Cats, Lobos Set For Two-Game Series
March 23, 2010
New Mexico (14-7) at Arizona (16-4)
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium
Series Schedule/Probable Starting Pitchers
Some Series Themes: A look at the stats for both teams and one can expect a lot of hits and a lot of runs scored between the two regional rivals … The visiting Lobos are averaging 7.8 runs and 12.8 hits per game, while the home-standing Wildcats boast 9.8 runs and 13.7 hits per game … The Wildcats enter hitting .370 as a team through 20 games while the Lobos stand at an impressive .343 through 21 games … Neither team has shown much interest in hitting the long ball, with UA totaling 11 homers and the Lobos just nine … However, both clubs will hit for extra bases as UNM has 61 doubles and 11 triples on the season while the Wildcats check in with 50 doubles and 14 triples … Pitching could turn out to be a deciding factor and the overall numbers favor the Wildcats, but finding consistent starting pitching as been an obstacle at times for Arizona … UA’s staff has a 3.85 ERA with 173 strikeouts in 187 innings, while UNM’s staff has a 5.59 team ERA with 161 strikeouts in 190 innings … The Wildcats will send Daniel Workman to the mound in the opener and then give Augey Bill his first career start on Wednesday … UA has stolen 50 bases as a team, while the Lobos have just 21 attempts on the season.
UA-UNM Series History: Former Western Athletic Conference rivals Arizona and New Mexico continue a historical regional rivalry that dates back to 1939 … The two programs will meet for the sixth consecutive year … The series frequently marked the season openers for both programs in the 1990’s, as the two teams opened the 1991-1996 seasons against each other … The Wildcats lead the all-time series 166-32 and have won the last nine meetings.
UA-Sac State Series Notes: Arizona extended its winning streak to 11 games with a three-game series sweep of Sacramento State over the weekend … The Wildcats hit .389 as a team and outscored the Hornets 23-13 … The Wildcats committed just one error defensively and turned six double plays … Jett Bandy led the Wildcats offensively with a .600 average as he drove in four runs and scored four. He was named Pac-10 Player of the Week … Kurt Heyer improved his record to 3-0 on the season with a 7.1 inning performance on Friday night in which he helped lead UA to a second-consecutive shutout … Arizona picked up its fourth win of the year in its last at-bat, taking Saturday’s game by a score of 8-7 in the bottom of the ninth … Kyle Simon earned his second win of the week and improved his record to 3-2 with a six inning outing on Sunday, despite hitting five batters … The Wildcats tallied at least 10 hits in all three games, improving the season mark to 18 times in 20 games with double-digit hit totals.
Miscellaneous Diamond Notes: Arizona is 13-1 on the season when it out-hits opponents … The Cats have collected at least 10 hits in a game in 18 of the 20 games, including the last 11 straight … UA has at least one extra base hit in all 20 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 16 of 20 games … The Wildcats are hitting .388 with runners on base and .399 with runners in scoring position … Steve Selsky has collected at least two hits in 13 of the 20 games, while Jett Bandy has done so in 12 games … Joey Rickard leads the club with eight multi-RBI games … Three Wildcats have current nine-game or better hit streaks, including Bryce Ortega (12), Rafael Valenzuela (12), and Robert Refsnyder (9) … Steve Selsky (RF), Joey Rickard (CF), Alex Mejia (SS) and Bryce Ortega (2B) have started every game at the same position.
Cats in the Rankings: Arizona has cracked the rankings of a pair of national ranking lists, including No. 19 by Collegiate Baseball and No. 28 on the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Top 30. The Wildcats are receiving votes in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ Poll, just two places shy of No. 25.
Behind the Streak: Arizona’s 11-game winning streak, the third-longest in Andy Lopez’s years at the school, can be highlighted by some pretty impressive statistics: UA is hitting .428, slugging .591 and is reaching base at a .498 clip during the streak … The Wildcats have stolen 35 bases in 43 attempts … UA has outscored the opposition 128-35 … The pitching staff has a combined ERA of 2.73 and is yielding just a .241 opponent batting average … UA hitters have walked 49 times while striking out just 36 times … UA has hit 34 doubles and nine triples, but only five homers … Seven players have scored at least 10 runs and six have at least 10 RBI … UA pitchers have struck out 87 batters against 33 walks … Opposing teams have committed 26 errors, nine balks and hit 18 batters … The Cats have scored 10 runs or more in seven of the games and have not scored fewer than five in any game.
Seth Steps Up: One of UA’s top performers during the current 11-game winning streak is freshman third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean. The first-year Wildcat is hitting .444 over the past 11 games, which has improved his season batting average from .176 on March 6 all the way to its current .371. Mejias-Brean has also been UA’s top run-producer, collecting 17 RBI over the last 11 while scoring 12 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, along with sophomore Jett Bandy … Bandy was named Pac-10 Player of the Week on March 22 after hitting .600 over a five-game stretch in which the Wildcats improved their winning streak to 11 games … 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 (87) than they have struck out (86) on the season. It amounts to 4.45 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 20 games, the staff has 173 strikeouts to just 62 walks for an average of 3.0 walks per game compared to 3.9 a year ago.
Clean Takeoff: Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jett Bandy has been one of UA’s top offensive performer in the team’s first 20 games. Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 doubles a year ago, is the club leader in average (.506), slugging (.790) and on-base percentage (.570). He also leads in runs (30), hits (41), home runs (4) and is second in RBI (23). Just as impressive, in 81 official at-bats, Bandy has struck out only four times on the season. For his career, Bandy has struck out just 23 times in 245 at-bats, or once every 10 at-bats. Pretty good figures for a power bat in the lineup. Bandy was named Pac-10 Player of the Week for the first time in his career on March 22.
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 .427 (70-for-164) with nearly half of his hits going for extra bases (22 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 now 10th all-time at Arizona in career HBP.
‘K’urt Heyer: Entering this week’s action, freshman Kurt Heyer is tied for second amongst all Pac-10 pitchers with 43 strikeouts. Of his 43 strikeouts, 19 have been looking, which checks in tops in the league. Heyer’s arm has accounted for 43 of UA’s 173 strikeouts as a team (24.9 percent) despite throwing just 18.2 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 19 of the 20 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 73 of their last 77 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 current total of 50 on the season averages out to 2.50 per game. Jett Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 a season ago, again leads the club with 11 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 39 – which also is second in the Pac-10 – but only eight have gone for extra bases (four doubles and three triples, one home run). The result has been a .438 average that is third-best on the club. He has 25 runs scored and has 19 RBI through 20 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 two weeks ago. After entering the March 6 game hitting .175, Ortega finished the following week with a .254 batting average thanks to a nice five-game stretch in which he batted .421 (8-for-19). After last week’s five games, Ortega stands at .267. On the season, Ortega has team-high 14 walks and has scored 25 runs. He now has scored 116 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-44 in stolen base attempts (88.6 percent), which narrowly falls short of the best mark in UA history in the category. Currently, the best percentage is T.J. Steele’s 90.0-percent success rate from 2006-08. Lastly, Ortega has more career walks (70) than strikeouts (64).
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 22 double plays on the season with Ortega and Mejia factoring into 15 and 18, respectively. Ortega leads the Pac-10 in total assists (75), followed closely by Mejia, who is fourth (66). That’s some good early season work for the middle of UA’s infield.
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 19 is already 10th-most in a career for a Wildcat.
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 .370 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 begin Pacific-10 Conference action as it hosts Oregon March 26-28. The first game of the series is set for Friday night at 6 p.m. at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium.