Cats Open Series at WSU on Friday

April 17, 2009

Arizona (16-16, 3-9 Pac-10) at Washington State (15-16, 5-4 Pac-10)
Pullman, Wash. – Bailey-Brayton Field

Friday, April 17 – 5:30 p.m. (1290 A.M.)
Saturday, April 18 – 2 p.m. (1290 A.M.)
Sunday, April 19 – Noon (1290 A.M.)

Arizona Probable Starters
Fri. – RHP Preston Guilmet
Sat. – RHP Joe Allison
Sun. – RHP Kyle Simon

Some Series Themes: A pair of schools looking to push their overall records on the plus side of .500 this weekend … The Wildcats, after winning a pair of mid-week games, hope to take momentum on the road and begin a climb up the Conference standings … The Cougars, returning home for the first time in five games, set out to improve upon a 5-4 Conference mark that puts them amongst the early contenders for the Conference crown … A pair of senior pitchers will dual in Friday’s opener as UA sends Preston Guilmet to the hill against WSU’s Matt Way … Perhaps the Cats have an advantage with their propensity to steal bases, having stolen 49 bases on the year compared to WSU’s 18.

Series History: The Cats and Cougs have met 38 times in the series dating back to 1975 … The Wildcats lead the series 25-13, including a sweep in Tucson a season ago … Interestingly, the first meeting between the two teams was in Riverside, Calif. In 1975.

A Quick Glance at the Cougars: While the Cougars are only 15-16 on the season, they have positioned themselves nicely in the upper tier of the Pac-10 with a 5-4 league record … WSU hits .277 as a team and has a 4.88 team ERA … WSU played a tough non-conference schedule that included games again Rice, Oklahoma, Long Beach State and Arkansas … The Cougar staff is led by senior Friday starter Matt Way, who is 4-3 with a 2.41 ERA as opposing hitters are batting just .214 against him … Offensively, Greg Lagreid (.364, 2 HR, 23 RBI) and Alex Burg (.333, 6 HR, 26 RBI pace the Cougars.

UNM Series Recap: After losing 2-of-3 at home to Oregon State last weekend, the Wildcats wrapped up an eight game homestand with a pair of victories over one of the nation’s top hitting teams, New Mexico … As a team, Arizona hit .400 in the two games, while defeating the Lobos 9-3 on Tuesday and 13-5 on Wednesday … In Game 1, Joe Allison turned in six strong innings in his first career start to earn the victory … In Game 2, Daniel Workman made his starting debut as he earned a victory despite pitching only four innings due to a pre-arranged pitching rotation … Bryce Ortega, who went 4-for-7 with four runs scored in the two games, turned in a handful of spectacular defensive plays on Tuesday to help preserve the UA victory … A day later, Ortega saw his streak of 13 games without committing an error come to end … In Game 2, the Wildcats scored all 13 runs over a two inning stretch, including seven in the third inning as they strung together seven consecutive base hits.

Dillon is Delivering: Junior first baseman Dillon Baird has turned in exceptional numbers during his second season with the Wildcats. The Prescott, Ariz., native is hitting a team-best .415, is second on the team with 30 runs scored, and leads all Wildcats with 31 RBI. He also leads the club in slugging (.691) and on-base percentage (.509). The left hand hitter, who was the league’s top hitter at .447 entering the week, is second on the club with four home runs and his 17 walks are second most on the team. Additionally, Baird has shown marked improvement defensively, posting a fielding percentage of .987 while committing only three errors on the season – the fewest for any infield player on the club.

More Baird: As impressive as his overall numbers are, junior Dillon Baird has been sensational over his last 18 games. Over the stretch, Baird is hitting .463 (31-for-67) with 21 runs scored and 20 RBI. Of his 31 hits, 14 have gone for extra bases, including eight doubles, three triples and three home runs. His slugging percentage is a staggering .806 and he has reached base at a .543 clip. For good measure, he as added 11 walks and been hit by two pitches in the last 18 games.

Childs Play: Arizona catcher Dwight Childs is turning in a breakout junior season. Through 32 games, Childs has started in 20, sharing time with classmate Daniel Butler. But Childs has made the most of his time, hitting a career best .352 one year removed from his .193 campaign as a sophomore. Childs, who had one career home run through two seasons, already has three in 2009 and his 20 RBI already surpassed his 15 from the entire 2008 season. Three weeks ago at UCLA, he hit a team best .750, reached base at a .846 clip and slugged an incredible 1.625 in three starts behind the plate at UCLA. Childs, in only eight official at bats, tallied six hits, including one double and two home runs. He scored five runs and batted in seven runs to pace the Wildcats. Childs also walked four times and was hit by a pitch once and reached base an amazing 12 consecutive plate appearances.

