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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA baseball team gets needed rest

    Arizona designated hitter Colt Sedbrook, left, congratulates shortstop Bryce Ortega in an 4-3 extra-inning loss to No. 23 UCLA at Sancet Stadium on March 28. The Wildcats have 23 games in the next 30 days.
    Arizona designated hitter Colt Sedbrook, left, congratulates shortstop Bryce Ortega in an 4-3 extra-inning loss to No. 23 UCLA at Sancet Stadium on March 28. The Wildcats have 23 games in the next 30 days.

    After Sunday’s 8-4 victory over No. 23 UCLA, Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez said he’s “”never looked more forward to a practice in 31 years of coaching.””

    Tuesday, Lopez and the Wildcats got that practice after a grueling stretch of 12 games over 16 days. The practice marked the first time No. 18 Arizona (14-9, 2-4 Pacific 10 Conference) stepped onto Jerry Kindall Field outside of a game atmosphere since March 13.

    With the Wildcats struggling to a 4-8 record since their last practice, and a weekend road trip to play Washington (18-8, 1-2) on tap, Arizona’s midweek break came as an opportunity to improve.

    “”It’s great to get out here and concentrate on what you need to work on,”” said second baseman Colt Sedbrook. “”Whatever you need to improve upon, this is a great time to get it done. Right now we’re just working on coming together as a team and fixing up a few things in our game.””

    The primary focus for Arizona is its defense. Through the last 12 games, the Wildcats committed 21 errors with 19 coming from the infield.

    As a result of the mistakes, Lopez’ lineup has been different almost every game and he said he plans to continue a similar trend this weekend in Seattle.

    “”We’ve been trying to find a solid defensive lineup,”” Lopez said. “”That is easy for me when we are catching the ball consistently and making plays. But we’ve made a lot of errors lately. It’s really snuck up on us but it is what it is now and we’ll do out best to sure it up.””

    The other big concern Lopez has, which only increased during the last few weeks, is the concern over player eligibility.

    Due to the NCAA’s new, condensed season, as well as Tucson’s isolated geographical location, the Wildcats spend weeks on end away from home. These trips may be enjoyable for some of the players who like the major league-style schedule but for Lopez, the schedule is simply a liability.

    “”I don’t know how we’re going to be eligible,”” Lopez said. “”I’ve never said that before and I’m a guy who knows the importance of a degree. But we’re just gone all the time.

    “”I think we’ve just made it easier for our guys to say, ‘Forget school, I’m gonna concentrate on hitting .350.’ “”

    Currently, everyone on Arizona’s roster remains academically eligible, but with 23 games scheduled in the next 30 days, the coaches and players admit, keeping grades up will become a challenge.

    “”It’s very stressful working with your teachers,”” Sedbrook said. “”Making up the tests and catching up on work is tough; it starts piling up.””

    For what Lopez said was the first time in all his years of coaching, study halls for the players are occurring not only in hotels but on the team plane as well in an effort to help the players keep up with their studies so they can remain eligible.

    While the new schedule is foreign to all the Wildcat players, the intense travel schedule they must deal with comes as an even larger burden to the freshmen who are coming straight from high school where two or three games a week is standard.

    Shortstop Bryce Ortega said all of the traveling is “”tiresome.””

    “”It’s really tough on school,”” Ortega said. “”We play so many games in such a short period of time you really have to stay focused.

    “”Some of the teachers are really helpful and other’s are pretty strict which makes it frustrating. But there are advisers on the road that can help us out which makes it easier.””

    Despite the academic pressures, as well as the shaky defense the Wildcats have shown recently, the team is also using practice days to rebuild its confidence.

    “”We just need to get our confidence back and not getting down on ourselves over the last few games,”” Ortega said. “”The last few games have been tough for us but we played really well early on and we need to get back to the way we were playing at that point confidence-wise.””

    Arizona may have already taken a step toward regaining some of its composure with a strong performance in Sunday’s win following a brutal 20-8 beat down at the hands of the Bruins on Saturday.

    Although coming out of their hitting slump by scoring more than three runs for the first time in six games in the 12-run loss, a rough outing by its pitching staff led to Arizona dropping its sixth straight.

    But Sunday a familiar Wildcat team emerged and answered UCLA’s victory with a four-run win of its own, thus putting an end to the team’s season-high losing skid.

    “”I think (Saturday’s loss) was an eye-opening experience,”” Sedbrook said. “”The way that we were playing was not acceptable, especially for the talent level we have on this team.””

    Added Ortega: “”It’s the games after (a beating) that really shows the character of the team. So going out Sunday and playing that way was good for us. That definitely gives us the confidence to get this thing turned around.””

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