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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Baseball ends season in Miami, looks to rebuild next year”

    Expectations soared last February when the Arizona baseball team took to Jerry Kindall Field for the first time of the year.

    Not much changed when that same team entered its final game against No. 1 Miami in game three of the NCAA Super Regionals. But familiar struggles ultimately cost the Wildcats their season as they fell to the Hurricanes 4-2 in the deciding game.

    “”Unfortunately we were one of 15 teams that was disappointed in this Super Regional,”” UA head coach Andy Lopez said following the loss. “”I know for a fact you’re never really happy unless you win, but you know, I (was) very proud of our guys.””

    The former No. 1 team nationally battled through stretches of inconsistent play throughout the season with bountiful errors early in the year followed by hitting slumps in addition to seeing the Wildcats’ ace, Preston Guilmet, suffer from a dead arm.

    But despite any doubt surrounding Arizona during the middle of the season, the Wildcats found themselves right where they wanted to be heading into June – in contention for a highly anticipated national championship.

    After finishing the year 14th overall, Arizona found itself bound for Ann Arbor in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.

    The Wildcats swept the regional with ease earning themselves a match up with the No. 1 seed Hurricanes at Coral Gables, Fla.

    Coming in, Arizona found its strength in its bullpen. Relievers Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth entered the regional with high expectations as both were taken in the first round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Arizona closer Jason Stoffel also carried heavy weight on his shoulders as the Pacific 10 Conference’s leader in saves throughout the regular season with 13.

    But a last minute oblique injury left Schlereth on the bench for the duration of the Super Regionals, leaving Perry and Stoffel as the leaders of the Arizona bullpen.

    The duo was spectacular in the series’ opening game combining for 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits in an effort which allowed Arizona to head into the 11th inning tied with the Hurricanes.

    “”(The bullpen) had been pretty consistent throughout the season,”” Lopez said. “”(Having Schlereth out) added a little extra strain on Ryan Perry and Jason Stoffel but they did a marvelous job.””

    Thanks to the performance of the two relievers, the Wildcats found themselves with two outs and two on in the top of the frame. Then right-fielder Jon Gaston belted a three-run home run, giving Arizona the lead and ultimately a game-one victory.

    “”Next pitch came and I got a hold of it pretty good,”” Gaston said of the hit. “”Emotionally, it was unreal. It was by far, one of the more exciting home runs I’ve ever hit.””

    The stellar pitching vanished in game two of the series with both Perry and Stoffel inactive.

    Miami pounded Arizona pitching for 14 runs on 11 hits en route to a 14-10 series-tying win.

    With their season on the line and their pair of dominant relievers available once again, a College World Series berth appeared in the hands of the Wildcats’ offense.

    The inconsistencies that haunted the team during the middle of the season, however, appeared once again and Arizona left 11 runners stranded, including one in scoring position in the ninth, as its season came to a close.

    Despite the frustrating ending to their season, several Wildcat players still found some good news as nine of the team’s 11 draft picks signed professional contracts, including first round picks Perry and Schlereth, who signed with the Tigers and Diamondbacks respectively.

    The two draftees not signing onto the pro ranks were Guilmet and third baseman Brad Glenn. Both players are expected to bring some much-needed stability to a team which finds itself with many holes to fill.

    Arizona also lost three top pitching prospects for the fall to the draft with southpaw Kyle Lobstein signing a contract with Tampa Bay on August 15.

    “”We always know there’s a risk involved when you get those types of players,”” Lopez said. “”But right now we just needed to get those guys figured out so we can plan for next year.””

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