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Arizona Wildcats baseball: pitcher Konner Wade still not there yet

Kelsee+Becker+%2F++Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AJunior+Konner+Wade+pitches+eight+strikeouts+by+the+seventh+inning.+Arizona+started+the+season+strong+on+Friday+against+Coppin+State+with+a+score+of+16-0.
Kelsee Becker
Kelsee Becker / Arizona Daily Wildcat Junior Konner Wade pitches eight strikeouts by the seventh inning. Arizona started the season strong on Friday against Coppin State with a score of 16-0.

It wasn’t perfect, but it started in the right direction.

Friday night’s near shutout performance against California by Arizona pitcher Konner Wade (3-2) shows progress by the new Wildcats’ ace. Four walks hindered Wade’s chances of throwing a complete game and are still holding him back in head coach Andy Lopez’ eyes from being the ace he needs.

“You can’t walk four guys, Lopez said. “I saw improvement. But I’ve been doing this for 36 years and I’ve seen what a Friday night guy looks like, and it’s not four walks.”

Friday night against California, the Arizona ace had what he called his best start of the season. For once this season, Wade received much needed help from his offense as the Wildcats put up 10 runs on the board against the Golden Bears.

Friday was Wade’s fourth start in conference play. In the three starts prior, the Wildcats’ offense had averaged just 2.5 runs. Against California, the Arizona offense put up six runs in the first two innings.

“It’s nice because it takes a lot of stress off,” Wade said about the early offense by the Wildcats. “It allows me to take a breath.”

In 8.2 innings of work, Wade allowed 10 California batters to reach base, six reached on hits. The only run he gave up came in the ninth inning with two outs.

Wade entered Friday’s game with 32 strikeouts on the season, second most on the team. The junior righty only struck out three Golden Bear batters Friday night, but made up for it with 12 ground ball outs, two of which led to double plays.

Wade wasn’t an every day starter until last season. In 2012 the then No. 2 starter posted a solid 7-3 record but really stepped on the national scene when he helped lead Arizona to their fourth national championship.

In the postseason Wade went a perfect 4-0, three of which were complete games. In those four starts Wade posted a 1.29 earned run average. He dominated batters with 14 strikeouts and walking just three in 35.0 innings.

“I’m not sure what it is,” Wade said about pitching better in big games. “It’s definitely not my demeanor. That’s been the same for a couple years now.”

Lopez will be the first to tell you that a tough Friday night pitcher is what makes champions. A Friday night ace sets the tone for the rest of the series and will be relied on when the NCAA tournament comes around. A near complete game shutout against an average California offense shouldn’t be the pinnacle to Wade’s season but it’s the beginning of what could spark another late season run.

“I introduced my slider a little more tonight than I have in the past couple weeks,” Wade said following the 10-1 victory. “It was really. In games where I haven’t pitched well are games where I haven’t thrown my secondary pitch.”

Wade will have some tough matchups and series soon. On April 19 Wade will open a three game road series at Stanford where he is expected to face one of the nations best pitchers in Mark Appel.

Wade’s next start will be on April 12 as the Wildcats travel to Washington State and open a three game series with the Cougars.

“You got to pick out what you did well and build off that,” Wade said. “ Once you do that try to stick to the same routine and keep it going.”

– Luke Della is a journalism junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter @LukeDellaDW.

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