No. 22 Arizona Heads to Pacific Northwest
April 7, 2010
No. 22 Arizona (20-8, 2-4 Pac-10) at Washington (16-11, 2-1 Pac-10)
Seattle, Wash. | Husky Ballpark
Series Schedule/Probable Starting Pitchers
Some Series Themes: Two opposing psyches meet up this weekend in Seattle … The Huskies are feeling good having won nine of their last 10 games, while the Wildcats have a bitter taste in their mouths thanks to a four-game losing streak … The Cats, however, are familiar with a nice streak of success having won 15-straight games earlier this season … UW, with a pair of wins last week over rival Washington State, sits at 2-1 in league, right where UA was at before an 0-3 trip to Berkeley last week … The Huskies are fresh off two mid-week victories (3-1, 5-1) over Gonzaga in Spokane, where UA will head on Monday following the weekend series … UA, the top hitting team in the league, will face a Washington team that ranked last in the conference in ERA and opposing batting average entering the week. However, UA hit just .221 at California last weekend and the Huskies have allowed just 13 total runs in their last four games – all wins … UA enters with an 0-3 record on the road against the host team that has picked up just four of its 16 victories at Husky Ballpark (4-6) … A solid fielding team by percentage (.968) – Washington – hosts a Wildcat club that has played spectacular defense at times this year, but has struggled recently with 13 errors in six Pac-10 games and has a season fielding percentage of .962 … UA, which has 63 stolen bases will look to get its running game going again against the Huskies, who have just 17 stolen bases of their own.
UA-UA Series History: The Wildcats and Huskies have met 36 previous times on the diamond, with the Wildcats holding a 21-15 advantage in the series that dates back to 1992. Arizona, despite dropping the opener, won two of three games in Tucson in its final regular season home series in 2009. The programs’ last meeting in Seattle was in 2008, with UW taking two of three in the series.
UA-Cal Series Recap: Despite a loss in the ninth inning to Oregon a week earlier to snap a 15-game winning streak, the then-No. 20 Wildcats were still riding high entering their first road series at California last weekend. The momentum from the streak officially turned against UA in the fourth inning of Thursday’s game in Berkeley as starter Kurt Heyer was struck in the head by a line drive off the bat of Mark Canha. Heyer was forced from the game, and the Wildcats, who held a 1-0 lead entering the inning, allowed five runs and went on to lose 7-2. Rain postponed Friday’s game and forced a doubleheader on Saturday. Cal handed UA its first shutout since April 4, 2008, with an 8-0 victory in the first game and followed up with a 4-3 win in the series finale … Arizona, which averaged over nine runs per game through 25 games, boasted the best offense in the league entering the weekend, but managed just five runs over the course of the three games … Defense let down the Cats all weekend long as eight defensive errors led to 10 unearned runs (out of 19 total runs allowed) … Arizona hitters struggled offensively, hitting just .221 for the series. They struck out 17 times and walked only four times in the three games.
Cats in the Rankings: Arizona remains ranked in three of the five major top-25 polls. The Wildcats are ranked No. 22 in the USA Today/ESPN coaches’ poll after being tabbed No. 20 last week. Arizona checks in at No. 23 in the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association poll and No. 22 in the Rivals.com ratings. UA is unranked this week by Baseball America and Collegiate Baseball.
On the Road Again: After playing its first road games of the season last week at California, Arizona will again hit the road for four games in the Pacific Northwest this weekend. UA continues Pac-10 action at Washington Friday-Sunday in Seattle, before heading east to play Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., in a single non-conference game on Monday. The Monday matinee against the Bulldogs will mark the end of seven-consecutive road games, UA’s longest stretch away from home on the season. The Wildcats’ next-longest stretch of road games will be April 30 – May 4 as UA plays at USC for a three-game series (April 30-May 2) and has a single non-conference showdown against Arizona State (May 4).
