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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    A season’s worth of motivation

    A seasons worth of motivation

    Colt Sedbrook was standing in line at Circle K on East Sixth Street Friday afternoon, just hours before his team started a series against the defending national champion Oregon State Beavers.

    The second baseman – along with a contingent of Arizona baseball players including first baseman C.J. Ziegler, center fielder T.J. Steele and right fielder Jon Gaston – was still wearing his uniform, having just come from batting practice.

    Sedbrook watched as Gaston checked out.

    “”Hey, you guys play Arizona baseball?”” the clerk asked Gaston.

    “”Yeah, yeah,”” Gaston said.

    “”What number are you?””

    “”I’m No. 4.””

    The clerk paused. “”Well that No. 2 guy, he sucks.””

    Sedbrook, with No. 2 on his back, perked up: “”What?””

    “”Yeah,”” the clerk said. “”I was in Hawaii (where Arizona won two of three games March 9-11), and the hits you got, they weren’t very good.””

    “”The hits the I got, they weren’t very good?”” Sedbook asked.

    “”Yeah.””

    Recounting the story, Sedbrook starts to laugh.

    “”I was just like, ‘All right, you’re working at Circle K, buddy,’ “” he said. “”I mean, why? It’d be different if you’re driving a Beamer or a Benz or something like that.

    “”And so every time now, I just go up to him – I always purposely go to his line, (point to an Arizona baseball poster) and say ‘You know, there’s my picture right there, buddy.’ “”

    He laughs again.

    “”It’s all fun and games,”” he said. “”Everyone was laughing about it in the locker room. I was like, ‘I got told I suck by a guy that works at Circle K,’ so that’s funny.””

    “”It was good,”” he added. “”That kind of motivated me as well.””

    The Arizona baseball team has had plenty of that this season.

    Hanging in the Wildcats’ locker room is a poll of Pacific 10 Conference coaches who were asked to predict the finish of all nine teams (Oregon doesn’t field a baseball program) for the 2007 season. Arizona is fifth in the poll.

    “”A lot of us took that to heart,”” Ziegler said. “”We want to go out every day and show that we can play in the Pac-10, and with the country.””

    Then there’s the 22-6 non-conference record supposedly inflated by a “”soft”” non-conference schedule. (Arizona’s non-conference schedule ranked 60th on the college baseball ratings site Boydsworld.com before the season. Currently, the entire schedule ranks 85th.)

    There’s also the fact that this team’s no good because of its failures last season, when it went 27-28.

    And, oh yeah, with 26 underclassmen on the roster, they’re too young.

    They’ve heard it all season.

    “”We’re trying to go out and earn respect from everybody every day that we play,”” said third baseman Brad Glenn. “”Even in practice, we work as hard as we can to earn the respect of our coaches.””

    After sweeping then-No. 4 Oregon State this past weekend, Arizona improved to 25-6, in the process climbing into Baseball America’s rankings for the first time this season at No. 17 – which, by the way, was yet another cause for motivation.

    “”I think this entire year, we’re going to have a chip on our shoulder, and we’ve got the Baseball America – they didn’t even have us ranked until we swept (Oregon State),”” said right-hander Ryan Perry, who will move into the rotation this Saturday against California. “”Every game, we’re just going in to do our best to prove everyone wrong.””

    Perhaps the biggest drive of all comes not from external sources, but from the rearview mirror.

    Despite going 12-12 in conference play in 2006, the Wildcats weren’t invited to participate in the postseason. They were forced to sit home and watch as Stanford – a team that went 11-13 in the Pac-10 – was invited to Texas for the Austin Regional.

    “”We were definitely a better team than what our record shows last year,”” said Perry, a sophomore. “”Last year, we just couldn’t pull together.””

    There are no questions about why they were left home. Arizona players say they know it’s because they didn’t take care of business in non-conference games, dropping a series to New Mexico early on, losing a combined six straight to No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 7 Cal State Fullerton just before Pac-10 play began and then dropping a series to UNLV in early May.

    “”I’ve told them last year we really cost ourselves,”” Lopez said. “”We were 12-12 in conference, we were good enough to be in the postseason again, but we cost ourselves by not taking care of the other (non-conference) games.

    “”They’ve kept that in their memory, to kind of motivate and keep them kind of going and pushing.””

    So this season, they set out to change that, winning their first nine games – including a revenge sweep of New Mexico – before taking a series at UNLV.

    Though Arizona was absolutely pounded in its next game, a 22-8 drubbing at the hands of then-No. 14 ASU, it won 11 of its next 13 games.

    Then came the sweep.

    “”I don’t know how many people expected us (to) come and get the sweep, but I think we were coming in to get a couple wins out of it, and we knew we were going to give them a run for their money,”” Perry said. “”People say we’re not that good, but we know our talent. We know we’re a good team.””

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