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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Cats go under the lights

    Arizona catcher Matt Denker tags out Tucsons Kenny Perez during the eighth inning of last nights exhibition game against the Tucson Sidewinders at Tucson Electric Park. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)
    Arizona catcher Matt Denker tags out Tucson’s Kenny Perez during the eighth inning of last night’s exhibition game against the Tucson Sidewinders at Tucson Electric Park. (Photo by Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat)

    The Arizona baseball team is making a habit out of playing in professional ballparks. And they like it, too.

    After winning two-of-three at the Metrodome – home to the Minnesota Twins – in early March’s Dairy Queen Classic, the Wildcats took out in-state rival ASU 12-8 in the inaugural “”Challenge at Chase”” at the Arizona Diamondbacks’ Chase Field in downtown Phoenix on Sunday to go 3-1 in games that counted in the standings.

    Last night, they made it three stops to pro parks by falling to the Tucson Sidewinders, the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A affiliate, in an exhibition game at Tucson Electric Park last night, 4-2. The park, which is called home by the Sidewinders during their Pacific Coast League season, also serves as the Cactus League home to the Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox during Spring Training.

    As if that weren’t enough, the team will make yet another stop at a professional park, Isotopes Park – home to the Florida Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate Albuquerque Isotopes – on April 18 when they play New Mexico in Albuquerque.

    So is there a difference in playing the professional parks?

    “”It’s always nice to play in a big-league yard, just the aura of it all,”” said senior outfielder Derek Decater. “”You’re going to take (the memory) away, too. You don’t get to do it very often.””

    Added Arizona head coach Andy Lopez: “”You don’t get to do this very often.””

    Admittedly, fields at the major league level also tend to be maintained just a little bit better.

    “”The playing surfaces are so much nicer,”” Decater said. “”You don’t get the bad hops. Everything’s perfect.””

    There’s also the issue of playing in domed parks – both the Metrodome and Chase Field have the option of playing indoors – as senior outfielder Derek Decater found out all too well when he injured his shoulder after he ran straight into the wall in Minnesota, causing him to miss eight games before being inserted into the lineup as a designated hitter against California last weekend. He is still not cleared to throw.

    But Decater said the Metrodome, notorious for ill lighting and freak injuries, didn’t play a factor.

    “”Apparently it’s harder (to judge a ball) during the day,”” he said. “”But I didn’t have any problem with it.””

    There was another twist last night: As the Wildcats were facing the Sidewinders in an exhibition game, they were forced to switch to wooden bats in lieu of their usual aluminum.

    “”That always makes a difference,”” Lopez said, noting a deep fly to center off the bat of sophomore catcher Matt Denker in the top of the third that surely would have found its way out of the park had it been hit by an aluminum bat.

    As for the game itself, the Wildcat bullpen dug themselves a hole from which they would never recover in the bottom of the seventh inning, walking the bases loaded before two fielders’ choices allowed the Sidewinders’ third baseman Brian Barden and centerfielder Jerry Gil to score on back-to-back at-bats, giving Tucson a 4-2 lead.

    The Wildcats had a chance to get back into the game in the top of the eighth with runners on second and third, but the Sidewinders’ right-handed reliever Brian Bruney struck out junior first baseman Stephen Pearson on a 1-2 count to end the threat.

    Arizona jumped on the Sidewinders early, when junior left fielder Bill Rhinehart doubled home freshman right fielder Jon Gaston and junior shortstop Jason Donald in the fourth inning off the Sidewinders’ right-handed pitcher Brandon Medders – who is starting the year in AAA on a rehabilitation assignment from the big league club – to take a 2-0 lead.

    The Sidewinders cut that lead in half in the bottom of the fifth, when centerfielder Jerry Gil scored on a wild pitch from Arizona starting right-handed pitcher Cory Burns, who didn’t settle down, walking designated-hitter Chris Young two pitches later.

    Second baseman Alberto Callaspo then tied the game a batter later, when his groundout to first plated catcher Juan Brito.

    Burns went five innings, surrendering two runs on two hits with two strikeouts – both of which came at the expense of shortstop Stephen Drew, considered by many to be the top prospect in the Diamondbacks’ organization.

    “”There’s no Pac(ific) 10 (Conference) team that hits like a Triple-A team,”” he said of how his strong outing would affect his confidence. “”It’s still an opponent for me to pitch against.””

    Added Lopez: “”He’s a talented young guy. You earn your chance to pitch and you earn your chance to play.””

    In three appearances this season, Burns has pitched a total of 3.1 innings, giving up three runs and punching-out six batters.


    Proceeds from the game benefited UA’s Steele Children’s Research Center. … Right-handed pitcher Casey Daigle, husband of Wildcat softball alumnus Jennie Finch, pitched a perfect seventh for the Sidewinders. … Junior left fielder Jason Sadoian gunned down the Sidewinders’ Carlos Quentin at home to end the eighth inning.

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