Miscellaneous Diamond Notes: Despite hitting just .221 (21-for-95) at California, UA still leads the Pac-10 in batting average (.358). The clip ranked No. 5 in the NCAA entering the week … In Berkeley, the Wildcats also failed to turn a double play, but still leads the league with 35 on the season, which is also No. 3 in the NCAA … Steve Selsky has extended his hitting streak to 14-consectutive games, which trails only Bryce Ortega’s 15-game streak from earlier this season as the longest of the season for a UA player … The Wildcats are averaging 8.82 runs and 12.93 hits per game while opponents have been held to 4.89 runs and 9.75 hits per game … Alex Mejia (SS), Joey Rickard (CF) and Steve Selsky (RF) are the only Wildcats to have started all 28 games at the same position. Jett Bandy has started all 28 games, but has split starts at catcher (23), DH (3) and first base (2) … Arizona’s starting rotation of Kurt Heyer, Bryce Bandilla and Kyle Simon as combined for a season record of 11-4 and a 3.13 ERA … UA has outscored opponents 247-137 on the season … The Wildcats have exactly 500 total bases as a team through 28 games … Dating back to the final 20 games of 2009, UA has won 34 of its last 48 games (.701) … UA is one of just two Pac-10 teams (California) hitting over .300 in Pac-10 Conference games.
Approaching 1,000 Wins: Arizona head coach Andy Lopez is quickly approaching one of the greatest coaching milestones: 1,000 Division I career victories. To date, Lopez has 989 career victories, and is one of four coaches within reach of the milestone this season. Already this year, Ohio State’s Bob Todd and LSU’s Paul Mainieri, and Sam Houston State’s Mark Johnson have reached 1,000 Division I coaching victories. Next in line could be South Carolina’s Ray Tanner (997) and Rutgers’ Fred Hill (995). Currently, 43 coaches have reached the milestone. Lopez’s career Division I coaching record is 989-610-7 (.619).
300 Wins: Arizona coach Andy Lopez already has reached one coaching milestone this season: 300 wins as the skipper of the Wildcats. UA’s 11-7 victory over New Mexico on March 24 marked win No. 300 in Lopez’s nine seasons in Tucson. At Arizona, Lopez holds a record of 302-192-1 (.611).
In the NCAA: Arizona ranks highly as a team in the NCAA in several statistical categories. Here’s where the Wildcats ranked at the start of this week:
Category Stat NCAA Rank
Batting Ave. .358 5
Runs/game 8.8 23
Hits 362 12
Triples 14 8
Stolen Bases 63 13
Sacrifice Bunts 24 29
ERA 3.90 27
Double Plays 35 3
Winning % .714 30
Hitting vs. Pitching: Arizona boasts the Pac-10’s top offense with a .358 average, which also puts the Wildcats at No. 5 in the NCAA in the category entering the week. However, the Cats’ bats cooled off at California as the team hit just .221 in the series. The task of maintaining the impressive season batting average will be a challenging one as UA continues to face top-tier pitching in Pac-10 Conference play. In fact, the league’s cumulative ERA of 3.91 was the best amongst all conferences in the nation (Big 12 is second, 4.47) entering this week. Four Pac-10 teams, including UCLA (1st, 2.32), Arizona State (2nd, 2.67), Oregon (4th, 2.95) and Oregon State (5th, 3.02) rank in the top-5 in the NCAA for ERA. The Wildcats’ staff checks in at No. 27, with a 3.97 ERA. The average ERA for all NCAA Division I teams was 5.89 entering this week’s action.
Make Them Earn It: One thing the Wildcats must improve on to snap their four-game losing streak is cut down on defensive miscues. The Wildcats committed eight errors last weekend in Berkeley which led to 10 unearned runs allowed (out of 19 total runs). In fact, through six Pac-10 games, UA has yielded just 22 earned runs, good enough for a 3.88 team ERA. However, UA has been outscored 35-30 in league games because 13 additional unearned runs have crossed home. That total of 13 unearned equals the total of UA’s 22 non-conference games.
No KO for KH: Freshman RHP Kurt Heyer will return to action this week in his regular role as the Friday night starter despite being forced from last Thursday’s start after being struck in the head by a line drive. Heyer was removed from the game in the fourth inning after California’s Mark Canha hit a 2-0 line drive back up the middle that hit Heyer on the side of his head and ricocheted into right field for a double. Heyer, who suffered a mild concussion from the scary incident, has cleared all medical evaluations this week and will take the mound in the series opener at Washington.
‘K’urt Heyer: Entering this week’s action, freshman Kurt Heyer is fifth amongst all Pac-10 pitchers with 50 strikeouts. Of his 50 strikeouts, 24 have been looking, which checks in tops in the league. Heyer’s arm has accounted for 50 of UA’s 217 strikeouts as a team (23.0 percent) despite throwing just 16.9 percent of UA’s innings as a team. On the year, Heyer has a 4-0 record in seven starts with an ERA of 2.08. He has allowed just seven walks on the season and his 1.45 strikeouts per nine innings is the second-fewest for all Pac-10 pitchers.
