Baseball Hosts LBSU This Weekend
Feb. 24, 2010
Long Beach State at Arizona
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium
Series Schedule/Probable Starting Pitchers
Some Series Themes: An important early season regional clash for two storied programs that missed out on the postseason a year ago … The Wildcats are fresh off a weekend sweep of Utah Valley, while the Dirtbags enter with a 1-3 record that includes a mid-week loss to UCLA, 10-1, on Tuesday night at Blair Field … The Cats hope to maintain their balance on offense and defense against an LBSU team that has struggled offensively in its first four games with a .215 team batting average … Even so, Arizona has announced a pair of freshmen for its starting rotation on Friday and Sunday, with a sophomore slated for Saturday … Meanwhile, the Dirtbags will throw ace junior Jake Thompson on Friday night, who despite a 4-7 record a year ago, pitched 85 innings on the season and turned in a complete game performance in last week’s 2-1 season-opening victory over Pepperdine … He’ll face a Wildcat lineup that hit .358 on opening weekend and scored 34 runs, so something will have to give … Interestingly, the two schools, despite a rather long history for non-conference opponents, have not met since the 2004 Long Beach Super Regional when the Wildcats captured a berth in the College World Series.
A Look Back: Arizona swept Utah Valley in the season-opening series for both schools last Friday, including a doubleheader on Sunday after Saturday’s game was postponed due to rain … The Wildcats dominated the series offensively, defensively and on the mound … Wildcat hitters combined to hit .358 on opening weekend, outscoring Utah Valley 34-9 for the series, including an 18-1 thumping in Game 2 … Sophomore catcher Jett Bandy paced the Cats offensively, going 8-for-15 at the plate with three home runs and two doubles in the series. His 10th-inning, walk-off solo home run gave UA the series sweep and capped a weekend in which Bandy scored eight runs and collected eight RBI … Freshman RHP Kurt Heyer set the tone on the mound on Friday night, turning in six innings of work in which he tallied 13 strikeouts while facing only 22 hitters in the game. He was named Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week for his debut performance … In all, the UA pitching staff issued only four walks all weekend long while striking out 34 Wolverine hitters … Defensively, shortstop Alex Mejia and second baseman Bryce Ortega combined to turn four double plays in the series and Arizona did not commit and error in any of the three games.
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 (3,148 in 113 seasons), Southern California (2,647 in 115 seasons), Michigan (2,629 in 136 seasons), Stanford (2,592 in 116 seasons) and Arizona State (2,588 in 98 seasons). Good company for sure.
UA-LBSU Series History: The Wildcats lead the all-time series 19-17 … The teams last met in 2004 at the Long Beach Super Regional where the Wildcats won two of three games to advance to the College World Series in dramatic fashion (complete series recap later in notes) … The first meeting between the schools was the season-opening series in 1961, when the Wildcats swept three games in Tucson.
Two Memorable Series: Since the two programs haven’t met since 2004, one might want a quick refresher on two of the most memorable matchups in the series’ history … 2004 Long Beach Super Regional: Arizona won the super regional against Long Beach by the narrowest of margins. UA trailed LBSU for 8 1/3 innings in Game 1 before scoring four in the ninth to steal the win, took a third of inning lead with two outs in the fifth inning in Game 2 before succumbing to a three-run sixth, and held a 3-2 advantage in Game 3 with two outs in the bottom of the seventh before LBSU tied the game with one out in the top of the ninth. Nick Hundley’s one-out sac-fly ended the game two innings later in the bottom of the 11th … 1989 West Regional: In 1989, the highly talented Arizona baseball team hosted the West Regional in Tucson. A scrappy little team from Long Beach State came to town and walked away with a trip to Omaha after upsetting a Wildcat team that boasted future major leaguers Scott Erickson, Trevor Hoffman and JT Snow. Arizona went 3-2 in the regional, but the two losses were to LBSU by scores of 10-6 and 10-3, eliminating the Wildcats from the postseason.
MLB Players: Both Arizona and Long Beach State have a rich tradition of turning out major league baseball players. In fact, 21 former players of the two respective programs played in the major leagues last season. Here’s the list: Arizona – 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). Long Beach State – John Bowker (SF), Andrew Carpenter (PHI), Bobby Crosby (OAK), Marco Estrada (WAS), Jason Giambi (OAK/COL), Evan Longoria (TB), Cesar Ramos (SD), Jeremy Reed (NYM), Troy Tulowitzki (COL), Jason Vargas (SEA) and Jered Weaver (LAA).
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.
