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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats’ bats lead the way

    An 11-10 record to start the season doesn’t exactly allow Arizona baseball fans to rest easily, but if there’s one thing that the Wildcats can hang their hats on, it’s the success of the team’s bats.

    Through 21 games the Wildcats have scored 168 runs and have smacked 221 hits, good enough for second and first in the conference, respectively.

    The vets

    Thanks to injuries and suspensions, Arizona has struggled to put out a consistent lineup, but thus far they have been paced by junior first baseman Dillon Baird.

    Baird is first on the team and second in the Pacific 10 Conference with a .423 batting average and leads the team with 19 RBI. His production has been slightly limited thanks to a shoulder injury and suspension that cost him a total of six games, but the numbers that Baird has put up have been impressive.

    They’ve also been critical, thanks to the lack of production from senior Brad Glenn. The third baseman was hampered in the off-season with a wrist injury, and he tweaked his hip in the third game of the season.

    Both Glenn and head coach Andy Lopez have denied that the injuries are hindering his swing, but his .240 batting average and 15 strikeouts are a cause for concern.

    “”Glenn is Glenn, he is our everyday third baseman,”” Lopez said following a loss to Oklahoma State just before spring break.

    The rest of the Wildcats have rallied around Glenn to maintain a potent offense and erase doubts that the offense would struggle given the loss of several starters from the 2008 team.

    “”I’m pretty pleased with our offense,”” Lopez has said on several occasions this season. “”If we can consistently score five runs or more, then we should be in pretty good shape.””

    Shortstop Bryce Ortega and second baseman Rafael Valenzuela have provided a spark at the top of the order and are often the catalysts to Wildcat rallies. Ortega boasts a remarkable .433 on-base percentage, and Valenzuela is third on the team with a .338 batting average.

    The young guns

    While veterans like Baird, Ortega and Valenzuela have set the pace for the offense, a crop of freshmen and inexperienced players have helped Arizona load its lineup from top to bottom.

    Freshman Jett Bandy is second on the team in at-bats and fellow freshman Steve Selsky, who was suffering from pneumonia for a stretch, has roped six doubles.

    The freshmen know that, despite their inexperience, they are just essential to the team’s success as the upperclassmen.

    “”I’m just trying to do the best I can, just put the ball in play and help the team out as much as possible,”” Bandy said after the Wildcats were swept by Oklahoma State two weeks ago.

    The X-factor

    The linchpin in the middle of the Wildcat order who has the ability to single-handedly win or lose games is sophomore center fielder Bobby Coyle.

    The coaching staff feels that the sky is the limit for the left-handed hitter; he just has to realize his potential.

    “”We’re looking for him to mature a little more and be our everyday center fielder,”” Lopez said before the season.

    Coyle, who usually is slotted at the team’s 3-hitter, has a respectable .310 batting average and leads the team with 27 hits and 44 total bases.

    There is no question that he can hit the ball, but the maturation that the coaches are looking for lies in his patience at the plate. Coyle has walked just four times and struck out 15 times, and has an on-base percentage of .351 – just 41 points higher than his batting average.

    If Coyle continues to progress and learns to take pitches and work the opposing pitcher a little more, he can undoubtedly be one of the conference’s best all-around players and will be an undeniable force in the Wildcat lineup.

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