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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Hitting the road with momentum

Rodney Haas Arizona Daily Wildcat
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas Arizona Daily Wildcat

The No. 18 Arizona baseball team strategically scheduled 25 consecutive home games to open up the season so that the youngest team in the Pacific 10 Conference would have some confidence by the time it hit the road.

But the Wildcats (20-5, 2-1 Pac-10) have far surpassed expectations by winning 15 of the last 16 games and couldn’t be more confident heading into their first road trip of the season — a three-game series at California today, Friday and Saturday.    

“”I really was hoping for what I think we have right now, a young group obviously, but I think they’ve got a little bit of confidence,”” UA head coach Andy Lopez said. “”They’ve played well, and hopefully they can carry that into being in a hotel and getting on and off planes and everything.””

For an average team with 17 freshmen, hitting the road for the first time brings some natural jitters. But for an Arizona team that’s playing like vets rather than youngsters, there isn’t the smallest doubt that things will go smoothly.

When freshman ace Kurt Heyer was asked if there was any worry hitting the road for the first time with such a young group, he said, “”No, not at all. We’re all really amped up. We’re like ‘oh my god, we’ve got to get out of here man, 25 games,’ we’re more than ready to hit the road.””

Freshman left fielder Robert Refsnyder echoed Heyer’s statement. 

“”Oh no. Shoot, all these guys have played summer, they’ve flown to various places,”” he said. “”Same people on your team, just a different setting.””

That’s the confidence that comes along with winning consecutive games and starting the season 2-1 in Pac-10 play. The Wildcats were able to get their feet wet and get adjusted to the college game at Sancet Stadium, leaving absolutely no worry in Lopez’s mind.

“”Maybe I’m ignorant,”” he said, “”but the way they’ve handled the first 25 games, I’m not worried, I’m really not.””

The confidence certainly isn’t lacking, and Arizona will be taking on a Cal (13-10, 0-3 Pac-10) team that was just swept by ASU and currently sits in last place in the conference to make things that much better.

Heyer (4-0, 2.01 ERA, 48 strikeouts) will start Thursday night, while Bryce Bandilla (3-1, 3.55 ERA) and Kyle Simon (4-2, 3.45 ERA) will start Friday and Saturday, respectively.

The Wildcats lost a heartbreaker last time they took the field, when freshman closer Nick Cunningham allowed Oregon to score four runs with two outs in the top of the ninth, bringing the Ducks back to win 9-8.

But with the confidence and the talent, Arizona is aiming to bounce back.

“”We’ve been playing really good ball right now,”” Heyer said. “”Hopefully we can start another streak again. We’re just going to try to keep the same mentality and not be consumed with that loss, because it’s going to happen — that’s the beauty of baseball.””

The 25-game homestand, the longest at Arizona since 1967, helped this team gain some confidence behind the plate, as it still leads the conference in batting average (.372), runs scored (242), hits (341) and RBIs (220).

But whether the success at Sancet Stadium translates to Berkeley still remains to be seen.

“”We’ll see,”” Lopez said of whether the early home games will help them on the road. “”If we go up and we can’t find our hotel and we’re late to the stadium on Thursday, then I’ll come back and say ‘Man, I can’t ever do that again.'””

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