Control Factor: Perhaps the most positive sign from opening weekend for the Arizona pitching staff was the fact that it issued just four walks to Utah Valley hitters. At the same time, the Wildcats struck out 34 batters over the three games and limited the Wolverines to a .238 team batting average. Of UVU’s 25 hits, only five went for extra bases. Indeed, the UA arms were in firm control and forced Utah Valley to earn its offensive production.
Weekend Warriors: While not directly relevant to the upcoming weekend series, one can look back to last April and find a pretty impressive run of success for the Wildcats on the weekends. When excluding mid-week games and focusing only on the three-game weekend series, Arizona is 16-2 in its last 18 games played in three-game sets. That results in a string of six-consecutive weekend series victories for the Wildcats, including four sweeps (California, Loyola Marymout and Oregon in 2009, Utah Valley 2010).
Miscellaneous Diamond Notes: The Wildcat’s 8-7 come-from-behind victory in 10 innings last Sunday night over Utah Valley marked UA’s first extra-innings victory since taking Game 1 of the Coral Gables Super Regional over Miami, 6-3, on June 6, 2008 … Arizona played just one extra innings game in 2009, losing 8-7 to Washington State in 11 innings on April 19 … The Wildcats’ last extra innings victory at home came against Arizona State, 4-3, on May 23, 2008 … All three games in the UA-UVU series checked in under the three-hour mark, including UA’s 18-1 victory in Game 2 and the 10-inning series finale … Arizona last played a regular season doubleheader in 2008, splitting a pair of games at USC … In 2007, the Wildcats played a doubleheader against Northern Colorado in Tucson, winning both games … Not one wild pitch or passed ball was charged in the opening series.
Simon Shakes it Off: Arizona sophomore Kyle Simon’s first start of 2010 was in question late last week when he suffered a concussion during one of the Wildcats’ batting practice sessions. Simon was scheduled to pitch on Saturday, and was medically cleared, but the game was pushed to Sunday after rain forced the postponement of Saturday’s game. Once he took the mound on Sunday, Simon showed no ill effects as he lasted 8.0 innings in earning his first victory of the season. The 6-foot-5 right hander struck out seven batters and scattered five hits while allowing just one run and one walk.
Closing Time: With the school’s all-time saves leader, Jason Stoffel, now in the Giants organization, the Wildcats have turned over the closing role to left hander Bryce Bandilla. The 6-foot-4 sophomore was not needed in either of the Cats’ first two games, but he was called upon in the eighth inning of a tied ballgame in Game 3 of the Utah Valley series. The southpaw tossed three shutout innings, striking out five batters and scattering four hits as he collected the win in relief.
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 last weekend. Selsky checked in second on the team in batting average (.571) and scored three runs and collected four RBI. Valenzuela hit .538, scored four runs and batted in seven, including five two-out RBI. Bandy meanwhile hit a home run in each game and led the team with eight runs scored and eight RBI.
Wildcat Debuts: A handful of Wildcats made their debuts last weekend 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.
Set Up Shop: Beginning this weekend against Long Beach State (Feb. 26-28), UA 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.
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.
2004 Super Regional Flashback: Game 1 Recap: All-American Jered Weaver (5 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 12 K) dominated the Wildcats for 7 2/3 innings and LBSU jumped out to a 5-2 lead, but the Wildcats knocked around the 49er bullpen for four runs in the ninth inning to steal the win and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Sophomore Brad Boyer, who was just 1 for his last 21 at the plate, continued his postseason resurgence with a two-run single to tie the game in the ninth inning and came around to score the game-winning run on Trevor Crowe’s triple to right-center one batter later. Freshman Mark Melancon bailed the Wildcats out in the bottom of the ninth as he stranded the tying run on third with a strikeout to end the game for his second save of the postseason … Game 2 Recap: Long Beach evened the series at a game apiece by breaking the closely contested game open with seven runs in the sixth and seventh innings. Tied 2-2 after four and half innings, the Wildcats took a short-lived lead with a run in the fifth, but a pair of errors in the top of the sixth cost the Wildcats the lead and the game. Sophomore Trevor Crowe, troubled by a setting sun, misplayed a fly ball for a two-base error which was then followed by a wild pitch and a misguided Brad Boyer throw to home in the next at bat to allow the tying run to score. A RBI-single and a sac-fly later handed LBSU the lead for good and a tie in the series. Game 3 Recap: Trailing 2-1 through six innings, Arizona took a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the seventh and was just two outs away in the ninth from putting the 49ers out of the tournament, but LBSU rallied to tie the game at 3-3 to force the game into extra innings. The Wildcats dodged a pair of bullets in both the ninth and tenth innings before Nick Hundley won the game with a sac-fly to center that scored Moises Duran from third with the gamewinner. After LBSU had tied the game in the ninth, it had runners on the corners with just one out. Freshman reliever Mark Melancon came on in relief of John Meloan and got LBSU’s Danny Mocny to line into a double play at third base to end the threat and the inning. Still tied at 3-3 in the 10th freshman Jason Donald let a potential double-play ball slide through his legs to once again put runners on the corners with no outs. Melancon rose to the occasion and got out the jam with a fielder’s choice grounder to Moises Duran at second. The senior second baseman threw ahead of the go-ahead run at home and another fielder’s choice grounder and fly out ended the inning with the 49ers failing to score. After LBSU had been retired in order in the 11th, Duran led off the bottom of the inning with a grounder that was misplayed for a two base error, a failed sac-bunt by Donald, a wild pitch and walk to Mercado proceeded Hundley’s super regional-ending sac-fly as UA advanced to the College World series for the first time since 1986.
