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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Dirtbags on deck

Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez took a leap of faith when he handed 19-year-old freshman pitcher Kurt Heyer the ball a week ago in the 2010 season opener.

But Heyer and the youthful Wildcats responded in a big way, outscoring Utah Valley University 34-9 en route to a three-game sweep.

The UA baseball team (3-0) will, once again, have the chance to show that age is only a number this weekend as it hosts Long Beach State University in a three-game series, beginning at 6 p.m. at Frank Sancet Stadium.””One thing I’ve told our staff is, ‘Hey, they’re eventually going to get to the mound, and nobody can help them, and they’re eventually going to get to the plate, and nobody can help them,'”” Lopez said of the team’s 17 freshmen and 23 underclassmen. “”Let’s get them out there and see how they go. The quicker the better.””

Lopez and his staff have wasted no time getting the rookies’ feet wet at the collegiate level, and this weekend will be no different, as the Wildcats will send three 19-year-old pitchers to the mound against LBSU (1-3).

Heyer will once again fill the Friday-night slot after turning in a six inning, 13-stikeout performance in his collegiate debut that earned him the “”Louisville Slugger”” National Player of the Week and Pacific 10 Conference Pitcher of the Week honors.

“”I thought he was horrible,”” Lopez joked, “”we’re thinking about getting him out of the rotation.””

Following Heyer’s performance today will be Saturday starter and sophomore Kyle Simon, who allowed one run on five hits and one walk in seven innings during an 18-1 win last Saturday. Simon may eventually take over the No. 1 role, but back and head injuries have set the 6-foot-5, 19-year-old back a bit.

Heyer and Simon have solidified the top-two spots in the rotation, but the Sunday starter remains “”up for grabs,”” according to Lopez.

After relieving junior Daniel Workman last Sunday to the tune of 4 1/3 innings of scoreless ball, freshman Stephen Manthei will get his crack at overtaking the No. 3 spot this Sunday.

“”I was real proud and pleased with him,”” Lopez said of Manthei’s performance, which helped the Wildcats toward a 10-inning, 8-7 victory against Utah State on Sunday. “”He’s a young guy that we had a real beat on two years ago because he comes from a very good program in Bishop Gorman. We knew who he was and were really excited to get him in the program.””

Manthei, a Las Vegas, Nev., native, showed great composure out of the pen in his collegiate debut, which should translate to the mound on Sunday.

Workman, who was the Sunday starter for the majority of last season, is battling some arm tightness, which dropped his throwing velocity by four to five mph last weekend. While he is by no means out of the mix for the No. 3 starter spot, Manthei showed the stuff and composure last weekend to be an everyday starter.

“”Steve (Manthei), he’s real good,”” said sophomore catcher Jett Bandy. “”He likes to throw a lot of strikes. He’s kind of a three-quarters guy. He’s got a lot of run on his ball, and he’s got a good second and third pitch. He always works hard, and I’m excited to see him start and win some games.””

Although starting the season 1-3, Long Beach is a far more competitive team than Utah Valley. Lopez, however, isn’t concerned about the opponent but rather the approach and attitude of the Wildcat youngsters.

“”The big thing that I’m going through right now, because it’s such a young team is … what does their presence look like?”” he said. “”Is it a deer in the headlight look or is it like they’re going out and just playing the game?””

Expect Lopez to mix up the lineup a bit, as he is still sifting through the slew of newcomers. But regardless of who is in the lineup, the players new to the program are growing everyday.

“”It’s day and night from seeing them now and back then,”” Bandy said. “”They’re real confident now. They really feel at home.””

 

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