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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball to battle Beavers

    Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Baseball v USC
    Michael Ignatov
    Michael Ignatov / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball v USC

    Variability is not something the Arizona baseball team has seen much of this season. For the most part, its year has rolled along in a fairly consistent fashion.

    Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the trend has not been positive thus far.

    However, as the second-place team in the Pacific 10 Conference – No. 16 Oregon State- comes to town for a three-game set beginning tonight at 7 at Sancet Stadium, it may very well be the second-to-last place team in the conference – the Wildcats – with the more favorable matchup.

    The Beavers (18-6, 5-1 Pac-10) enter the series on a four-game win streak with only one loss in their last 10 games. Meanwhile Arizona (13-14, 2-7) lost its last two and has yet to make much noise in conference play.

    But the key attribute which could give the Wildcats the edge in this series is the one positive consistency they’ve had all year – offense.

    “”We take our offense very seriously,”” said shortstop Bryce Ortega. “”We work really hard on our offense because we know we don’t have our first-round pitchers this year to bail us out. So everyday we’re out here, we’re working to make sure we stay consistent (at the plate).””

    Throughout the season, Arizona’s hitters have spent extra time in the batting cages and come to practice early to hit on the field.

    The effort has paid off as the Wildcats’ offense has continued to be one of the most potent in the conference for much of the year.

    Arizona currently carries the highest team batting average (.314) and slugging percentage (.508) while sitting in second for runs scored, RBIs and hits.

    The Wildcats have also scored at least five runs in all but four games this year. This production offensively is what could propel Arizona past OSU this weekend, despite the Beavers’ strong pitching staff.

    OSU currently sits 10th in the nation and third in the Pac-10 for ERA with a staff average of 3.57. The Beavers are also high in the conference standings for fewest walks allowed and lead the conference in hits allowed on the year.

    Conversely, Arizona has proven that its lineup can put up runs on anyone and has given its opponents a collective 7.32 ERA for the season.

    “”We just want to keep a steady approach and don’t take anything for granted,”” outfielder Hunter Pace said of the team’s offensive mentality. “”We’ve been hot, but you still have to go out and do your work because week in and week out we’re facing tough opponents.””

    Where Arizona could find trouble this weekend is where it has all season – on the mound. Tonight’s starter, Preston Guilmet, has been the lone stronghold of the staff, with solid outings in each of his last two games and an ERA of just less than four.

    Sophomore Matt Veltmann was removed from the staff after a difficult outing last weekend in which the right-hander gave up nine runs in what ended as a 10-run first inning for USC. In Veltmann’s place will be freshman Kyle Simon, who has started three other games and seen action in 10 games total with an ERA of 6.68.

    But regardless of who is pitching this series, UA head coach Andy Lopez said one of the keys to success will be solid defense – something Arizona has let slip in recent games.

    With a quartet of errors plaguing Arizona’s efforts last weekend against the Trojans, changes in the defensive lineup have been discussed. The Wildcats currently have the second-most errors in the Pac-10 with 45.

    To help solidify the defense Lopez said he will start freshman Kyle Stiner at second base in place of junior Mike Weldon whose error in the first inning of Veltmann’s last start helped extend the already-brutal inning.

    “”You can have a great defense and have a bad pitching staff,”” Lopez said. “”But you can’t have a good pitching staff with a bad defense. You just can’t. Because when you ask a guy to go out (on the mound) and give your defense a chance and they don’t come up with those plays, it’s impossible to be successful.””

    “”But I’ve been happy with how we’ve been competing,”” Lopez added, “”and I think these guys will get (the defensive issues) taken care of.””

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