Ortega Gets Offensive: Sophomore shortstop Bryce Ortega has been one of UA’s steadiest offensive performers throughout the 2009 season. The Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., native is hitting .383 on the season and leads the team with 39 runs scored. Ortega, who stole 13 bases in 15 attempts a season ago, is a 12-for-13 in steals this season. Additionally, Ortega, who has spent most of his time hitting in the leadoff spot, also has 21 RBI, which ranks fourth on the team. He is slugging .533 and is reaching base at a .483 clip, thanks in part to his 19 walks and five hit-by-pitches this season.

TGIF? In the typical Friday games (and last week’s Thursday game) against top pitching, Arizona has struggled offensively posting a .269 average in such games compared to the .314 mark overall. However, several Wildcats standout against the top pitching, including Dillon Baird and and Bobby Coyle. Baird, UA’s top overall hitter, is hitting .435 on the first game of each weekend series. Coyle, a sophomore outfielder, is hitting .424 in such games and has hit all three of his home runs on Friday nights. Bryce Ortega has also thrived in the games, hitting .345 on Friday’s. Not other Wildcats who have played in half of the games is hitting over .300 in the first game of the weekend series.

We’ll Take Two, or Three! Out of Arizona’s 361 hits on the year, 128 have gone for extra bases. UA’s preferred extra base hit on the season seems to be the double. The Wildcats have hit 82 doubles on the season which averages out to 2.56 doubles per game. Entering the week, the figure ranked No. 11 nationally and led the Pac-10. But, the Wildcats are also No. 5 nationally with 19 triples on the season. Seven different Wildcats have tripled on the season, with four players tallying three triples (Dillon Baird, Bobby Coyle, Bryce Ortega and Dwight Childs). Interestingly, Arizona only hit four extra base hits in the entire Oregon State series – all doubles.

Stoffel is No. 1: 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 American pre-season first team All-American stands alone with 25 career saves.

Turning Two: Arizona is turning double plays at a record pace entering this weekend’s series and actually was the top club nationally in turning double plays earlier in the year. A season ago, the Wildcats turned only 47 on the entire season. This season’s tally of 41 (1.36 per game) projects to 75 on the season, which would come close to breaking the school record of 81 in a season set by the 1979 club. In fact, the highest total in the Lopez era is the 60 turned by the 2003 team. UA’s per-game mark was No. 9 in the nation entering the week, and UA turned three in the two game series against New Mexico.

Feeling the Burns: Senior RHP Cory Burns has been one of the club’s top options out of the bullpen early in 2009, having pitched in 24 of UA’s first 32 games … Burns, who has yet to earn a decision on the season, has pitched 28.2 innings and struck out 33 batters … At his current pace (appeared in 75 percent of UA’s games), he would break the UA record for appearances in a single season, which is currently held by Tod Brown, who pitched in 35 games in 1993 (Top-10 can be found on page 63 of UA media guide) … Burns, who leads all Pac-10 pitchers in appearances this season, has been one of UA’s most reliable relievers in recent years and he is quickly moving up the UA career chart for career appearances … To date, Burns has appeared in 78 career games, which is No. 4 all-time at UA (Top-10 can be found on page 61 of UA media guide). He needs 10 more appearances to tie Ron Sismondo as UA’s all-time leader for appearances.

Glenny Moves Up: With his five home runs on the season, senior Brad Glenn has a total of 39 round-trippers in his four seasons at Arizona. That mark is No. 2 all-time at Arizona, trailing only Shelley Duncan, who blasted 55 home runs as a Wildcat. Glenn also has been hit by 40 pitches, which is also good for No. 2 all-time at Arizona. Again, he’ll have a tough time catching the leader, Colt Sedbrook, who was hit by a pitch 55 times in his career. Interestingly, 55 is the all-time mark in the two categories. Lastly, look for Glenn to move into the UA Top 10 for all-time games played later this season. To date, he has played in 187 games as a Wildcat and trails Kenny Corley’s 201 games played, which ranks No. 10 at Arizona.

Shutting ‘Em Out: The Arizona pitching staff has combined to throw three shutouts in the last nine games. The Wildcats shutout UMass in the series finale (9-0) and completed bookend shutouts of Michigan last weekend (2-0, 14-0). The 2008 club, which set a school record with 34.2 scoreless innings at one point, threw seven shutouts on the season.