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.
No. 2 Guy: For the fourth weekend in a row, Bryce Bandilla will get the nod as the starter on Saturday. Bandilla, who began the year penciled in as the closer, has shown significant improvement in his consistency from his freshman to sophomore seasons as he has returned to the starting rotation. Bandilla has lowered his ERA from 6.20 a season ago to a respectable 4.01 mark in 2010. The key has undoubtedly been better control and confidence in secondary pitches, which has flipped his strikeout:walk ratio in a much more positive direction. In 49.1 innings a year ago, the left-hander had more walks (32) than strikeouts (30). This season he has 39 strikeouts – second on the club – and just 16 walks in 42.2 innings pitched.
Simon Says: Arizona sophomore right-hander Kyle Simon has steadied himself after an up-and-down start to the season. Simon won his first decision of the year on Feb 21 against Utah Valley in an eight-inning effort in which he allowed just one run and struck out seven. He then struggled in his next two starts and saw his ERA peak at 5.06 following a second-straight loss on March 6 against Cal State Fullerton. Since, Simon has been brilliant, picking up three wins in five starts to improve his record to 4-2 and lower his ERA to 3.28. Last month, Simon picked up a pair of victories (one in a mid-week start against Wichita State and another on Sunday against Sacramento State), and then earned a victory in relief a week later against New Mexico. In his last 33.1 innings pitched, Simon has allowed just 14 runs – nine earned – and has 15 strikeouts against eight walks.
Save What? Despite having the second-most wins of any Pac-10 team, Arizona is tied for the fewest saves of any team – two (Stanford). There are several plausible explanations for that. First, UA has lacked a go-to pitcher that has performed well in the role as a closer. Bryce Bandilla got the first crack, then Nick Cunningham and Tyler Hale. While all have been solid overall, no one has claimed the job permanently, and recently Cory Bernard has had a few ninth-inning appearances despite no save situations. Two weeks ago, UA’s 15-game winning streak was snapped after Nick Cunningham allowed four runs in the ninth and Oregon won 9-8. A second reason for the lack of saves is the fact that Arizona has 15 wins with margins of victory greater than four runs, including five games with double-digit margins. Lastly, when Arizona has failed to close out games on the mound, it has had the luxury to do so at the plate. Playing 25 of 28 games at home, Arizona is 5-3 in games decided by one run or less, with three-walk off wins and two decided by UA’s last at-bat of the game in the eighth inning.
Joltin’ Joey: Freshman centerfielder Joey Rickard has kicked off his collegiate career in impressive fashion. Through 28 games – all starts – Rickard is hitting .367 with five doubles, two triples and is second on the team with four home runs, including a grand slam against Sacramento State on March 20. The Las Vegas native’s 34 RBI not only lead the Wildcats, but ranks second for all Pac-10 players. He also ranks ninth in the league in runs scored (27), fourth in hits (44) and sixth in total bases (65). He was named Pac-10 Player of the Week on March 15 following a sensational five-game stretch.
Steady Senior: On the youngest team in the Pac-10, Rafael Valenzuela offers a dose of veteran leadership. The senior first baseman is hitting .297 on the season and is one of the team’s top run-producers. Valenzuela, who has played every position in his career except catcher, pitcher and centerfield, has scored 32 runs and collected 23 RBI. He is one of the club’s top extra-base threats with eight doubles, three triples and a home run on the season, for a solid .450 slugging percentage. He is also a swift 8-for-9 in stolen base attempts.
Seth Steps Up: One of UA’s top performers during the first half of the season is freshman third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean. The first-year Wildcat is hitting .446 since March 5, which has improved his season batting average from .176 on March 6 all the way to its current .396. Mejias-Brean has also been UA’s third-best run-producer during the stretch, collecting 21 RBI over the last 20 games while scoring 17 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 sophomores Jett Bandy and Steve Selsky … Selsky was named Pac-10 Player of the Week on March 29 after hitting 10-for-20 on the week and accounting for 17 total runs to go with two home runs … 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.
