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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball looks to solidify rotation

    Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat
    Colin Darland
    Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat

    In the first start of his career, freshman Donn Roach pitched one of the brightest outings an Arizona starter has had all year.

    The right-hander’s six-inning, seven-strikeout performance gave head coach Andy Lopez a boost of confidence, and it seemed that the Wildcats’ top three could compete with anyone.

    Fast forward from Feb. 22 to March 31.

    Roach struggled and was replaced with struggling No. 2 starter Matt Veltmann.

    Veltmann got back on track and returned to his Saturday role, leaving Sunday’s spot open to freshman Bryce Bandilla.

    Three runs into the first inning again UCLA without recording a single out, and you have the fourth installment of this futile quest: Kyle Simon.

    “”He’s done a really good job for us so far,”” Lopez said when he announced that Simon will start this Sunday against USC, a three-game series that begins tonight at 7 at Sancet Stadium.

    The freshman has been used a lot so far this season, going 2-3 in 30.1 innings, and has drawn consistent praise and confidence from Lopez.

    “”It feels good,”” Simon said of his coach’s faith in him. “”As long as I’m helping the program, I’m really excited.””

    With senior Preston Guilmet, a dependable ace pitching on Friday, and surging sophomore Matt Veltmann going on Saturday, finding a successful bookend on Sunday is essential for a team with postseason aspirations.

    “”We got a horrible start from Bandilla,”” a frustrated Lopez said after Sunday’s loss to UCLA. “”We need to sure up our Sunday starter spot.””

    Fortunately, Simon is a worthy candidate for the job. The 6-foot-5 righty has endured some growing pains so far in his freshman campaign, but his above-average fastball has enabled him to mature faster than most freshmen.

    “”I’ve been doing pretty well for a freshman,”” Simon said. “”The pressure isn’t as great as I thought it would be, especially with the coaches that we have. They really stress the mental part of the game, and if you conquer that it gets pretty easy.””

    His three strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings on Sunday gave Lopez the comfort to make the switch, although it wasn’t too much of a surprise.

    When Lopez announced on March 11 that Bandilla would be the Sunday starter, he said that the only reason he got the nod over Simon was because Simon’s pitch count was a little higher than Lopez liked.

    “”He’s shown us some really good things,”” Lopez said. “”I feel very comfortable starting Simon on Sundays.””

    Simon’s first task as a weekend starter seems like a good fit, but winning won’t be an easy task as the Wildcats (12-12, 1-5 Pacific 10 Conference) welcome USC for a three-game series.

    The Trojans (11-13, 2-4 Pac-10) are a young and inexperienced team, but they have an explosive offense led by preseason All-American shortstop Grant Green.

    The series against the Trojans is especially crucial for the Wildcats because they are currently in last place in the Pac-10, despite having the third best overall record in the conference.

    “”We need to focus on playing the game rather than the opponent,”” Simon said. “”We killed UCLA last Saturday, but then lost the next time, so we need to play the game rather than the score and we need to play tough for all nine innings.””

    Extra Innings

    The topic of who will be the next men’s basketball coach is sweeping the campus at a feverish rate, and it isn’t just affecting the men on the hard court.

    “”I’m pretty interested in who (the coach) is going to be, and I’m excited to find out,”” Simon said.

    Although his wish list is a little far-fetched, he seems to have a solid idea of what he wants for his fellow student-athletes.

    “”The Pittsburgh coach sounds good,”” Simon said, referring to Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon. “”He’ll spark our basketball program not to be so soft anymore.””

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