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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Elbow injury can’t stop UA pitcher JC Cloney on road to success

Emily Gauci/Arizona Athletics
Athletics portrait of JC Cloney. Cloney overcame a transfer and elbow injuries to solidify his starting role in the rotation.

Arizona baseball’s Friday night starting pitcher, JC Cloney, is finally where he’s supposed to be in his baseball career after health problems forced him to forfeit his first year of Division I baseball.

Cloney was recruited to play at Long Beach State out of high school, but never played a game because of elbow injuries. Cloney admitted the experience was troublesome, but ultimately affected him in a positive way.

“It was rough. I learned a lot about myself,” Cloney said. “It made me a better person today than I was back then.”

Cloney transferred to a junior college in Santa Clarita, California, for two years where he excelled so much that his recruitment to Tucson became the first order of business for Arizona baseball head coach Jay Johnson.

“I knew he was good. The day after I was hired, I was on a plane and the first person I met with was him,” Johnson said. “It was right during the draft and I wanted to make sure we got him here.”

It didn’t take Cloney long to prove why Johnson thought so highly of him. In his first start as an Arizona Wildcat, Cloney went seven innings while allowing only one run with nine strikeouts and no walks in a win over Rice University. The lone run he allowed came on a solo home run.

Cloney is a pitcher who doesn’t overpower anybody, but will keep the hitters off balance with his deception and his defense work. He acknowledged utilizing his defense, as well as throwing early strikes to why he was successful in his first outing of the year.

“[There’s] good defense behind me, so I wasn’t afraid for contact,” Cloney said. “That’s a big thing we’ve worked on this year, executing two out of the first three pitches to be strikes and force contact early.”

Johnson praised Cloney for hurdling the obstacles early in his career, as well as for taking initiative with the team despite being his first year at UA.

“He’s very mature and really has, since he’s shown up, has been an immediate leader and a good mentor to the younger guys,” Johnson said. “He’s kind of [a] seasoned veteran who’s been through some adversity in his college career and has handled it really well.”

Cloney will get the start Friday night against Tulane University as the Wildcats travel to San Diego to participate in the Tony Gwynn Classic. The tournament features high level competition with teams like Nebraska, San Diego State, Kentucky and others.

“The tournament’s an unbelievable opportunity,” Johnson said. “We are going to play all-regional caliber teams at a neutral site. I’m looking forward to some great competition.”

The Wildcats are coming off a tough loss to Lamar by a score of 13-5 on Monday night. The UA beat Rice by two games out of three last weekend, capturing Johnson’s first series win as head coach.

If Cloney and the Wildcats can emulate the way they played in the first series of the season, then the Wildcats have a great chance of winning the Tony Gwynn Classic this weekend. The Wildcats open up the tournament against Tulane on Friday in San Diego.

Follow Ross Olson on Twitter.

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