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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baird seting the tone

    Arizona first baseman Dillon Baird races toward home plate during a 9-0 win against UMass on March 8 at Sancet Stadium. Baird keys the Wildcats offense as he leads the team in batting average, RBIs, on-base percentage walks and triples.
    Arizona first baseman Dillon Baird races toward home plate during a 9-0 win against UMass on March 8 at Sancet Stadium. Baird keys the Wildcats’ offense as he leads the team in batting average, RBIs, on-base percentage walks and triples.

    The Arizona baseball team has wandered listlessly through a hazy first half of the season without any semblance of identity.

    Pitchers have come and gone, hitters have gone in and out of slumps, and after 27 games the Wildcats have one more loss than they do victories.

    Through all the smoke and confusion, there has been one player who has emerged from the pack as a model of consistency: junior Dillon Baird.

    The first baseman has been a force from the left side of the plate since the first weekend of the season when he hit a grand slam against Sacramento State. His .425 batting average is second in the Pacific-10 Conference and first on the team.

    “”He’s been doing a great job for us,”” said UA head coach Andy Lopez. “”He’s been very consistent, which is key at this level. You don’t want a guy to have one good weekend, you want him to keep it going, and Dillon has been able to do that.””

    Baird’s statistically towering season doesn’t stop at his batting average. He leads the team in triples, walks, on-base percentage and RBIs and is second on the team in doubles, total bases and home runs.

    “”I’ve been hitting and seeing the ball really well,”” Baird said. “”I’m just trying to outdo (the opponent’s) pitching.””

    That competitive nature is what has escalated Baird’s game from just an offensive player to a team leader.

    Back on Feb. 28, as his team was losing against Georgia 12-5 with just a few outs remaining in an already lost game, Baird chased a foul ball down the right field line. Despite the game being thoroughly out of reach, Baird sprinted at full speed and sprawled out to try and make a diving catch. His dive fell just short and he was left writhing in pain as he dislocated his shoulder.

    On March 8, after singling against UMass, Baird felt that he was unnecessarily shoved by Minuteman first baseman Peter Copa. A bench-clearing brawl ensued and Baird was suspended for three games, but the Wildcats went on to win that particular contest 9-0.

    On the surface, both actions seem pretty ill-advised. Getting injured on a meaningless play and starting a fight that resulted in his suspension could’ve been detrimental both to him and the team.

    However, they were both done to show that Baird is willing to do whatever it takes for his team to win.

    “”I’m just trying to set an example for the younger guys,”” Baird said. “”We’re a pretty young team, but we’re trying to get that to end pretty soon.””

    His team-first attitude has helped the Wildcats find a temporary replacement for senior Brad Glenn’s offensive slump.

    “”Dillon has really compensated for (Glenn’s lack of production) in a pretty special way,”” Lopez said of Glenn, who is hitting at a .243 average despite leading the team with five homeruns.

    Lopez’s eyes light up like a child’s on Christmas when he envisions what the offense will produce when Glenn is back to normal.

    “”We’re really looking forward to Glenn getting hot,”” he said. “”We know he will, he always does around this time.””

    Maybe once Glenn gets it going and the pitching starts to find its groove, the Wildcats can return to form and make another run at the College World Series.

    The sense of urgency is sure waiting for their arrivals.

    “”We need to win, starting Thursday (against Oregon State),”” Baird said. “”We need to win every series from here on out.””

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