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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Middle relief an issue for Wildcats baseball thus far

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Colin Prenger
Colin Prenger/ Daily Wildcat

For the No. 8 Arizona baseball team, the wide gap in the pitching staff has been its Achilles heel.

The starters, primarily Kurt Heyer and Konner Wade, have been dominant and boast a combined 7-1 record through the first 25 games of the season.

At the end of the bullpen, Stephen Manthei and Mathew Troupe have been anchoring the Wildcats’ closing spots.

Against Oregon State last weekend, Troupe finished off Saturday and Sunday with consecutive saves. The middle of the bullpen, however, gets awfully murky.

Manthei said that the problems are in the fundamentals.

“It’s coming in and throwing strikes,” he said. “The middle guys have struggled with that a bit.”

While there are a few freshmen that get thrown into the middle relieving rotation, the real issue lies with some of the older guys. Juniors Vincent Littleman and Nick Cunningham have not proven their maturity as the rest of the upperclassmen have on the roster.

In just four innings pitched on the season, Cunningham is saddled with an ERA of 15.75.

The solution to this issue is not an easy one for Arizona head coach Andy Lopez.

“Our starters have to go eight (innings),” Lopez said. “I’m not going to lie, the starters got to go, and they know that.”

As of now, Lopez is not expecting anything productive from the middle of the bullpen, and that’s no way to win ballgames.

“If they want to surprise me, I’m all for it,” Lopez said. “I like surprises, but here’s the honest answer: The starters have to go and get the ball to Manthei and Troupe.”

Winning at home essential

Hi Corbett Field is one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in the nation.

With a center field wall at 410 feet, rarely is a ball hit out of the park, and the Wildcats are aware of that.

The small ball that the Wildcats have become accustomed to at Hi Corbett has to be effective because there is no excuse for the Wildcats to drop contests at home, like they did last week against New Mexico State.

Manthei said the best way to execute small ball is getting back to the basics.

“(It’s) playing good defense, putting the ball in play and throwing strikes,” Manthei said. “(Last) Tuesday we didn’t play defense, Wednesday we didn’t throw strikes, it’s the simple things we need to do well.”

Arizona junior outfielder Robert Refsynder said winning at home should be automatic.

“It’s essential,” he said. “It’s home, you’ve got the advantage, you should take care of business. Definitely we should win at home, but we’ve moved on since New Mexico State, and I was really proud with the way the guys played against Oregon State (last weekend).”

Success at home would be nice, but it can’t be the only thing to strive for, Lopez said.

“I think you have to stress to get wins period in the Pac-12,” Lopez said. “I don’t think it’s a conference where you can just win two out of three at home, and lose two out of three on the ground, and be done. You’ve gotta play well.”

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