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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball takes two of three from Fullerton

The youngest baseball team in the Pacific 10 Conference faced its biggest test of the season this past weekend with a three-game series against powerhouse California State University, Fullerton.

But the Wildcats (6-4) didn’t play like a group with 17 freshmen, 21 newcomers and 23 underclassmen — they rose to the occasion and took two of three games from the No. 18 Titans (4-6).

“”No matter who you play if you win two out of three you feel pretty good,”” said head coach Andy Lopez. “”But obviously with a club like Fullerton coming in, it’s a good (weekend) for a young club.””

The Wildcats kicked the series off in a big way, thanks to the late-game heroics of freshman third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean. With the game knotted up at seven in the eleventh inning and freshman shortstop Alex Mejia on second, Mejias-Brean sent a single to left field that lifted the Wildcats over the Titans, 8-7.

“”I just got a fastball and I jumped on it,”” said Mejias-Brean, who finished the weekend with four RBIs.

“”He’s got a tremendous amount of ability,”” Lopez added of Mejias-Brean. “”I think he’s starting to settle in and relax and start playing the game.””

But Mejias-Brean wasn’t the only freshman that stepped up Friday night. Freshman pitcher Kurt Heyer set the tone for the Wildcats, as he limited the Titans to two runs through 5 1/3 innings, striking out eight and not walking a single batter.

“”It was a good feeling to beat them,”” Heyer said. “”They kind of have this mindset that they invented the game, and it was good to take that away from them.””

Whether it was on the mound, in the batters box or on the field, the UA freshmen stepped up to the plate against the No. 4 preseason-ranked Titans.

“”We had freshmen all over the field.  Freshmen at the beginning of the game. A freshman gets a big hit out there and a freshman scores,”” Lopez said. “”They’re getting old quick. I’m proud of the way they compete.””

With the Wildcats riding high after the Friday-night game, they hit a speed bump in Game 2 in the form of Fullerton starter Noe Ramirez.

Ramirez stole the show, as he outdueled UA starter Kyle Simon on a way to a Titans 6-1 victory. Ramirez went the distance, striking out nine batters, while allowing only one run on five hits in nine innings of work.

“”I think it was the case of just watching a real, real stellar performance,”” Lopez said of Ramirez, whom the Wildcats recruited heavily but couldn’t get into Arizona due to academics.

“”He threw first-pitch strikes. He executed his off-speed pitch when he needed to,”” he added. “”I’m not going to take anything away from Ramirez. He pitched an outstanding ballgame.””

Simon, the preseason favorite for the No. 1 starter spot, occupied the other end of the spectrum, as he only lasted 3 1/3 innings, during which he yielded five runs (four earned) on seven hits, a walk and a hit batsman.

But Arizona bounced back in Game 3, as they jumped out to a 9-0 lead after four innings, and rode the arm of junior Daniel Workman the rest of the way to a 10-1 victory.

The redshirt right-hander went six innings, allowing only one run (unearned) off of seven hits and zero walks, while striking out three.

“”It’s very encouraging,”” Lopez said of Workman’s performance. “”I think we’re starting to settle in a bit on a couple rotation spots.””

Workman has now only yielded one run over the past 10 1/3 innings.

“”I’m still getting it going with the arm so the pitch count was up,”” added Workman, who had been dealing with arm tightness early in the season. “”It’s starting to feel better and I’m getting it back to where it should be.””

The Titans used the Sunday game as a staff day, rotating pitchers every two innings or so, but it didn’t matter who was on the mound, as the Wildcats sprayed balls all across the diamond.

They scored at least one run in each of the first five innings, including a two-run homerun from senior first baseman Rafael Valenzuela — the first round-tripper of his career. 

Aside from Saturday’s game, the offense was clicking, the pitching was solid and it resulted in a series win over one of the nation’s most notable programs. But the series victory is just another pair of wins for the team, Fullerton or no Fullerton.

“”To be honest with you, in our locker room we don’t ever put up the schedule of who we’re playing,”” Workman said. “”Being Arizona, we expect to beat a Fullerton program. We expect to beat them.””

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