UA Baseball Hosts Sacramento State
March 19, 2010
Sacramento State (6-8) at Arizona (13-4)
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium
Series Schedule/Probable Starting Pitchers
Some Series Themes: A pair of young teams square off in a mid-March non-conference series … The Hornets (6-8) list 17 newcomers on their roster who made their Division-I debuts this season, while the Wildcats (13-4) have a Pac-10 high 17 freshman on their roster … UA continues a 26-game home stand and looks to extend its eight-game winning streak, while Sacramento State comes in with a 2-2 road record … UA hitters have walked more times (79) than they have struck out (77) on the season and will face a Hornets staff that has just 70 strikeouts in 126.0 innings … Even so, UA, which is hitting .367 on the season, will see if it can continue an early season hitting barrage as it faces the Hornets’ staff and its 5.93 ERA … Arizona, which has a penchant for stealing bases (43-51 on the season), will see if it can get to running against the Hornets who have allowed just nine stolen bases all season … Sacramento State will shake up its weekend rotation, opting for LHP Logan Todd, who will make his first start, on Friday, followed by RHP Jesse Darrah on Saturday and LHP Jose Ramirez on Sunday … The Wildcats will alter their weekend rotation once again behind Friday starter RHP Kurt Heyer, as Sacramento native LHP Bryce Bandilla gets the ball on Saturday followed by RHP Kyle Simon on Sunday.
UA-Sac State Series History: The Wildcats and Hornets have met 14 times on the baseball diamond dating back to 1994 with the Wildcats owning a 9-5 advantage in the series... The Wildcats defeated Sacramento State in all three games in 2008, breaking a 4-4 tie in the series, before winning two-of-three in Tucson a year ago ... Previously, the two last met up for a single game in 2005 with Sac State upsetting the No. 6-ranked Wildcats 7-4 in Sacramento.
UA-WSU Series Notes: Arizona swept a mid-week series against Wichita State, taking Game 1 on Tuesday, 13-5, and Game 2 on Wednesday, 19-0 … The shutout was UA’s first since March 15, 2009, against Michigan … The Wildcats hit .432 as a team and outscored the Shockers 32-5 in the series … The Shockers entered the series hitting over .320 as a team and had 21 homers, but left Tucson hitting just .169 in the two games with one extra base hit – a double … Robert Refsnyder turned in a stellar two games, going 6-for-10 at the plate with a double, two triples and eight RBI, including a career-high seven on Wednesday … Rafael Valenzeula continued a hot start to his season with a 5-for-8 performance at the plate over two games, leading the club with six runs scored … An outstanding pair of games for the UA bullpen was highlighted by Stephen Manthei’s 2.1 innings pitched on Tuesday in which he struck out three and picked up the win, while four pitchers combined to no-hit the Shockers over the final four innings on Wednesday … Kyle Simon evened his record at 2-2 as he earned the win on Wednesday in a five-inning effort to initiate the shutout effort … The Wildcats stole seven bases in eight attempts, walked eight times and were hit by five pitches in the series … Arizona benefitted from 10 Shocker errors in the series.
Miscellaneous Diamond Notes: Arizona is 10-1 on the season when it out-hits opponents … The Cats have collected at least 10 hits in a game in 15 of the 17 games, including the last eight straight … UA has at least one extra base hit in all 17 games … On eight occasions, UA hitters have totaled more walks than strikeouts in a game, and have been even in two other games … A Wildcat has been hit by a pitch in 13 of 17 games … The Wildcats are hitting .385 with runners on base and .400 with runners in scoring position … Steve Selsky has collected at least two hits in 11 of the 17 games, while Jett Bandy has done so in 10 games … Joey Rickard leads the club with six multi-RBI games … Four Wildcats have current six-game hit streaks, including Bryce Ortega (9), Rafael Valenzuela (9), Bobby Brown (8) and Robert Refsnyder (6) … Steve Selsky (RF), Joey Rickard (CF), Alex Mejia (SS) and Bryce Ortega (2B) have started every game at the same position.
