UA Baseball Continues Homestand
March 8, 2010
St. Joseph’s at Arizona
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium
Series Schedule/Probable Starting Pitchers
Some Series Themes: The Wildcats (6-4), who play their first 26 games of the year at home, welcome a St. Joseph’s (1-6) club to town that has yet to play a home game … UA, which took two-of-three from No. 18 Cal State Fullerton last weekend, hosts a team that dropped three-of-four at New Mexico State over the weekend … One might expect a lot of runs to be scored as the Wildcats average 7.8 runs per game and the Hawks a respectable 8.4 … At the same time, St. Joseph’s has allowed 107 runs in seven games (15.6 per game) due in large part to a 33-1 loss to NMSU last week, but also because it has allowed at least 10 runs in all seven games … The Hawks are hitting .332 as a team compared to the Wildcats .303 clip … Four Hawks – Dewey Orients (.467), Drew Smith (.455) and Ryan McDonald (.400) – are hitting .400 or better on the season, while two Wildcats – Jett Bandy (.465) and Steve Selsky (.400) – can say the same … Early innings could be key as the Wildcats have scored 57 of their 78 runs on the season in the first four innings of games, while the Hawks have allowed 60 runs over the first four innings to their opponents … Arizona will send a rookie and a veteran to the mound for the two mid-week games in freshman Vincent Littleman on Tuesday and sophomore Kyle Simon on Wednesday … Both pitching staffs average nearly a strikeout per inning, with UA tallying 91 strikeouts in 97 innings of work compared to St. Joseph’s 55 strikeouts in 56.1 innings … The first-ever meeting between the programs.
Series History: This week’s series marks the first ever meetings between the two schools.
CSF Series Recap: The Wildcats picked up their first two victories of the season over a ranked team as they took two-of-three from No. 18 Cal State Fullerton last weekend … UA won Game 1 in dramatic fashion, winning 8-7 in 11 innings, after seeing leads of 6-2 and 7-5 evaporate in the late innings … Noe Ramirez kept the UA bats in check in Game 2 as Fullerton cruised, 6-1 … Daniel Workman returned the favor for the Wildcats in Game 3, pitching six innings and allowing just one earned run as the Wildcats exploded for nine runs in the first four innings of the 10-1 thumping … Three Cats – Jett Bandy, Bobby Brown and Seth Mejias-Brean – hit .400 in the series, with Bandy clubbing two doubles and his team-leading fourth homer of the season … Mejias-Brean drove in four runs in the series, including three in Game 3 … The Wildcat pitching staff, despite allowing 35 hits, allowed just 12 earned runs in the three games for a 3.72 team ERA on the weekend … The staff struck out 24 CSF hitters while issuing just seven walks … Friday starter Kurt Heyer, the Pac-10 leader in strikeouts entering the game, fanned six more in his no decision effort and is now tied for second in the league in strikeouts … Seven UA hitters were hit by a pitch in the series, led by Jett Bandy’s tally of three … Shortstop Alex Mejia, despite going just 2-for-10 at the plate, scored two runs and collected three RBI while leading the team with 16 assists in the field with some masterful defensive plays … UA snapped a stretch of five-straight games that lasted over 3:50 by playing consecutive games under three hours to close the series, including a speedy 2:28 in Sunday’s final game which ended just ahead of a soaking winter storm system.
Miscellaneous Diamond Notes: UA has rapped out 10 hits or more in a game eight 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 only two bags in the CSF series – both in Game 1 – but is 15-for-19 on the season … After snapping a three-game losing streak with a 5-4 victory over UNLV last week, UA avoided a four-game losing streak, which would have been the first since late-March of 2009 … Arizona batters have walked 42 times in 10 games for an average of 4.2 walks per game. Last season, the Wildcats averaged 3.2 walks per game … On the other hand, opposing hitters have walked 30 times in 10 games for an average of 3.0 walks per game compared to 3.9 a season ago … UA is hitting .303 overall, .339 with runners on base, .333 with runners in scoring position and .263 with the bases empty … Six Wildcats have had hitting streaks of four games or more, led by Robert Refnsyder’s seven-game streak to open the year. Steve Selsky (5) and Bobby Brown (4) have the longest current streaks.
