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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Time for change is now for Arizona baseball

    Bobby’s World

    If you thought UA athletic director Jim Livengood was the only member of the athletic department facing apparent desperation lately, think again.

    Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez is there.

    After Sunday’s 7-3 series-clinching loss to USC, Lopez spent an extra half hour in the outfield with his pitchers.

    Highlighting his strings of coach-speak was a single, dire question: does anyone feel like they would like to pitch on a

    Sunday?

    “”It would be nice if someone were to jump out and say, ‘Hey, pitch me. I’ll go five innings, I’ll go get outs,'”” Lopez said.

    Outs have been hard to come by for Arizona’s pitchers, especially on Sundays, seeing as no starter has made it out of the fourth inning since the start of conference play.

    Saturdays haven’t treated the Wildcats much better. This past weekend, starter Matt

    Veltmann failed to record an out while allowing nine runs in what ended up as a 10-run first-inning nightmare for Arizona.

    But the blame can’t all be placed on the pitching staff, especially during Saturday’s fiasco as a pair of errors helped the Trojans’ cause.

    In fact, Arizona’s defense in the field is nearly at as much fault as its defense on the mound.

    The Wildcats have the second lowest fielding percentage in the Pacific 10 Conference at .959 and the second most errors with 45 so far this season.

    Most players and coaches typically preach the unimportance of stats, but at the moment those stats are what’s doing all the talking.

    Arizona is dead last in the conference with a 2-7 league record, and falling fast.

    However, last weekend’s third-consecutive series loss to the Trojans may have finally gotten it through to the Wildcats that they need to fix things and do it now.

    “”We just can’t keep playing like this anymore,”” Dillon Baird said following Sunday’s loss.

    Catcher Dwight Childs echoed his teammate’s sentiments.

    “”There’s a sense of urgency in the program right now,”” Childs said. “”We have to clean things up and start playing better baseball and start winning games. That’s the bottom line – we have to start winning games.””

    The Wildcats are just one year removed from two consecutive 40-win seasons, but right now they couldn’t be any farther away.

    Last season Arizona went through its struggles – a stretch early in the year where the Wildcats dropped 10 of 13 contests.

    Lopez had headaches over his pitching rotation throughout the year as Ryan Perry struggled in the No. 3 spot and Preston Guilmet went through much of the season with a “”dead-arm”” which limited his effectiveness.

    But the difference was that despite the losses and the many inconsistencies – both offensively and defensively – Arizona always had just enough working to make it by and thus could follow 10 losses in 13 games with 13 wins in each of the following.

    What Arizona had last season is what Arizona currently lacks: veteran leadership throughout the team.

    Lopez has said time and time again that his freshman – eight of whom have assumed some starting role this season – need to mature, and quickly.

    Unfortunately for Lopez, the process is simply taking too long, especially for his young arms as each of them have an ERA more than 6.00.

    When asked what can turn Arizona’s season around, Lopez gave a simple answer, “”Better pitching and better defense.””

    “”With the exception of today, we’ve had enough offense to get things done,”” Lopez said. “”But patience (had) its time and we have to start pitching better.””

    Bobby Stover is a materials science and engineering junior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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