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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    A search for consistency in Sunday starters

    UA pitcher Mike Colla drills a pitch to the plate in Arizonas 7-5 win over Northern Colorado March 25 at Sancet Stadium. The righty has reclaimed the Sunday starting role after suffering a viral infection that kept him out of the rotation for four weeks.
    UA pitcher Mike Colla drills a pitch to the plate in Arizona’s 7-5 win over Northern Colorado March 25 at Sancet Stadium. The righty has reclaimed the Sunday starting role after suffering a viral infection that kept him out of the rotation for four weeks.

    Four pitchers, 36 earned runs and one mysterious virus. That’s what the Arizona baseball team’s Sunday starter’s slot has been through this season.

    “”I think the role for the most part for the whole year had been kind of open, and nobody had pitched themselves into it,”” said Mike Colla, one of those four pitchers.

    In 12 combined starts this season, Wildcat Sunday starters are 1-3 with a 6.23 ERA and have eight no-decisions.

    That lone win came all the way back on Feb. 4 against Gonzaga, when Brad Mills – who has started every Saturday game for the Wildcats since – gave up one run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings a day later than normal because closer Daniel Schlereth tried his hand at starting the Saturday game.

    “”It just takes somebody that wants to go out and has got the will to win,”” Friday night starter Preston Guilmet said of the Sunday starting role.

    “”I’m not saying that none of our guys (has the will to win), I’m just saying we haven’t found the one yet. You’ve got to have the desire, and of course you have to have the talent, but you’ve got to want it.””

    An average start for the Sunday group has gone something like this: Four runs, three earned, allowed on six hits, with three strikeouts against two walks in 4 1/3 innings.

    In comparison, Arizona’s Friday and Saturday starters – Guilmet and Mills for the most part – have averaged 7 1/3 innings per start, giving up two earned runs on six hits with eight strikeouts against two walks. Together, they’re 15-5 with a 2.65 ERA and four complete games.

    “”It’s been rough (on) Sundays,”” Colla said. “”Friday and Saturday have been pretty stable all year for the most part – I mean, better than any two in the country – but Sunday, we’ve been struggling to get wins.””

    Sunday has also been somewhat of a carousel. After Mills’ initial start, Colla started back-to-back Sunday games, but he struggled (0-1, 8.59 ERA), and left-hander David Coulon started the next five games.

    After going 0-1 with a 7.40 ERA in those starts, Coulon gave way to righty Ryan Perry, who was recovering from a January motorcycle accident.

    Perry was given three starts, but he didn’t fare any better than those before him (0-1, 7.71), and the carousel made its way back to Colla last Sunday at then-No. 25 UCLA.

    He made his mark, going 5 2/3 innings against the Bruins, touching 93 mph on the radar gun, giving up three runs – two on an error – and leaving his coach raving about him.

    “”Mike Colla, wow,”” said UA head coach Andy Lopez. “”(The outing) was really good. It was very impressive.

    “”He pitched out of a huge jam – although (UCLA) still got two runs out of it with the error – but I mean, bases loaded, and he’s facing the three and four hitters, and he gets a strikeout and a groundout to first. Again, we don’t control the baseball, but you wouldn’t ask for anything more than that – out of a Friday-night guy.””

    Colla will start again Sunday against Liberty (28-19, 9-6 Big South Conference) in the final game of a three-game set that starts Friday at 7. He could bring what Lopez hopes will be a little consistency to the third-day starting role for the No. 15 Wildcats (31-11, 10-5 Pacific 10 Conference).

    “”We need someone to pick that spot up, and, boy, (Colla) did a good job this Sunday,”” Lopez said.

    The sophomore’s journey back to the Sunday spot has been a long one.

    Colla appeared in relief eight more times after losing his starting spot, but he fell ill in late March after a series with Northern Colorado.

    He was tested for mononucleosis and essentially “”everything else,”” Colla said. He even had an MRI to check for a brain tumor.

    “”When they told me that, I was like ‘Really?’ And they go, ‘No, it’s the bottom of the list, we don’t think you have it,’ “” Colla said. “”So they told me right away that they didn’t think I had it, because I didn’t have signs of it, but they were going to test, anyways.””

    The 6-foot-2, 230-pound righty – who experienced dizziness, blurred vision and light-headedness – lost 10 pounds from what doctors ended up calling a “”viral infection.””

    “”I had to wait it out,”” said Colla, who missed four weeks, “”and it seemed to take forever.””

    Colla recovered from the illness two weekends ago, but he still needed to get back to full strength.

    He finally got his chance to pitch again this past Sunday, helping end Arizona’s four-game losing streak.

    And though it’s his job to lose, Colla knows the history of the Sunday slot this season.

    “”For me to say I have it locked down is not true at all,”” Colla said, “”but I just got to keep pitching the way I did against UCLA, and things’ll play out on their own.””

    Extra bases

    Arizona returns home for the first time in four weeks after going 4-5 in the three series away from Sancet Stadium. … Guilmet (8-1) was named a semifinalist yesterday for the Golden Spikes award, given each year to college baseball’s top player. … Mills (8-4) will start Saturday.

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