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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Catching up with Andy Lopez

The Arizona Wildcats baseball team is less than a week away from beginning fall practices as it continues to gear up for the spring. Head coach Andy Lopez met with the Arizona Daily Wildcat to catch up on what the Wildcats have been up to this fall, impact freshmen and Pacific 10 Conference baseball.

 

Daily Wildcat:  Having some time to look back on last year, are you pleased with what you accomplished?

 

Andy Lopez: When the season’s done, you get a chance to reflect a little bit more. When you start as many as five freshmen in the field, and two guys in your rotation are freshmen, and everybody else is a sophomore with one senior on the field … They were spitting oil at the end, there were some injuries, but you know that’s going to happen with a lot of freshmen. Fifty-six games is a long season, and I think they did a good job at coming out ready to play in a crucial part of our season at the very beginning when we played some teams outside of the Pac-10. They played well for that stretch when they won 15 games in a row. It was lot of games to win in a row, it really was, especially for a young group, and I think that was the reason they were rewarded with postseason play. Now they’re a year older, and you don’t have to talk to these guys about college baseball, they know exactly what it encompasses and entails. Now it’s just a matter of going out and executing the game solidly.

 

DW: How does the team look early in the fall?

AL: Well our first practice is Oct. 11, that’ll be the first day of tryouts and anybody who wants to walk on, so we’ll practice that afternoon. We’ve been in skill hours since about Sept. 6, meaning separate bullpens, separate guys in the cage and separate guys in the infield or outfield. Those are the NCAA rules we have to abide by right now. But again, I like this group. I liked them last year when they were young, and I like them this year when they’re a year older. The one thing that’s a little bit of a fly in the ointment right now is Bryce Ortega is still not 100 percent.

 

DW: Is it still a back injury?

 

AL: Yeah, he has not participated in skill hours at all this fall, so we’re kind of holding our breath on that one. He’s a key part of that infield. I really believe when he and (infielder Alex) Mejia are out there it’s as good an infield as you’ll find in the nation. They were on that pace last year early in the season to break that record for all time double plays, they’re both very good players. So that’s really the only thing holding me back right now from saying it feels really good. It feels very good right now, it would feel fantastic if Bryce Ortega were healthy.

 

DW: It’s still early, but do you see any freshmen that might be impact players in the spring?

AL: Yeah, I think Brandon Dixon is going to be a guy that’s going to help us, he’s a freshman from Southern California. Konner Wade is from Chaparral High in Scottsdale, and he’s been real impressive in his bullpens. It’s not a big recruited class, there are not a lot of guys in since we have so many guys back and didn’t go out and recruit a bunch of guys. But those two guys right now jump out as guys who look like they’re going to be OK.

 

DW: What are your thoughts on California’s recent decision to cut its baseball program?

AL: Oh man, (Cal head coach) David Esquer and I are dear, dear friends. I’ve known David a long time, I knew him when he was a young assistant at Pepperdine University. He picks me up from the airport in San Francisco when I go up there for Pac-10 meetings, so we go back. Today’s the first day I haven’t talked to David since they made that decision, I’ve talked to him everyday since. Just shocked, sad, you know, just shocked. You know, I understand, I’m raising four kids, I’ve got two kids in college and two out, so I understand the economics of life right now. I can sense the huge challenges that athletic programs face right now, you just have to read a local paper to see the challenges that are out there. It’s always a sad thing, any sport that’s cut you feel for. This, for me, is almost one of those things where it’s more difficult because it’s someone you really know. I said it about an hour ago to my staff, I still can’t believe Cal isn’t going to have a baseball program, it just doesn’t add up. I’m a Pac-10 guy, I played in the Pac-10, grew up watching it in Los Angeles. I spent seven years in the SEC, and say what you want, but Pac-10 baseball is as good of baseball on a daily basis that you’re going to see in the country. It will match up anywhere. It’s hard to believe losing one of those schools. I understand that’s how it is, but boy, it’s a shocker.

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