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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball ready for Rice

Annie Marum / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Baseball vs. South Dakota St- 2.18
Annie Marum
Annie Marum / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs. South Dakota St- 2.18

It’s not often that two top-25 baseball teams square off in non-conference action, but No. 18 Arizona will get that chance when it hosts No. 22 Rice University for a two-game set on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“”Games like this, that’s what you come to Arizona for,”” said 10th season head coach Andy Lopez. “”You hope you can play a lot of ranked people and measure up with them … our guys are going to be excited.””

Arizona (5-1) is coming off of a series in which it took two of three from Long Beach State and continued its dominant pitching performance.

Although Lopez hadn’t decided on who his starting pitchers are going to be as of Monday afternoon, he said that throwing Kurt Heyer and Kyle Simon — the team’s top two starters — was an option against the Owls (5-3).

“”It’s not an outrageous idea for Heyer and Simon to go out there and have lower pitch counts,”” Lopez said. “”Those would usually be their days to throw a bullpen, so maybe they’ll get out there in live action.””

Neither pitcher has given up more than two runs in an outing, though Heyer took the loss in Friday’s 2-1 pitcher’s duel at Long Beach State.

Should Heyer get the nod as the starter in one of the games, it would set up a marquee showdown with Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon — Baseball America’s 2010 player of the year and predicted choice as the No. 1 pick in the 2011 MLB Draft.

As highly touted as Rendon is, he won’t be the only player putting up offensive numbers at Frank Sancet Stadium this week. Arizona is averaging almost eight runs per game, and the emergence of freshman left fielder Johnny Field is a big reason why.

Field is hitting .421 on the young season and is second on Arizona’s squad with 15 total bases. Field said adjusting to college baseball at its highest level hasn’t been too difficult for him.

“”It’s not too big of a difference from where I played to now,”” Field said. “”The game’s a little quicker but that’s about it.””

Field added that he’s looking forward to taking the field against one of the top programs in America.

“”I’m really excited … I know they’re a good team,”” said the Las Vegas native. “”Hopefully, we can go out and compete and take two games.””

Finding the ‘pen

Even though Arizona’s team ERA is a miniscule 0.68, Lopez still has concerns about the pitching staff.

Lopez is still trying to figure out the team’s middle-relief roles, and who is going to get the ball to closer Bryce Bandilla.

“”I wish I could have thrown more guys (over the weekend),”” Lopez said, “”but it’s hard to take guys out of a game when they’re throwing shutouts through 6 innings every time out.””

Lopez is going to get a chance to see what his middle-relievers have to offer against Rice if he ends up going with Heyer and Simon as his two starters on low pitch counts.

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