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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball welcomes No. 19 OSU

    Arizona pitcher Daniel Workman prepares to fire a pitch toward home plate during a 13-4 Wildcat win on Friday night at Sancet Stadium. Arizona hosts No. 19 Oklahoma State for a midweek two-game series starting tonight at 7.
    Arizona pitcher Daniel Workman prepares to fire a pitch toward home plate during a 13-4 Wildcat win on Friday night at Sancet Stadium. Arizona hosts No. 19 Oklahoma State for a midweek two-game series starting tonight at 7.

    With conference play only 10 days away, the time left for the Arizona baseball underclassmen to prove themselves is beginning to dwindle.

    At this point in the season, an abundance of young talent has been thrust into the spotlight by Arizona head coach Andy Lopez. For some, the news is positive. For others their opportunity to impress may have already passed.

    The Wildcats (8-5) open a two-game home series with No. 19 Oklahoma State (9-2) tonight at 7 p.m., which could be the final opportunity for some of Arizona’s younger prospects to make an impression on their coaching staff.

    “”We need to get ready for (Pacific 10 Conference) season,”” Lopez said following Sunday’s 8-0 win over UMass. “”Everyone deserves a chance and that’s what we’ve been giving guys, and every once in a while you’ll find someone whose really impressive and you’ll give him a few more innings.

    “”But if you don’t (play) well then, I know it sounds harsh, but we’re probably not going to use you anymore.””

    So far Lopez has given opportunities to several freshmen in the field including outfielder Steve Selsky and infielders Kyle Steiner and Jett Bandy. All have been impressive in their outings as all three have seen time in at least six games while two of the three hold batting averages of .375 or higher.

    Pitching-wise, many young arms have been used thus far, including a pair of underclassmen in the starting weekend rotation: right-handers Matt Veltmann (1-2) and Donn Roach (1-2).

    Lopez has also trusted freshmen Cody Lewis (0-0) and Kyle Simon (1-0) with the starting role during various midweek games. However, neither was able to record a victory in a starting effort.

    While Arizona’s overall defense has cut down on errors through the last five games – recording one or fewer miscues per game in four of the last five contests – Lopez has remained fervent about solidifying his pitching staff, a concern he says will determine the overall success of his team.

    After last weekend’s series against Massachusetts, in which Arizona finally got a pair of wins from its weekend starters, his philosophy proved true as the Wildcats won the series two games to one.

    “”There’s too many highs and lows for the young guys right now,”” said catcher Dwight Childs. “”When they’re pitching good it’s, ‘Yeah, I’m going, I’m going, I’m going.’ But when they start struggling that’s when the heads are down and it becomes, ‘Yeah, now I’m struggling a bit.'””

    The correlation between Arizona’s pitching and offense has been clear thus far this year. Through 13 games, Arizona has averaged more than nine runs per game. When starting pitching struggles, however – as it did two weekends ago against Georgia – Arizona’s sluggers managed to push across just five runs in all three losing efforts.

    “”When you start in a hole and you have to climb out every day, it’s tough,”” Childs said. “”But (the pitchers are) gonna start doing their job. We’re Arizona baseball and we know we have to be able to (pick each other up) if that’s what the situation calls for, and we’ve seen our hitters do that so far.””

    While Lopez may already have a list in his head of who will be getting innings come Pac-10 play and who will be forced to watch from the bench, all the Arizona underclassmen can do is try to take advantage of any remaining opportunity they get.

    Veltmann, for instance, appeared extremely hittable in his first two starts with an ERA of more than 14. However, Lopez held his faith in the right-hander and was rewarded last Sunday when Veltmann threw 5 2/3 innings of four-hit ball while allowing no runs.

    “”(Last weekend) was great for the starters,”” Veltmann said. “”We know we have to go out and give quality innings before giving it over to the bullpen. We’ve had our struggles so far but I think everyone, including the position players, is really starting to settle in and just pick everybody up.””

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