Baseball Gears Up For Fort Worth
June 1, 2010
TUCSON, Ariz. - The Arizona baseball team began its preparations for the Fort Worth Regional on Tuesday, hitting the practice field for the first time since being selected as the No. 3 seed in the region.
The Wildcats (33-22) are excited for their first postseason appearance since 2008, but for most of the group, this will be the first NCAA regional competition of their careers. Of the 26 players that will be traveling to Fort Worth, Texas, only three have ever played in a postseason game. Rafael Valenzuela and Bryce Ortega both saw significant playing time in 2008 at the Ann Arbor Regional and Coral Gables Super Regional, while Grayson Adams pitched in one postseason game that year.
The lack of experience will not intimidate the youthful Wildcats, who will have 50-percent (13 of 26) of their roster occupied by freshmen. Instead, Arizona hopes it will come out with nothing to lose and play an aggressive brand of baseball.
Head coach Andy Lopez, who earlier this season won his 1,000th career game, told local media members on Tuesday that he has 'never wanted a team to make the postseason as much as this one.' He went on to say that he thinks this year's group will be able to use some late season adversity in its favor this weekend.
'I told the guys in the clubhouse after we found out where we were going, you absolutely deserve to be in this tournament,' Lopez explained. 'We've had a bunch of injuries and faced some very good competition in the top conference in the nation. We have been leaking oil over the few weeks, that's for sure. But from here on out, all you have to do is get hot one weekend at a time.'
Arizona will open against the region's No. 2 seed, Baylor, at 2 p.m. CT on Friday. The Bears have a record of 34-22 on the season and reached the Big 12 Championship game last weekend, ultimately falling short against Texas A&M.
The Wildcats will depart for the Lone Star State on Wednesday afternoon, arriving in Dallas later in the evening. All teams will hold a practice session at Lupton Stadium on Thursday before regional competition begins on Friday.
Arizona is the lone school that will have to travel across state lines for the game. Joining the Wildcats and Bears in the regional is host TCU, the regions top seed, and No. 4 seed Lamar.
Lopez mentioned on Tuesday that he will consider altering the pitching staff for this weekend. Freshman Kurt Heyer has started every series opener for the Wildcats this season, but Lopez explained that for matchup purposes he may send a different starter to the mound to open the regional against the Bears.
The winner of the UA-Baylor matchup will advance to play the winner of the TCU-Lamar game on Saturday night. The losers will meet in an elimination game on Saturday afternoon. The regional championship will be decided on Sunday or, if necessary, on Monday.
All UA games at the regional will be broadcast live KCUB 1290-AM in Tucson with Brian Jeffries describing the action. TCU's official athletics website, www.gofrogs.com, will provide free live streaming of each game.