Clean Takeoff: Sophomore catcher/first baseman Jett Bandy has been one of UA’s top offensive performer in the team’s first 28 games. Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 doubles a year ago, leads the club in average (.450), in slugging (.694) and in on-base percentage (.533). He also is second in runs (34), hits (50), leads in home runs (5) and is third in RBI (27). Just as impressive, in 111 official at-bats, Bandy has struck out only seven times on the season. For his career, Bandy has struck out just 26 times in 275 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 .407 (79-for-194) with nearly 40-percent of his hits going for extra bases (23 2B, 8 HR). In the 50-game span, Bandy has collected 43 RBI and scored 44 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 5th all-time at Arizona in career HBP after being hit eight times this season for a career total of 22.
Selsky Powering Up: Sophomore right fielder Steve Selsky has racked up 12 extra base hits in his last 18 games after hitting just two extra base hits in the first 10 games of the season. Not that Selsky was struggling at the plate to begin the season as he was actually hitting an even .400 through 10 contests. Interestingly, Selsky’s batting average has risen with increased power numbers in the last 18 games. Selsky is now hitting .433 for the season and has collected five doubles, three triples and four homers in the last 18 games.
More on Steve: Steve Selsky has asserted himself as one of the top offensive players in the Pac-10 through the first half of the 2010 season. Selsky leads all conference players with 52 hits on the season and his .433 average is No. 2 in the league behind classmate Jett Bandy. The right fielder’s on-base percentage of .500 is No. 4 in the conference, while his .642 slugging percentage is No. 8 in the Pac. Selsky, who drove in only 21 runs last season, is No. 5 with 28 RBI and No. 1 in runs scored with 37.
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.
Refsnyder Rollin’: Freshman Robert Refsnyder is one of four regular freshman starters for the Wildcats and he as quietly put together a sensational first half of the season. Refsnyder, who can play various positions including left field, third base and second base, is third among UA regulars with a .423 batting average to go with 23 runs scored and 25 RBI. His batting average currently ranks No. 4 in the Pac-10, while his .487 on base percentage is No. 7 in the league. His 44 hits tie with classmate Joey Rickard for third-most on the club and fourth-most in the conference. Refsnyder has also stolen five bases in six attempts on the season and has been hit by a pitch seven times, which is tied for second-most on the squad.
UA’s 15-Game Winning Streak: Arizona mounted a 15-game winning streak from March 7 – March 27, the sixth-longest winning streak in program history and the seventh-longest home winning streak. Included in the streak were wins over Cal State Fullerton (1), Saint Joseph’s (2), Northern Colorado (3), Wichita State (2), Sacramento State (3), New Mexico (2) and Oregon (2).
Turning Two: The Wildcats have turned a league-best 35 double plays (32 on ground balls) on the season with Bryce Ortega and Alex Mejia factoring into 27 and 25, respectively. The total double plays ranks No. 3 in the entire nation and has been a pitcher’s best friend throughout the season. The two usual suspects in turning two have also been UA’s busiest defenders. Ortega leads the Pac-10 in total assists (96), followed closely by Mejia, who is second (95). That’s some good early season work for the middle of UA’s infield.
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 2,518-1,333-22.
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.
Double the Fun: The Wildcats have hit at least one double in 25 of the 28 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 79 of their last 85 games (93 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 59 on the season averages out to 2.1 per game. Jett Bandy, who tied for the team lead with 21 a season ago, again leads the club with 12 to date.
.300 Club: Through 28 games, the Wildcats are hitting .358 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 1,068 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.
Hitting in the Pac-10: Here’s a look where Arizona ranks statistically in the Pac-10 in offensive categories (all games) entering this weekend:
Category Stat Pac-10 Rank
Batting Avg. .358 1
Slugging % .495 3
On Base % .435 2
Runs Scored 247 2
Hits 362 1
RBI 224 2
Doubles 59 4
Triples 14 2
HR 17 5
Walks 109 3
Strikeouts 135 10 (fewest)
HPB 40 2
Stolen Bases 63 t-1
HPB 40 2
Pitching in the Pac-10: Here’s a look where Arizona ranks statistically in the Pac-10 in pitching categories (all games) entering this weekend:
Category Stat Pac-10 Rank
ERA 3.90 5
Opposing BA .274 8
Innings Pitched .256 1
Strikeouts 217 4
Walks Allowed 96 8
Hits Allowed 273 9
Runs Allowed 137 7
HR Allowed 13 t-3
On Deck: Arizona will return home to Tucson after the four-game road trip to the state of Washington. The Wildcats will host the Washington State Cougars in a three-game set at Kindall Field at Sancet Stadium April 16-18.