Cats in the Pac: On offense, the Wildcats rank fifth in batting (.303), seventh in slugging (.436), fifth in on-base percentage (.396), fifth in runs scored (78), second in triples (5), sixth in home runs (7), fifth in walks (42) and have the second-fewest strikeouts (54). Individually, Jett Bandy checks in the top-5 of most all categories, including batting (.465, 4th), slugging (.860, 5th), on base percentage (.531, 2nd), runs scored (15, t-1st), hits (20, t-3rd), RBI (13, t-2nd), doubles (5, t-4th) and home runs (4, t-2nd) … As a pitching staff, UA is seventh in ERA (4.64), eighth in opposing hitting (.276), fourth in batters struck out (91), and has thee fourth-fewest walks (30). Individually, Kurt Heyer is tied for second with 26 strikeouts and leads the league with 12 strikeouts looking. Nick Cunningham is tied for the fourth-most appearances with six … Additonally, the Wildcats rank fifth in the league in double plays (11), have the second-most stolen bases (15), and have been caught stealing the third-fewest amount of times (4), are third in sacrifice bunts (3) and fourth in sacrifice flies (4).
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.
Littleman on the Mound: Freshman Vincent Littleman is scheduled to make the first start of his career on Tuesday against St. Joseph’s. It’s a start he has earned over the last week thanks to his performance out of the bullpen. In two games last week, 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. Opponents hit just .200 against him. Now he’ll get to show his stuff from a starting role.
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 six 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 5-1 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 57 runs in the first five innings of games compared to just 16 runs over the final four innings. The Wildcats most productive innings have been the first (13), second (14) and third (13) frames while out-scoring opponents 57-34 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 the Fun: The Wildcats have hit at least one double in nine of the 10 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 63 of their last 67 games (94 percent). Interestingly, after hitting 133 doubles a season ago (2.42 per game), UA has just 17 through the first 10 games of 2010 (1.7 per game). Jett Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 a season ago, again leads the club with five to date.
Rickard in the Clutch: Freshman centerfield Joey Rickard is hitting .333 through his first 10 games as a Wildcat – all starts. He leads the team with four stolen bases and has scored seven runs and collected 11 RBI – second 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 .400 (6-for-15) with two outs in an inning and 10 of his 11 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.
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 10 double plays on the season with Ortega and Mejia factoring into nine each. Mejia ranks second in the Pac-10 in total assists (40), while Ortega checks in fifth with 36. 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.
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 second on the team in hits with 18 – sixth most amongst Pac-10 players – but only two have gone for extra bases (both doubles). The result has been a .400 average that is second-best on the club. He has nine runs scored and nine RBI through 10 games.
Century Mark: Junior Bryce Ortega has struggled early in the season at the plate hitting just .175 through 10 games. But, he has still found ways to get on base and score runs. With seven hits, seven walks and one hit by pitch, Ortega has scored nine runs on the season, which is still third on the team. He now has scored 100 runs in his two-plus seasons at Arizona. For his career, Ortega is a .311 hitter with 19 doubles, five triples, five homers and 62 RBI. He is 32-for-36 in stolen base attempts (88.9 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 (63) than strikeouts (58).
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 2,505-1,329-22.
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.
‘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 91 strikeouts as a team (28.6 percent) despite throwing just 17.5 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.
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.
Clean Takeoff: Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jett Bandy has been UA’s top offensive performer in the team’s first 10 games. Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 doubles a year ago, is the club leader in average (.465), slugging (.860) and on-base percentage (.531). He also leads in runs (15), hits (20), home runs (4) and RBI (13). Just as impressive, in 43 official at-bats, Bandy has struck out only once on the season. For his career, Bandy has struck out just 20 times in 207 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 .389 (49-for-126) with nearly half of his hits going for extra bases (16 2B, 7 HR). In the 32-game span, Bandy has collected 33 RBI and scored 28 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.
Strikeout Facts: Arizona pitchers have recorded 91 strikeouts in 97.0 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 17strikeouts and just three walks in his first four appearances.
.300 Club: Through seven games, the Wildcats are hitting .303 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 10 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).
Familiar Faces: Despite having one of the youngest clubs in the nation, the Wildcat lineup to date has featured some familiar faces that show experience can pay of. Senior Rafael Valenzuela and sophomores Jett Bandy and Steve Selsky got off to excellent starts offensively in the first two weeks. Selsky checks in second on the team in batting average (.400) and has scored nine runs and collected nine RBI. Valenzuela is hitting .333, has scored 11 runs and batted in 10, including eight two-out RBI. Bandy meanwhile hit a home run in each game of the opening series and leads the team with in runs scored (15), RBI (13) and home runs (4).
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: Arizona will continue non-conference action and its 26-game homestand this coming weekend. The Wildcats will host Northern Colorado in a three-game series, with the first game scheduled for 4 p.m. on Friday, March 12, at Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium. Saturday’s game will begin at 1 p.m. and Sunday’s at Noon.