Setting the Pace: One of the pleasant surprises in 2009 has been the steady play of senior Hunter Pace. The veteran outfielder, who was relegated to a reserve role primarily as a pinch runner early in his career, has started 20 games to date in center field. Pace, who is hitting .395, is second on the club behind Dillon Baird for the top hitting mark on the club and has hit three doubles, a pair of triples and blasted his first career homer – a grand slam – against USC on April 4. The speedster has stolen 8-of-11 bases and scored 20 runs.

Stacking Up the Pac: Despite the struggles at the plate last weekend at ASU, the Wildcats still rank favorably in the Pac-10 in several offensive categories. Entering the weekend, UA is near the top of the league in almost every offensive category. Here’s a look at the numbers entering the weekend series:

Category          Stat                  Rank
Batting Ave.       .317                  1
Slugging %        .493                  2
On Base %       .390                  3
Runs Scored     259                   2
Hits                  361                   2         
RBI                   232                   2
Doubles            82                     1
Triples               19                     1
Homeruns         27                     6

Taking Form: After a couple of un-Preston-like performances to open 2009, senior RHP Preston Guilmet has begun to take to his old form that has made him one of the top pitchers in Arizona history. In his last six starts, Guilmet has lasted into the sixth or seventh innings but has only posted a 2-2 record thanks in part to a lack of run support. His ERA has lowered to 3.78 and he has struck out 48 batters in 47.2 innings on the season. Guilmet currently ranks No. 3 in UA history with 374 strikeouts and needs 48 strikeouts to surpass Carl Thomas as the top strikeout pitcher in Wildcat history. He has pitched 373.0 innings in his three seasons plus 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 23 career wins are five shy of breaking into the Top 10 at UA. Here’s a look at Guilmet’s career numbers:

ERA         W-L         App.        GS           CG           IP             H              R              ER            BB           SO
3.50         23-16       61            55            6              373.0       371          180          145          112          374

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, no player has started all 32 games this season. In all, 15 different position players have started a game and all 15 have made at least seven starts. Additionally, UA has used 29 different lineups (out of 32 possible), using the same lineup multiple times only twice. That occurred in the Friday and Saturday games against USC and the Thursday and Saturday games against Oregon State. Otherwise, UA has never had the same lineup more than once. On the mound, Arizona has used 12 different pitchers, with 11 making at least three appearances.

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 32 games, Arizona has stolen 49 bases, which ranks second in the Pac-10. Bryce Ortega (12-for-13) and Hunter Pace (both 8-for-11) lead Arizona in the category, but 13 different players have stolen at least one 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 .341 on the season with runners in scoring position, .352 with runners in scoring position and two outs, and is scoring runs at a .654 clip with runners on third and less than two outs, which includes scoring 68 runs in 104 chances. On the season, the Cats have driven in 97 runners with two outs in an inning.

Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week: Junior Jason Stoffel was named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week on March 17 following his dominating work out of the bullpen a week earlier against Oklahoma State and Michigan. Against the Wolverines, Stoffel earned a pair of saves, including a three-inning appearance in the Friday game to help UA to a 2-0 victory, and a five-up, five-down via strikeout affair in the Saturday game to give the Cats a 9-7 win. The right hander pitched 6.1 innings in three appearances on the week, allowing no runs on only hit. He struck out 10 batters and walked none. The weekly honor was the first of his career and the 40th all-time for a UA pitcher.

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. Ryan Doyle also made his season debut against Oklahoma State, marking his second career appearance.

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.

Light Up the Scoreboard: In UA’s first Pac-10 win last month at UCLA, the 19 runs scored by the Wildcats were their most in some time. In fact, UA last scored 19 runs back on March 13, 2007 at Hawaii-Hilo in a 19-3 victory. Arizona had not tallied that many runs in a Pac-10 game since a 27-4 rout against Washington State on May 13, 2006. For Pac-10 road games, it was the largest offensive output since a 20-9 victory in Los Angeles on May 8, 2004.

Head Coach Andy Lopez: Arizona head coach Andy Lopez enters his eighth season as the Wildcats’ skipper with a 268-175-1 record at UA. Now in his 27th season as a collegiate head coach, Lopez has compiled a career record of 955-593-7. 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.

24 No More: With the addition of Oregon to mix of Pacific-10 baseball, the Conference season has been extended to a 27-game schedule from its previous 24-game slate. All league teams will play each other three times during the season. Like football, the home-away split will be unbalanced with nine opponents, meaning half the league will have five conference home series, while the other half will only play four at home.

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 play a single non-conference game at Gonzaga on Monday, April 20, before returning home from the state of Washington. The Wildcats will then hit the road to continue Pac-10 play next weekend at Stanford. The three game series begins on Friday, April 24.

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