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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball’s older core to welcome pair of freshman starters

Michelle A. Monroe / Arizona Daily Wildcat 

University of Arizona Police Department officials gave awards to UA employees and one student who helped them solve crimes or arrest people.
Michelle A. Monroe
Michelle A. Monroe / Arizona Daily Wildcat University of Arizona Police Department officials gave awards to UA employees and one student who helped them solve crimes or arrest people.

Two years ago, the Arizona baseball team started the season with a bevy of wide-eyed freshman starters who had never faced collegiate opposition.

The Wildcats were one of the youngest squads that head coach Andy Lopez had used in his 10 years at Arizona, but his decision paid off, and the Wildcats clinched a postseason berth.

Flash-forward to today, and seven of those starters will take the field on opening day Feb. 17, as juniors — poised, mature and ready to take on another campaign.

“There are a lot of expectations this season,” preseason All-American pitcher Kurt Heyer said. “We’re one of the very few programs that have had a lot of freshmen come in and make an impact, there’s just a lot of things that we still need to work on.”

Heyer inherited the coveted Friday starting pitcher spot his freshman year, and credits the amount of playing time he received for his quick development into one of the most dominant pitchers in the Pac-12 and the nation.

“We didn’t really expect to, as freshmen, come out and start on a daily basis,” Heyer said. “But it was very fortunate to get that chance. Now we’re just keeping it going with the same mentality and the same goals as the last two years.”

With consecutive postseason appearances, Lopez has heavily credited this core group of players for Arizona’s success throughout the past two years.

“It’s amazing when I look back to just three years ago when all those guys were coming in,” Lopez said. “Now here they’re all juniors and they’re all draft-eligible and I probably won’t see them after this year. I’ll probably lose them all as juniors. It’s been a good group. They’ve been marvelous on and off the field.”

The Wildcats will only have to replace starters at second base and catcher when the season begins, and Lopez has been trying to use the veteran experience of his team to develop the incoming freshman starters.

“I never have a captain designated because I tell them all that I want them to act like captains and walk like captains and be captains,” Lopez said. “But I told the junior core, before the season started, to grab some of the young guys and show them how it’s done here.”

Connecting with the Community

Despite the Wildcats’ solid season last year, it was hard for the club to draw a crowd, especially one with a student core.

In an effort to bring the raucous ZonaZoo to Arizona baseball, the Wildcats will host an event this afternoon exclusively for UA students to get to know the program.

A bus will pick up students from Old Main at 4:30 p.m. and take them to Hi Corbett Field, the new home of the program. The event is being called “Somewhere in America: Lopez Show,” and will involve players and coaches teaching chants and cheers to the students to perform throughout the season.

Along with this, the Wildcats are also hosting a “Meet the Team Night” on Friday that will invite students and the Tucson community to Hi Corbett, where the team will sign autographs and give tours of the new facilities, including the redesigned clubhouse.

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