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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball puts top-spot in Pac-12 on the line against UCLA

Baseball+puts+top-spot+in+Pac-12+on+the+line+against+UCLA

It would be easy for the No. 4 Arizona baseball team to get caught up in the hype that comes with being at the top of the Pac-12 Conference standings, but with a visit from the No. 17 UCLA Bruins this weekend, Arizona is maintaining focus on the series opening contest tonight at Hi Corbett Field.

“We’re thinking one game at a time right now,” Arizona third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean said. “(We’re) just practicing getting ready for this weekend, we can’t think about what’s after, everything is important coming up.”

While the Wildcats (23-9, 9-3 Pac-12) haven’t lost a conference series all season, the Bruins (22-7, 8-4) are right on their tails, tied with the Oregon Ducks for second place in the Pac-12.

In the 2011 MLB Draft, the Bruins lost two of their weekend starters, Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer, who, after consistently dominating Pac-10 batters, were picked first and third overall, respectively.

Despite the loss of the two solid arms, Arizona head coach Andy Lopez knows that the Bruins can still deal on the mound, and he sees that in every conference foe that the Wildcats have faced.

“That’s the excitement and challenge of Pac-12 baseball,” Lopez said. “Every game’s a good game, every team’s a good team.

“We’re fortunate that we have a good team ourselves, so it’ll come down to who will play good baseball on a (night-by-night basis).”

According to Lopez, all the team needs is to come out on top after nine innings. It doesn’t have to look pretty on the front end.

“When you get into conference play, there are no style points, thank God,” he said. “It’s not ice skating or anything like that, it’s really just get one more than they have at the end of nine innings, and I mean that sincerely.”

It’s a good thing for the Wildcats that style doesn’t count. Some of their wins have been ugly, but they were wins nonetheless. For Lopez, the only way the Wildcats can be successful is to come out hungrier than their opponents.

“(UCLA’s) a good team, they fit right in with the Pac-12, being nationally ranked,” he said. “But we need to play good baseball.”

If the Arizona pitching rotation can keep up its trend, then the UCLA batters should be subdued enough.

With the ability that the Wildcats have to create offense, as they lead the nation with a .331 team average, they need to capitalize early and force the Bruins to go to their bullpen.

In its last conference home series against Stanford, Arizona set an attendance record with more than 10,000 fans walking through the gates of Hi Corbett.

It was the first time the Wildcats had reached that number since 1992.

They’re hoping for the same kind of support this weekend.

“It’s always great to see fans out there supporting you,” Arizona shortstop Alex Mejia said. “They put on a great show (against Stanford) so hopefully they’ll bring that again this weekend.”

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