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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona baseball looks to gauge progress against Rice

Rebecca Noble

Arizona baseball pitcher Austin Schnabel (33) pitches during Arizona’s season opening 7-3 win against Eastern Michigan at Hi Corbett Field on Feb. 13. Schnabel is slated to start one of the three games against Rice over the weekend. 

The Arizona baseball team looks to continue its perfect season as it takes on Rice for a three-game series starting Friday at Hi Corbett Field. After successfully sweeping two unranked teams, the Wildcats now face the No. 17 Owls.

Arizona has not started with a 5-0 record since 2007 when it opened the season 9-0, but the fact that the program is now facing a ranked team does not change the team’s mindset.

“We try to treat every weekend the same because we know that every game is important,” Arizona outfielder Jared Oliva said. “We don’t want to lose any game, whether it’s a mid-week game or a weekend game, and then look back in May and say, ‘Oh, we could have won that game.’”

The pitching rotation will be the same as opening weekend, featuring Austin Schnabel, Robby Medel and Tyger Talley.

Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said Rice should be a team that will demonstrate a little bit more variety and competition for his team as far as velocity, foot speed and bat speed are concerned.

“We may have gotten away with some things over the last three or four games that we won’t get away with against a team like Rice, and we understand that,” Lopez said.

Although Rice is the first ranked team Arizona will face, Lopez said that shouldn’t be a distraction for the club.

“There’s something I just always tell our guys: ‘You take care of Arizona; the game is the game,’” Lopez said. “You don’t ever look at the opponent, you look at the game.”

Rice visits Arizona with a 3-2 record after splitting a four-game series against Texas, and it will be the Owl’s first time on the road this year.

The last time the two teams faced each other was in 2011 when Rice visited Tucson and split a two-game series.  

The entire starting lineup is not completely set for the Wildcats, but they will keep experimenting and competing during this three-game series.

Lopez said he isn’t worried, though, because he said the team is competing, and that’s what he wants.

“They continue with great competition, which is what I have strived for since the day I came back,” Lopez said.

The positions that are set for this weekend, besides who will be on the mound, are centerfield and the infield positions. With the competition going on, both corners in the outfield are still up for grabs, and there’s still competition going on behind the plate.

“[Justin] Behnke is pretty much a set deal, but there’s some competition going on in the others,” Lopez said. “We’re going to keep our lineup competitive. I think that’s good for young people sometimes. They get a little complacent.”

Xavier Borde, who pitched Wednesday night, is expected to pitch in relief over the weekend. He said the team will remain focused without thinking who the opponent is.

“We just have to focus on what we can do,” Borde said.

Friday’s first pitch is set for 3 p.m. and the all three games will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.


Follow Rose Aly Valenzuela on Twitter.

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