Behind the Streak: Arizona’s right-game winning streak can be highlighted by some pretty impressive statistics: UA is hitting .442, slugging .607 and is reaching base at a .518 clip during the streak … The Wildcats have stolen 28 bases in 33 attempts … UA has outscored the opposition 15-22 … The pitching staff has a combined ERA of 2.12 and is yielding just a .219 opponent batting average … UA hitters have walked 41 times while striking out just 27 times … UA has hit 28 doubles and eight triples, but only two homers … Eight players have scored at least five runs and eight have at least five RBI … UA pitchers have struck out 69 batters against 22 walks … Opposing pitchers have committed 21 errors, nine balks and hit 14 batters … The Cats have scored 10 runs or more in six of the games and have not scored fewer than seven in any game … The average time of the game has been 2:47 for the eight games, with no game lasting longer than 3:12.
Seth Steps Up: One of UA’s top performers during the current six-game winning streak is freshman third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean. The first-year Wildcat is hitting .438 over the past eight games, which has improved his season batting average from .176 on March 6 all the way to its current .347. Mejias-Brean has also been UA’s top run-producer, collecting 16 RBI over the last eight while scoring nine runs. Included was his first career home run on March 14 against Northern Colorado, a solo shot to center field. The week prior, Mejias-Brean began to break out of his early-season slump as he delivered a clutch game-winning single in the 11th inning of opener of the Cal State Fullerton series on March 5. Two days later, Mejias-Brean drove in three runs in the 10-1 series clincher. For his performance, Mejias-Brean was named to the Primetime Performer Weekly Honor Roll by collegebaseball360.com.
Pac-10 POWs: A pair of freshmen – Joey Rickard and Kurt Heyer – have been named Pac-10 Player/Pitcher of the Week this season … Rickard helped lead the Wildcats to a pair of sweeps last week over Saint Joseph’s (March 10) and Northern Colorado (March 12-24). The 6-foot-1 native of Las Vegas hit .579 for the week, scored six runs and collected nine RBI in five games. Additionally, Rickard reached base five times with a walk and was twice hit by a pitch, yielding a .692 on base percentage, to go with five stolen bases … Heyer, in just six innings of work, struck out 13 batters against Long Beach State on Feb. 25, 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.
K’s and BB’s: Arizona’s hitters are walking more and striking out less, while the pitchers are walking fewer and striking out more. Indeed, Wildcat hitters have walked more times (79) than they have struck out (77) on the season. It amounts to 4.65 walks per game, significantly higher than last season’s 3.2 walks per game. At the same time, the pitchers have seen a rather dramatic turnaround from a year ago. Through 17 games, the staff has 155 strikeouts to just 51 walks for an average of 2.9 walks per game compared to 3.9 a year ago.
Cats in the Pac: On offense, the Wildcats rank second in batting (.367), fourth in slugging (.516), second in on-base percentage (.453), first in runs scored (173), second in doubles (44), second in triples (13), seventh in home runs (8), second in walks (79) and have the fewest strikeouts (77). Individually, Jett Bandy checks in the top-5 of most all categories, including batting (.493, 2nd), slugging (.803, 4th), on base percentage (.570, 2nd), runs scored (26, 1st), hits (35, 1st), RBI (19, 3rd), doubles (10, t-1st) and home runs (4, 3rd). Joey Rickard leads the league in RBI (22), while Robert Refsnyder (.452) and Steve Selsky (.434) rank fourth and sixth respectively in batting average… As a pitching staff, UA is fifth in ERA (3.77), fifth in opposing hitting (.252), third in batters struck out (155), and has the fourth-fewest walks (51). Individually, Kurt Heyer is second with 38 strikeouts and leads the league with 17 strikeouts looking. Nick Cunningham is tied for the most appearances with 11 … Additionally, the Wildcats lead the league in double plays (18) turned, are tied for the most stolen bases (43), and have been caught stealing the fourth-fewest amount of times (8), are third in sacrifice bunts (15) and tied for second in sacrifice flies (9).
