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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Wildcats look to take care of business in LA

The No. 19 Arizona baseball team faces a different type of test this weekend.

It’s not whether the Wildcats can compete against an elite team, but whether they can take care of a team they should beat. Arizona travels to play last-place USC in Los Angeles, Calif., with the first pitch scheduled for tonight at 6:30.

Head coach Andy Lopez, a native of Los Angeles, made it sound unlikely that Arizona (28-11, 8-7 Pacific 10 Conference) would overlook the Trojans.

“”It’s USC, and it’s Pac-10 baseball,”” Lopez said. “”I grew up in L.A., I watched them win national championships and had a buddy play and win four in a row there.””

Both the Wildcats and Trojans, two of just seven teams to win at least 2,500 games, have a storied past.

But it’s been a rough year for the NCAA’s leader in national championships. The Trojans (17-23, 3-12) are the only team in the Pac-10 this season with a record below .500, and they have yet to win a conference series in 2010.

Arizona freshman ace Kurt Heyer will assume his normal spot on the mound as the Friday-night guy. The Edison, Calif., native doesn’t dismiss the Trojans either, expecting them to put up a fight all weekend.

“”USC, they’re not doing the best of jobs, but they’re going to be really hungry to get a win this weekend, so we’re trying to get a sweep from them,”” Heyer said. “”Hopefully we can stay focused, because this is a time where we can’t make mistakes.””

Arizona enters a crucial part of the season as it tries to secure a spot in the postseason.

Last weekend, the Wildcats lost a tough series to No. 5 UCLA, and Lopez harped to his team that he didn’t want to see youth used as an excuse anymore.

“”(Lopez) wants you to play like you’ve been here before, play like we’ve been doing this for 30 games, play like we’ve been practicing for this since 7 months ago,”” said sophomore outfielder Steve Selsky.

With a postseason berth in sight — ESPN.com had the Wildcats in the field of 64 this week — Heyer spoke about the attitude the team needs to maintain down the stretch.

“”This is going to be a big month for us,”” he said. “”We’re already at the point where we can’t act like freshmen anymore. We should have a veteran mentality right now. People always say, ‘We’re young, we’re young,’ but that shouldn’t be the case anymore because we’ve already established ourselves.””

Arizona head coach Andy Lopez has built an impressive resume over his 27-year collegiate coaching career, and he is closing in on another milestone. Lopez needs just three wins to reach 1,000 total.

Lopez said he usually doesn’t pay a lot of attention to statistics and that he was only recently made aware of the pending 1,000 win mark.

“”I hope it happens soon,”” Lopez said. “”I’d really like for it to happen soon, and then I can have some thoughts about it. But right now, I just really want to go out there and play good baseball.””

With a sweep against USC, Lopez would reach the milestone in Los Angeles, where his coaching career began.

Lighter workouts pay off

Arizona has a roster with 17 freshmen, meaning a lot of them are experiencing the grind of a college season versus a high school season for the first time.

Lopez has recently changed the normal practice routine to keep his team fresh by cutting practices short, hoping to prevent injury and fatigue.

“”Having shorter practices, it does make you fresher and make your body more ready for the weekend,”” Selsky said. “”Injury-wise, and mentally too. It helps everything.””

 

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