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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Best in the west?

    Arizona starters Brad Mills, left, and Preston Guilmet walk off the field after Arizonas 7-5 loss to Eastern Michigan March 4 at Sancet Stadium. The duo have been an anchor for the Wildcats all season, ranking among the top in the Pacific 10 Conference when it comes to Friday and Saturday starters.
    Arizona starters Brad Mills, left, and Preston Guilmet walk off the field after Arizona’s 7-5 loss to Eastern Michigan March 4 at Sancet Stadium. The duo have been an anchor for the Wildcats all season, ranking among the top in the Pacific 10 Conference when it comes to Friday and Saturday starters.

    It’s a Friday. Right-handed pitcher Preston Guilmet toes the mound.

    He’ll wind up going 7 1/3 innings today, giving up a season-high 12 hits, but they’re scattered, and he only allows two runners to cross the plate. Five strikeouts against no walks become the cherry on his third win of the year, a 9-2 decision over Eastern Michigan March 2.

    The next day, left-hander Brad Mills finds himself on the same mound.

    He’ll go 6 1/3 innings, give up just five hits, strike out a season-high 10 and walk two en route to his fourth win of the season.

    Anything you can do I can do better?

    “”To a certain point, yeah, you don’t want to get shown up,”” Mills said, “”but I think to the same point, we’re just trying to hold our own and just get two wins for the team.

    “”When he went out and struck out 12 in Hawaii (March 9), I didn’t come back and be like ‘OK, I’ve got to strike out 15,’ but when he sets the standard for a weekend as far as throwing eight shutout innings or getting a win for our team, then I feel like it’s my job to do the same.””

    Guilmet will take the mound tonight at 7 when Arizona (18-6) hosts Northern Colorado (7-10) for the first of a three-game set; Mills will go tomorrow at 6 p.m.

    The pair has emerged as one of, if not the best pitching tandem the Pacific 10 Conference has to offer.

    Their 79 combined strikeouts are tops among the Pac-10’s Friday and Saturday starters, and their 78 1/3 innings pitched and eight combined wins rank third behind the top-two tandems at ASU and Oregon State.

    Perhaps more impressively, however, is that Guilmet and Mills have a combined 12 starts – compared to 17 of ASU lefties Josh Satow and Brian Flores and 15 of Oregon State’s Mike Stutes and Joe Paterson.

    So, when considering the three duos through their first six starts to level the statistical playing field, Guilmet and Mills easily own all three categories. (Satow/Flores had 50 strikeouts and six wins in 65 1/3 innings; Stutes/Paterson had 58 and seven in 70 1/3.)

    “”They don’t get rattled in big situations,”” said freshman backstop Dwight Childs, who catches the pair on a regular basis. “”Both of them work out of big situations very well. And they don’t put themselves in big situations very often.””

    Facing Arizona, there isn’t much of a break when it comes to starting pitching.

    “”We’re both Friday-night guys, he just happens to be going on Saturday,”” said the sophomore Guilmet, who’s 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA this season. “”Right now, we’re both going real good.””

    “”They’re identical,”” added Childs. “”One’s right-handed and one’s left-handed, that’s the only difference.””

    Rarely apart on the field, the two can be seen side-by-side in practice, whether they’re competing in conditioning or simply exchanging ideas on pitching.

    “”I think they’re the two closest pitchers we’ve got on our staff,”” Childs said.

    “”They’re kind of running buddies,”” added UA head coach Andy Lopez. “”I mean they’re always together.””

    Guilmet started the season in near-perfect fashion, surrendering only a ninth-inning hit in a 14-0 win over Gonzaga to open the season Feb. 2. Two days later (closer Daniel Schlereth was given a shot to start the Saturday game, he’s since returned to the bullpen) Mills gave up just one run on four hits in 6 2/3 innings.

    And, aside from a road bump at Cal State Fullerton, they’ve been doing it ever since.

    In that series, Guilmet out-dueled preseason All-American Wes Roemer in a 2-1 win Friday night and Mills was rocked a day later in a 9-0 loss, when he couldn’t get out of the third inning.

    Since that outing, Mills has surrendered more than one earned run just once (he gave up two vs. UNLV Feb. 24), and hasn’t had less than seven strikeouts or more than two walks every time out. He’s now 4-2 with a 2.88 ERA.

    “”That’s why we are where we are right now,”” Lopez said of the tandem he calls “”Friday A and Friday B.””

    “”It’s no secret, if anybody’s been coming out and watching us for the last four or five weeks, we haven’t been swinging the bat the way we think we can and the way that we proved that we can earlier in the season,”” he added.

    “”It’s comforting, because you know with (Guilmet and Mills) on the mound, you probably have a shot (to win) every day.””

    Each is quick to compliment the other.

    “”He’s got good command of his fastball, an absolute hammer for a breaking ball, and a nice changeup, too,”” Guilmet said of Mills. “”I think that’s what makes him such an effective pitcher.””

    Added Mills of Guilmet: “”His slider’s probably the most unique slider I’ve ever seen. Most people’s slider, it slides or whatever, but his is real sharp and … it’s got a lot of downward movement, same as a splitter.

    “”Once he establishes that for a strike, he just throws that in the dirt all day long. When you see 12 strikeouts in a game, it’s not really a surprise.””

    The duo’s combined success may come as a surprise to some. But not to Lopez.

    “”People come up and watch those guys pitch, and to me that’s a Kodak moment, that’s a snapshot,”” he said. “”I get to see a movie every day. I get to see them everyday for two hours. I see what their work ethic is. I see their preparation. I see their professionalism in terms of going about what they do, not only here, but in the classroom and in life.

    “”I’m not surprised by their success,”” Lopez added. “”I’d be shocked if they weren’t successful based on what they do on a daily basis.””

    Extra bases

    Lefty David Coulon (2-1) will start on Sunday. … Lopez said leadoff hitter Diallo Fon, who went 5-for-9 with six runs scored in the mid-week series sweep of Morehead State, will remain in the lineup.

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