Clean Takeoff: Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jett Bandy has been one of UA’s top offensive performer in the team’s first 17 games. Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 doubles a year ago, is the club leader in average (.493), slugging (.803) and on-base percentage (.570). He also leads in runs (26), hits (35), home runs (4) and issecond in RBI (19). Just as impressive, in 71 official at-bats, Bandy has struck out only twice on the season. For his career, Bandy has struck out just 21 times in 235 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 .416 (64-for-154) with nearly half of his hits going for extra bases (21 2B, 7 HR). In the 39-game span, Bandy has collected 39 RBI and scored 39 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.
‘K’urt Heyer: Entering this week’s action, freshman Kurt Heyer is tied for second amongst all Pac-10 pitchers with 38 strikeouts. Of his 38 strikeouts, 17 have been looking, which checks in tops in the league. Heyer’s arm has accounted for 38 of UA’s 155 strikeouts as a team (24.5 percent) despite throwing just 16.9 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.
Double the Fun: The Wildcats have hit at least one double in 16 of the 17 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 70 of their last 74 games (95 percent). Interestingly, after hitting 133 doubles a season ago (2.42 per game), UA had just 17 through the first 10 games of 2010 (1.7 per game). However, the Wildcats belted 13 doubles in the double-header against Saint Joseph’s on March 11, improving the season total to 30. The Cats added seven in three games against Northern Colorado and seven more against Wichita State, and their total of 44 on the season averages out to 2.59 per game. Jett Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 a season ago, again leads the club with 10 to date.
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 33 – which also is second in the Pac-10 – but only seven have gone for extra bases (four doubles and three triples). The result has been a .434 average that is third-best on the club. He has 23 runs scored and has 17 RBI through 17 games.
Ortega Bouncing Back: Junior Bryce Ortega did not start the season the way he had hoped offensively, but he steadily began to bounce back last week. After entering the week at .174, Ortega finished the week with a .254 batting average thanks to a nice five-game stretch in which he batted .421 (8-for-19). After the Wichita State series in which he hit 2-for-6, Ortega now stands at .262. On the season, Ortega has team-high 12 walks and has scored 21 runs. He now has scored 112 runs in his two-plus seasons at Arizona. For his career, Ortega is a .316 hitter with 19 doubles, five triples, five homers and 65 RBI. He is 39-for-43 in stolen base attempts (90.7 percent), which narrowly stands as the best mark in UA history in the category. Currently, the next-best percentage is T.J. Steele’s 90.0-percent success rate from 2006-08. Lastly, Ortega has more career walks (66) than strikeouts (59).
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. The Wildcats also swept Wichita State in two games (March 16-17), which was ranked No. 25 in the Collegiate Baseball poll.
Double Play Combo: Shortstop Alex Mejia and second baseman Bryce Ortega, who was UA’s starting shortstop for his first two seasons, have developed some early-season chemistry as a dynamic defensive duo up the middle. The Wildcats have turned 156double plays on the season with Ortega and Mejia factoring into 12 and 15, respectively. Ortega leads the Pac-10 in total assists (62), followed closely by Mejia, who is second (59). That’s some good early season work for the middle of UA’s infield.
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 124 runs in the first five innings of games compared to just 44 runs over the final four innings. The Wildcats most productive innings have been the first (26), second (31) and third (27) frames while out-scoring opponents 124-46 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. On the season, the Wildcats are 11-1 when leading after six innings.
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 18 times by a pitch, including 14 as a freshman, which set a new freshman record in the category at UA. The tally of 18 is already tied with 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 (3,157 in 113 seasons), Southern California (2,652 in 115 seasons), Michigan (2,633 in 136 seasons), Stanford (2,596 in 116 seasons) and Arizona State (2,601 in 98 seasons). All-time, Arizona is 2,512-1,329-22.
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.
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.
.300 Club: Through seven games, the Wildcats are hitting .367 as a team, in line with recent UA clubs that have finished the season over .300. 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 12 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).
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.
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.
On Deck: Arizona will host New Mexico for a tw-game, mid-week set on March 23-24. The series will begin on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and conclude on Wednesday at 1 p.m. at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium.