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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “UA, UMass set for 3-game series”

    UA freshman Kyle Simon hurls a pitch toward home plate during an 8-1 Wildcat win against Holy Cross Wednesday night at Sancet Stadium. Arizona enters the weekend on a two-game win streak as it hosts UMass in a three-game series.
    UA freshman Kyle Simon hurls a pitch toward home plate during an 8-1 Wildcat win against Holy Cross Wednesday night at Sancet Stadium. Arizona enters the weekend on a two-game win streak as it hosts UMass in a three-game series.

    It was nine o’clock at night on August 15 – the last day in which 2008 MLB drafted players could sign as professionals – when Arizona head coach Andy Lopez received a call.

    It was from Kyle Lobstein, a southpaw and potential recruit for Arizona who had just inked his contract with the Devil Rays. This left the Wildcats six days to fill the hole.

    Fortunately UA assistant coach Mark Wasikowski did in the form of sophomore Matt Veltmann.

    The junior college transfer from San Diego Community College wasted no time assuring his coaches they made the right decision as the right-hander continuously impressed his coaches throughout the fall season, leading everyone to believe more of the same would come in the spring.

    “”Veltmann pitched better than anyone we had this fall, without a doubt,”” Lopez said prior to the start of the season. “”We expect him to go out and get us five solid innings every Saturday as our starter.””

    Two starts into the season, however, the struggling sophomore has only lasted five total innings with an ERA of more than 14. His third start is expected to come this Sunday against Massachusetts (2-1) – a three-game series which begins tonight at 7 p.m.

    After last Saturday, in which Veltmann walked two batters and allowed seven earned runs through just three innings against visiting Georgia, Lopez revealed a secret of sorts about his starter.

    Apparently Veltmann has been pitching with a bulging disk in his back since December. The injury occurred while the San Diego native was helping his parents move into a new house.

    On Monday, Veltmann received an epidural shot to treat the injury and is expected to be ready for action Sunday.

    “”(Veltmann) said (Wednesday) was the first day he’s actually stretched in two and a half months,”” Lopez said. “”I didn’t want to make excuses for him early on, but what he’s been doing has been pretty amazing.””

    Lopez and the rest of the Wildcats (6-4) are hoping the shot Veltmann received Monday will bring back the strength the sophomore showed during the fall.

    Veltmann himself refused to put all the blame of his first two starts on his injury but said the outings certainly have him a bit frustrated.

    “”I’m definitely flustered,”” Veltmann said. “”I have confidence, but I just don’t understand why I’m getting hit so much.

    “”In terms of the frustration level it’s there, but I’m not too worried about it,”” he added. “”I just gotta come back and the next time I come out and pitch I gotta be good, no exceptions.””

    This weekend’s series with UMass will be a test, not only for Veltmann, but for the rest of the Arizona pitching staff as well, which up to this point has yet to produce much, especially from its starters.

    Through two weekends, the Wildcats’ weekend starters each have an ERA of at least 5.00 with a combined 1-4 record.

    Lopez addressed the concern following Wednesday’s 8-1 win against Holy Cross saying Arizona’s main pitching concern is closing out innings.

    Lopez’s frustration with the pitching staff through the first two weekends resonates throughout the staff, including veterans like right-hander Preston Guilmet (0-1) who went through struggles of his own last Friday night in an 11-5 loss to Georgia.

    “”There’s really no excuse,”” Guilmet said of his pitching. “”I need to be better. But luckily this is a long season and I’m going to get more chances and a lot more innings.

    “”It’ll be easy to bounce back, (I’ll) just go out, hang zeros and get a win (tonight).””

    Extra bases

    Saturday’s game has been pushed back from its original start time of noon to 2 p.m. in order to accommodate parking conflicts with the men’s basketball game later that night.

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