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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Powerful foes await Cats

    JAKE LACEY / Arizona Daily Wildcat

baseball vs. La Salle (W) 15-1
    Jake Lacey
    JAKE LACEY / Arizona Daily Wildcat baseball vs. La Salle (W) 15-1

    While plenty of Arizona students will be traveling to exotic locales for spring break, the Arizona baseball team has unique travel plans of its own – to Starkville, Miss.

    The Wildcats (10-5) will face stiff competition in the form of No. 6 Mississippi State (8-0) today through Sunday. After two straight weekends on the road, Arizona returns home to Sancet Stadium to play No. 7 Cal State Fullerton (11-6) March 17-19.

    While Arizona lost eight significant contributors last season, the Bulldogs of Mississippi State return 15 of the 21 players who saw starting time last year.

    “”They got everybody back from last year’s team,”” Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said. “”What we saw last year is probably what they will see this year from us. Last year I saw a young team, and you know, we beat them up pretty good here in town. I knew they would have everyone back with the exception of a couple guys, so that’ll be good for us.””

    The Wildcats took two out of three from the Bulldogs last season in Tucson, beating Mississippi State 9-3 and 7-3 in the first two games of the series before falling 13-12 in the series finale.

    Lopez will rely on the same pitching staff he’s used the last three weeks with sophomore Eric Berger (3-2, 3.95 ERA) throwing Friday, freshman Preston Guilmet (1-1, 3.47) on Saturday and junior Brad Mills (2-0, 3.68) on Sunday.

    “”You really can’t say enough about what they’ve done,”” junior shortstop Jason Donald said. “”After the New Mexico series, I think as a unit they kind of got together and set some goals and kind of had a better understanding of what they wanted to do a little bit.””

    Guilmet, who suffered the loss on Saturday to Nebraska despite giving up just two runs in seven innings of work, said he isn’t one to complain about a lack of run support.

    “”You know, they never get on me about pitching, and I’m not going to get on them, because I know (the hitting will) come around,”” he said. “”They’re working just as hard as I am to pitch, and it’ll be there.””

    If history is any indication, Fullerton won’t make things any easier for Arizona. En route to advancing to the College World Series last year, the Titans defeated the Wildcats two games to one in early June, ending Arizona’s season.

    Because the two teams play each other almost every year, a natural rivalry has developed.

    “”We play them every year, so that’s good,”” Lopez said. “”It’s a good rivalry. We’ve won our share of games, and they’ve won their share of theirs, so hopefully we’ll continue on.””

    Said Donald: “”I think I’d say they’re probably our biggest rival other than ASU just because of the way we go about our business, they go about their business. We play the games the same way. Coach Lopez and (Fullerton head) coach (George) Horton are good friends, and you can tell by the style of play by the two teams.””

    The Wildcats will be without senior left fielder Derek Decater for at least three to four weeks after he injured his shoulder in a collision with an outfield wall in Friday’s 7-2 win over Minnesota.

    “”We’re going to have to find a left fielder,”” Lopez said. “”We have some options. It’s not like we won’t have options, but Decater’s definitely out.””

    Junior outfielder Bill Rhinehart could start in place of Decater this weekend.

    – Ryan Casey contributed to this report.

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