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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Hurting baseball begins conference play

    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Students act as counselors for a weekend at Camp Wildcat where local kids sleep in Bear Down Gymnasium and do fun activities.
    Jake Lacey
    Jake Lacey / Arizona Daily Wildcat Students act as counselors for a weekend at Camp Wildcat where local kids sleep in Bear Down Gymnasium and do fun activities.

    The injury-depleted Arizona baseball team may look a little different heading into today’s Pacific 10 Conference-opening three-game series against California in Berkeley, Calif.

    When the Wildcats (11-12, 0-0 Pac-10) split their series with UC-Irvine last weekend, they lost more than just Sunday’s game, as starters senior second baseman Brad Boyer, freshman right fielder Jon Gaston and sophomore pitcher/designated hitter Eric Berger were lost to injury.

    Of the group, only Boyer is expected to play against Cal (14-11, 2-1).

    “”We really feel like he’ll be able to play this weekend,”” said Arizona head coach Andy Lopez of Boyer, who had been out after tweaking a hip flexor muscle. “”We’d be very surprised if he wasn’t back.””

    The unusual Thursday start to the series is the first of four straight games for the Wildcats, with the team taking on in-state rival No. 14 ASU Sunday at Chase Field in Phoenix in a nonconference game.

    “”In a real quirky way, I think it will be good for us to know we got to play every day for four days in a row,”” Lopez said. “”Just to go out and play: ‘We got another game, we got another game.’ I kinda like it.””

    Berger won’t make the trip to Berkeley and will miss his scheduled start today with a muscle strain in his throwing elbow, but he may be available to DH on Sunday.

    With Berger unable to throw all weekend, freshman righty Preston Guilmet (2-3, 3.63 ERA) – usually the team’s second-day starter – will get the nod today at 2 p.m.

    “”(Lopez) wants to put me out there, and I’m ready to go,”” Guilmet said of his first career first-day start. “”I’ll do my best, and our guys are going to come to hit.””

    As a result, junior lefty Brad Mills (2-1, 3.38) will be moved up to tomorrow’s 2 p.m. start, and sophomore left-hander David Coulon (0-2, 9.24) will toe the rubber in Saturday’s 1 p.m. finale.

    Lopez listed Gaston, who is sidelined with a left wrist injury, as day-to-day, saying that the decision to play will be based on Gaston’s pain threshold.

    “”If he feels like he’s healthy enough to go, he can go,”” Lopez said.

    But there was also good news on the injury front earlier this week: Senior outfielder Derek Decater, who has been out with a shoulder injury since the first week of March, is now out of his sling, and Lopez expects him back in a couple of weeks once he gets back up to strength.

    The series against the Golden Bears marks the beginning of conference play for the Wildcats after battling through a tough nonconference schedule that included the now-No. 1, 2 and 8 teams in the nation in Mississippi State, Cal State Fullerton and Nebraska, respectively.

    Although Arizona dropped all seven games to those teams, Lopez said he believes that in the long run the rough early season schedule will benefit his team.

    “”The reason we schedule the way we schedule is so we can be ready for conference,”” Lopez said. “”I don’t think we’re going to see anybody better than (the teams they’ve already faced) in the next eight weeks. We’re going to see teams similar to those teams but nobody better.””

    His player’s attitudes run parallel.

    “”I’m ready to go,”” said junior shortstop Jason Donald. “”We’re right there, we really are. This is the time now where you can’t take moral victories. You can’t take the silver lining in anything.

    “”This counts now for postseason. If we’re going to make a run at this thing, it starts this weekend.””

    The Wildcats hope that this weekend will also start a resurgence of their bats, which have been largely dormant over the past few weeks.

    “”We’ve got to hit,”” Lopez said. “”I think it’s just a combination of some older guys saying, ‘You know, I think our numbers probably should be better,’ and just some younger guys being young.

    “”How will it get fixed? Well, the older guys will start playing better than they’ve been playing, and a couple of the younger guys will get hot,”” he added. “”That would solve it.

    “”Its not like we have to have nine guys hitting all at once. If four or five of them could get on track, that would help.””

    Donald said that the team will get there.

    “”It’s just time for us to turn it around,”” he said. “”There’s not magic potion, there’s not one key phrase that we can use.

    “”Let’s just turn it around. That’s it. That’s all we can do.””

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