missed Wednesday’s game), Selsky is hitting .382 and has scored the second-most runs on the team (11). He leads the Wildcats in slugging percentage at a .647 clip, paced by a team-leading six doubles and a home run. For good measure, he leads the team with 22 total bases and is second on the team in hits (13).

Steady Behind the Plate: Arizona has the luxury of playing two excellent defensive players behind the plate. Juniors Dwight Childs and Daniel Butler both will help mentor a young Wildcat pitching staff as they bring a wealth of experience to the field. Childs (40) and Butler (19) split the starting duties a year ago and will continue to do so this season to keep each other fresh. Already in 2009, both have proved valuable behind the plate as they have been on the receiving end of 83 strikeouts (8.3 per game) from the UA pitching staff.

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 six 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.

Head Coach Andy Lopez: Arizona head coach Andy Lopez enters his eighth season as the Wildcats’ skipper with a 256-163-1 record at UA. Now in his 27th season as a collegiate head coach, Lopez has compiled a career record of 945-581-7. Last season, Lopez notched his 900th career victory against Sacramento State and guided the Wildcats to consecutive 40+ win seasons -- a feat the UA program had not accomplished since 1985-86.

Strong Finish: After bottoming out at a season-low .193 with the batting average after going 0 for 5 against Indiana State on April 11, Brad Glenn went on a tear at the plate to finish the 2008 season. Over the final 30 games of 2008, Glenn hit a team-best .373 and drove in a team-high 35 runs over the final half of the season. In addition, he led all Wildcats with 34 runs scored over the stretch, and tied Jon Gaston for the second-most homeruns in the 30 games (8). He also posted the team’s top mark for slugging percentage (.667) and was second in on-base percentage (.441).

One More Time Around: Senior RHP Preston Guilmet returns for his senior year and should lead the UA staff once again as the Friday Night starter. Guilmet currently ranks No. 4 in UA history with 326 strikeouts and needs 97 strikeouts to surpass Carl Thomas as the top strikeout pitcher in Wildcat history. He has pitched 325.1 innings in his three seasons at UA, and has a chance to become UA’s all-time leader in the category (Ed Vosberg, 405.1). He stands at No. 6 in program history in fewest walks per nine innings at 2.46. Additionally, his 21 career wins are six shy of breaking into the Top 10 at UA.

Pitching Has Been Pretty Special: Under head coach Andy Lopez, the Wildcat pitching staff has re-written the record books. Here’s a look at some of the notable tidbits:

- Two Pitchers Selected in the First Round of the MLB Draft in 2008
- Four 10-Game Winners Since 2004      
- Nine Different Pitchers Selected in the First 10 Rounds of the MLB Draft Since 2003
- Top Three Strikeout Staffs in School History in Three of the Last Four Years
- Broke School Record For Lowest Opponent Batting Average in 2007 and 2008
- Four times under Lopez UA has recorded the second-most saves in a season
- Preston Guilmet One of Four UA Pitchers With 300+ Strikeouts
- Top 5 Nationally in Strikeouts Per Nine Innings Last Two Seasons

More Pitching Props: Here’s a look at some more pitching marks set by the 2007 and 2008 pitching staffs:

2008 – Set School Record with 572 Strikeouts
2008 – School Record Seven Shutouts Most Since 1976
2008 – Three Pitchers Named All-Pac-10
2007 – Lowest Team ERA in 30 Years (3.90)
2007 – Fewest Home Runs Allowed in 34 Years (20)
2007 – Fewest Hits (516) Allowed in 30 Years
2007 – Fewest Runs (273) Allowed in 30 Years
2007 - Fewest Earned Runs (228) Allowed in 30 Years
2007 – Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Preston Guilmet
2007 – 386 out of 527 Innings Pitched Were Shutout Innings (73%)

Early Recognition: Several Wildcats have received some notable pre-season media attention and are on watch lists for some of the nation’s top honors. Here is the list:

Pre-Season Honors

Jason Stoffel (’09 Junior) – Baseball America Preseason First Team All-American; Pre-Season Second Team All-American; Louisville Slugger Pre-Season All-American (Third Team), Preseason NCBWA All-American (Third Team), 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List; Pre-Season All-Conference

Preston Guilmet (’09 Senior) – Preseason Top 10 Returning Senior, 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List

Bryce Ortega (’09 Sophomore) - 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List

On Deck:
Arizona will host Oklahoma State for a two-game, mid-week series beginning on Tuesday, March 10 at 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast live on 1290 A.M. in Tucson.

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