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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    ‘Cats welcome ‘big’ Pac-10 series

    Arizona first baseman C.J. Ziegler swings at an offering in a 6-2 win against Cal State-Fullerton on March 15 at Frank Sancet Stadium. The No. 6 Wildcats take on No. 23 UCLA tonight to open up their first Pac-10 homestand.
    Arizona first baseman C.J. Ziegler swings at an offering in a 6-2 win against Cal State-Fullerton on March 15 at Frank Sancet Stadium. The No. 6 Wildcats take on No. 23 UCLA tonight to open up their first Pac-10 homestand.

    No. 23 UCLA at No. 6 Arizona

    A much-welcomed three-game home stand awaits the No. 6 Arizona baseball team this weekend.

    After stumbling to a 1-6 record in their last seven games, the Wildcats (13-7, 1-2 Pacific 10 Conference) will return to Sancet
    Stadium tonight at 7 to take on No. 23 UCLA (10-9, 0-0) in a three-game series.

    The Wildcats are currently riding a |season-high four-game losing skid, one which dropped the team from a No. 2 ranking nationally to its current spot – the lowest ranking for the team this season after starting the year as the nation’s No. 1 team.

    “”The (pressure of being No. 1) might have affected us a little bit,”” said third baseman Dillon Baird. “”You want to keep that No. 1 spot and prove that you are worthy of it. But that’s not the only thing that’s on our minds, obviously.””

    Arizona returns home for its first home games since departing for the road March 18. Between frustrating games and strings of losses, the Wildcats have also endured several early mornings, late nights and numerous hours on airplanes.

    But despite the torturous schedule of the NCAA’s new condensed season, many players said these factors did not make much of a difference for the team’s current performance.

    “”I don’t think (the road trip) has made much of an impact,”” said right-hander Preston Guilmet. “”It’s kind of like playing a professional schedule and personally I kind of like it, getting to travel.

    “”Of course missing school is kinda tough, but as far as playing baseball, I don’t think all the traveling has taken a toll on us.””

    What did take a toll on the Wildcats was a recurring theme of defensive miscues which continues to haunt Arizona, though it has been a rare offensive slump which has crippled the Wildcats recently.

    In the team’s first 15 games, Arizona’s offense averaged 9.67 runs per game. But through their last five, the Wildcats have put up a meager 1.2 runs per game.

    Meanwhile, Arizona’s opponents have taken advantage of the Wildcats’ errors and lack of offense to hold them to two or fewer runs in each of their last four games. For those who witnessed the team’s offensive power early in the year, the lack of production comes as quite a surprise.

    “”None of us have had really good approaches (at the plate),”” Baird said. “”The coaches have been on us about that and I think they’re definitely right. We just need to get good swings on the fastballs. We haven’t really done that as a team lately.””

    Arizona will get a good chance to pick up its offense against the Bruins inconsistent pitching staff.

    Between the three starting pitchers the Wildcats will likely face this weekend, none of them have an earned run average below 3.79. In fact, out of UCLA’s pitchers with more than seven innings of work this season, only tonight’s starter, left hander Tim Murphy (2-1), has an ERA below 4.00, as well as a winning record on the mound.

    Some much needed run support would be welcomed by the Wildcats’ pitching staff, which will be lead by tonight’s starting pitcher Guilmet. In the majority of Arizona’s losses this season, the games were decided by three or fewer runs.

    Arizona will reap the benefits of Guilmet starting tonight, as he has only gotten stronger as the season progresses.

    After an opening day start that saw the preseason All-American get touched up for eight runs in four innings, Guilmet has been dominant, going at least seven innings in each of his four other starts this season in which he improved his record to 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA on the season.

    “”The hitters are in a bit of a slump, but they’ve also picked up some wins for us earlier in the year,”” Guilmet said. “”As pitchers, our job is to go out and shut (the opponent) down whether we score 30 runs or whether we score one. So, that is our focus and that is what we’re trying to do every time out.””

    This weekend’s series against the Bruins will be only the second conference series of the year for Arizona, but it’s already of significant importance.

    In their conference opener, the Wildcats fell to the Trojans 2-1 in a three-game series in Los Angeles.

    Currently tied for second in the conference, a series win against the Bruins could not only dig the Wildcats out of their current slump, but vault Arizona to the top of the conference standings.

    “”All the Pac-10 series are going to be big for us this year,”” Guilmet said. “”That is going to make or break our season depending on how we do in the Pac-10, so this (series) is just as big as any.””

    Team Breakdown

    Offense: Arizona opened the season with an impressive offensive barrage. Through its first 15 games, the Wildcats hit a conference-best .334 as a team, ignited by first baseman C.J. Ziegler’s team-leading eight home runs. Since spring break, however, Arizona at one point slumped into a span of 20 1/3 scoreless innings.

    Defense: In both wins and losses, defense has consistently been a downfall. Arizona’s hot offensive explosion could absorb the errors while the bats stayed hot; however, a recent slump shifts new attention to a season total 39 miscues, after its season-high five errors on Tuesday’s 10-2 loss to Oklahoma State.

    Pitching: A deep starting rotation returns the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, Preston Guilmet, whose performance was described by UA head coach Andy Lopez as a “”Cy Young-caliber season.”” With a 2.70 ERA and 2-1 record, Guilmet anchors the starting rotation while co-closers Jason Stoffel and Daniel Schlereth boast 1.00 and 1.32 ERAs, respectively. The two have a combined three earned runs over 15 hits.

    – compiled by Bryan Roy

    Arizona Starting Rotation:

    Preston Guilmet

    David Coulon

    Ryan Perry

    Mike Colla

    Arizona Bullpen:

    Jason Stoffel

    Daniel Schlereth

    Eric Berger

    Cory Burns

    Grayson Adams

    Matt Chaffee

    Ryan Doyle

    Baseball America’s Top 25:
    (records as of Monday)

    Arizona State (22-1)*

    Missouri (18-2)

    North Carolina (18-4)

    Miami (17-2)

    Long Beach State (16-3)

    ARIZONA (13-5)*

    UC Irvine (16-2)

    Florida State (19-2)

    Vanderbilt (14-6)

    South Carolina (15-5)

    California (15-4)*

    Rice (17-6)

    Texas (16-6)

    San Diego (16-7)

    Mississippi (15-8)

    Wichita State (14-3)

    Stanford (9-5)*

    Kentucky (20-2)

    Nebraska (17-3)

    Baylor (13-7)

    Virginia (19-4)

    Coastal Carolina (18-4)

    UCLA (10-8)*

    Florida (17-4)

    Michigan (9-6)

    * Pac-10 teams

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