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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

A look toward the second half of Pac-10 play

Lisa Beth Earle /Arizona Daily Wildcat 

5-year-old Leo Foust cruises around campus on Sunday, April 25. He and his family spend quality time together riding their bikes on the weekends.
Lisa Beth Earle
Lisa Beth Earle /Arizona Daily Wildcat 5-year-old Leo Foust cruises around campus on Sunday, April 25. He and his family spend quality time together riding their bikes on the weekends.

The No. 19 Arizona baseball team split its four games last week against the country’s elite competition. 

After knocking off then-No. 1 ASU in Tempe on Tuesday, the Wildcats lost a heartbreaker on Friday to then-No. 6 UCLA that changed the landscape of the entire series. UA fell easily on Saturday to drop the series against the Bruins, but avoided a sweep with a 6-4 win on Sunday.

Arizona’s games against two of the toughest teams in the country could have been worse, but the Wildcats also could have been better, as head coach Andy Lopez told his team on Sunday.

The Wildcats (28-11, 8-7 Pacific 10 Conference) are now past the halfway point of the Pac-10 season, and some developments over the past week shed light on what to look out for as Arizona plays down the home stretch.

Unclear of role, Bandilla a valuable asset

Sophomore pitcher Bryce Bandilla began the year as Arizona’s closer, pitched his way into the starting rotation, pitched his way back into the bullpen, and now, after a solid week on the mound, the Sacramento, Calif., native’s role is still uncertain.

“”I just have to get ready quick and go into the game in pitch whenever Coach needs me, that’s pretty much all I’m thinking about now,”” Bandilla said.

Standing at 6-foot-4 and firing 90 mph fastballs at hitters from the left side, Bandilla allowed just two runs last week in seven innings.

He was crucial in the win over ASU as he held onto Arizona’s one-run lead late in the game, and stepped up on Sunday against UCLA by delivering three innings of solid relief after UA starter Daniel Workman lasted just 3 1/3 innings.

“”(Bandilla)’s gutsy, man. He was on gas fumes all day today,”” Lopez said of Bandilla’s outing on Sunday.

For reasons unknown to Lopez or the lefty himself, Bandilla’s numbers out of the bullpen are much stronger than in the starting rotation.

The closer situation and back end of the bullpen have been the missing pieces to Arizona’s puzzle all year. Freshman Nick Cunningham, the current closer, earned a shaky save on Sunday by allowing a run on two hits in the ninth inning, and left the door open for Bandilla to possibly get his old job back.

“”(Bandilla) could be a long (reliever) or maybe close here pretty quick the way he’s going out of the pen,”” Lopez said.

For now, Bandilla isn’t concerned with the role he ends up with, saying that his main focus right now is on “”just being ready whenever, and pitching whenever I’m needed.””

“”We’re going to use him where we need him right now. Right now, he’s an unbelievable, valuable asset,”” Lopez said.

Lopez trying to keep team fresh

As Arizona gets ready to face the heat of the Pac-10 in the final month of the season, Lopez is trying to give his team rest wherever he can.

With many Wildcats playing the most games they’ve ever played in a season, and many small injuries appearing due to the grind of the season, Lopez has recently changed up the practice routine.

“”We’ve kind of altered our practices the last couple of weeks,”” Lopez said. “”We’ve had shorter workouts. I’m not trying to be a tyrant with these guys.””

UA missing a veteran presence

All-Pac-10 junior Bryce Ortega has been out of the lineup for the Wildcats because of a stiff back, and has been limited to playing as a defensive replacement late in games.

Lopez has talked about the presence Ortega brings when he’s in the lineup, but without a definitive timetable for his return, he’s has had to play freshman outfielder Robert Refsnyder at second base.

“”The Bryce Ortega injury is really a nagging thing,”” Lopez said.

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