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.
2009 Quick Review: The Wildcats wrapped up the 2009 season with an overall record of 30-25 and a 13-14 mark in the Pacific-10 Conference, good enough to tie for fifth in the league ... Arizona made a late-season push for a third-consecutive NCAA tournament bid by winning 14 of its last 20 games overall and 10 of its final 12 Pac-10 contests, but missed out on postseason play for just the second time in the last seven seasons ... The Wildcats led the Pac-10 in batting average (.314), and ranked second in slugging percentage (.487) and runs scored (419) ... Dillon Baird captured the Pac-10 batting crown finishing the season with the eight-best single season average in league history (.433) ... Baird, a finalist for the Pac-10 Player of the Year Award, was joined by Dwight Childs and Bryce Ortega on the All-Conference team.
2009 Offensive Review: After consecutive seasons in which the UA pitching staff turned in record-breaking season performances, it was the Cats' bats that carried them in 2009 ... Arizona scored 419 runs (7.62 runs per game) on the season - second most in the conference ... The Wildcats led the Pac-10 in hitting with a .314 team average and checked in second in slugging with a .487 average ... Arizona hit a conference-best 133 doubles on the season, the most for a UA club since 2005 (153) and the 10th-most in the last 50 years ... The club's .314 batting average is the highest since the 2005 season (.328) and the seventh-best for a UA team since 1990 ... Interestingly, Arizona batters were hit by a pitch 74 times on the season, a mark that ties for third most in program history. But, the Wildcats drew the fewest walks in school history - 177.
2009 Pitching Review: A year after losing five of the top seven pitchers on its staff - including two in the first round of the '08 MLB draft - a significant drop-off was nearly inevitable for Arizona as 10 of its 13 pitchers were either freshmen or sophomores with no more than 15 combined innings pitched ... The result was a bumpy first half of the season as the Wildcats struggled to settle on a weekend rotation behind Preston Guilmet while also having to piece together a mid-week staff ... UA pitchers struck out just 379 hitters on the season, the fewest since 2003 (345) ... The 355 runs allowed were also the most allowed since 2003 (367), while the 5.46 staff ERA was the highest since 2000 (7.48) ... No Wildcat tossed a complete game, marking the first time since 1998 and only the second time in school history a pitcher did not throw a complete game ... The staff was able to turn things around down the stretch helping UA in its late-season surge. In the last 15 Pac-10 games, the UA staff turned in a 4.12 ERA, limiting opponents to just a .255 average to go along with 103 strikeouts in 133.1 innings against just 47 walks.
2009 Draft Recap: One year after seeing a school-record 11 players drafted in the 2008 draft - including two first round selections - a total of six Wildcats were selected in 2009, including seniors Preston Guilmet and Brad Glenn, who each turned down professional from the '08 draft ... The two seniors were joined by classmate Cory Burns, and juniors Dwight Childs, Dillon Baird and Jason Stoffel ... All-time, 206 Arizona baseball players have been drafted, including 67 in the last 11 seasons. Of the 206 selections, 54 have been taken in the first five rounds ... The six draftees in 2009 push Arizona's total draftees to 39 under head coach Andy Lopez, who took over the program in 2002.
Pos. Player Organization Round (Overall)
RHP Jason Stoffel San Francisco Giants 4th (114)
RHP Cory Burns Cleveland Indians 8th (245)
RHP Preston Guilmet Cleveland Indians 9th (275)
1B/3B Dillon Baird L.A. Angels 11th (351)
C Dwight Childs Cleveland Indians 18th (545)
IF/OF Brad Glenn Toronto Blue Jays 22nd (700)
On Deck: The Wildcats will continue their 26-game homestand to open the season with their first mid-week series. Arizona and UNLV will play on Tues., March 2, at 5 p.m. and Wed., March 3 at 1 p.m. Next weekend, Arizona welcomes Cal State Fullerton for a three-game series March 5-7.
TOMORROW | 1:00pm PTLive