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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball senior Farris welcomes role as ace

Kyle+Mittan+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AArizona+baseball+won+4-3+on+Saturday+night+against+Alabama+State.+After+falling+3-1+in+the+top+of+the+eighth+inning%2C+the+Wildcats+scored+two+runs+in+the+bottom+and+one+more+in+a+single+extra+inning.
Kyle Mittan
Kyle Mittan / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona baseball won 4-3 on Saturday night against Alabama State. After falling 3-1 in the top of the eighth inning, the Wildcats scored two runs in the bottom and one more in a single extra inning.

Once a rarity in college baseball, the Arizona baseball team retained a senior star player when pitcher James Farris decided to stay in school.

Farris will serve as the Wildcats’ ace in 2014 after Friday night pitcher Konner Wade left for the minor leagues. The Houston Astros drafted Farris, a regional development major, in the 15th round and 437th overall.

“Coming back and getting more of my degree done was the thing that made me choose to come back,” Farris said.

In 2013, Farris went 5-5 with a 4.18 ERA as the No. 2 pitcher in Arizona’s rotation.

“We’re happy,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “I’m always excited for two reasons: one, that he’s going to get his degree, which I think is imperative nowadays. Most guys, they frown upon being a senior in college baseball. I think that’s a real fallacy, I think most guys need to be. Most guys need to take four years and get their degree before they go into pro ball. And obviously that makes our role a lot easier, because we pretty much know who our Friday night guy is going to be.”

Farris said he welcomes the role as Arizona’s ace.

“It’s going to be a change,” Farris said. “I’m starting off the weekend, so I got to mentally prepare myself for that and hopefully I can lead the team as other Friday night starters have.”

In baseball, players are draft eligible after they finish high school. Yet if they choose to attend college, they must wait three years.

Lopez said there used to be a stigma about being a senior baseball player, but it’s starting to disappear.

“It used to be pretty rare,” Lopez said. “It’s started to get a lot more common. Michael Roth from South Carolina, the starting pitcher at Oregon State this year — that guy was a senior. You see it a lot more now.”

Lopez mentioned that Brad Mills, a 22nd round after his junior year, moved up to fourth round and was picked by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007 after his senior year.

Lopez has been a head coach since 1989, leading Pepperdine, Florida and Arizona and said he hopes to keep a “little streak” going.

“We’ve never had a guy not improve his draft status,” Lopez said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to keep that up.”

Senior pitchers Nick Cunningham (20th round, 609th pick overall) and Augey Bill (39th round, 1,179th overall) signed with the Baltimore Orioles. Third rounder and junior third baseman Brandon Dixon signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Junior outfielder Johnny Field, who was picked in the fifth round, signed with the Tampa Bay Rays. Junior pitcher and seventh round pick Wade signed with the Colorado Rockies.

Farris said he doesn’t want to leave on the sour note of a disappointing 2013 season. The defending national champions went 34-21 this past season, 15-15 in the Pac-12, and missed the NCAA tournament.

“I just didn’t want to leave my program the way I was,” Farris said. “I have a little bit more pride in Arizona baseball and I just want to see it succeed, I don’t want it to be bad whenever I leave.”

Lopez is excited about the Wildcats’ 2014 pitching staff with the draft now complete and after seeing several pitchers in the Alaskan summer league excel.

“We survived the draft pretty well, in terms of the pitching part of it,” Lopez said.

Farris thinks Arizona can win its fifth national championship in 2014. In 2012, Farris started the College World Series clinching a win, allowing just one run, two hits and two walks.

“I believe we’re going to make a run for it,” Farris said. “The goal ever year is to win the national championship, to get to Omaha.”

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