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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    It’s not an arms race

    Arizona pitcher Preston Guilmet will anchor the Wildcats rotation this season. Last year the righty led the team with a 1.78 ERA and will be the teams Friday pitcher this time around.
    Arizona pitcher Preston Guilmet will anchor the Wildcats’ rotation this season. Last year the righty led the team with a 1.78 ERA and will be the team’s Friday pitcher this time around.

    One year removed from what his coach called a Cy Young caliber season, Preston Guilmet has defined the importance of quality pitching for the Arizona baseball team.

    Guilmet wowed the nation with a team-leading 1.78 ERA last season while wearing a proverbial “”‘S’ on his chest, like Superman,”” said UA head coach Andy Lopez.

    “”Quite honestly, I don’t think he can do that (again, but) he can prove me wrong,”” Lopez said. “”I don’t think he has to do that (well) this year.””

    With this season’s new NCAA uniform start date for Division I baseball, the pressure shifts beyond just the Wildcats’ ace on Friday nights, but rather, the rotation’s depth throughout weekend (and frequent weekday) series.

    The new Feb. 1 start date affects warm weather schools. In past years, the season stretched 56 regular-season games throughout 16 weeks – often already playing a dozen games by the end of February.

    In an effort to balance the playing field between snow-covered schools and programs with year-round sunshine, the NCAA now allocates only 13 weeks to play regular season games, resulting in the more compressed schedule that northern schools play.

    Although the cliché traditionally said, “”pitching wins championships,”” this season ultimately spotlights pitching depth as the x-factor – and the Wildcats have it.

    On how the condensed schedule will affect the pitching rotation, Lopez said he will be forced to make decisions that he hasn’t had to make in the past.

    “”Just from the standpoint that we play really good opponents in the middle of the week for the first time,”” Lopez said. “”Now an arm we could use over the weekend we might save for Tuesday or Wednesday,”” he added. “”(The new condensed season) all has a domino effect.””

    Lopez said

    Before we didn’t have that many games, but this year we’re gonna have to use a lot of guys. We also want to keep a few fresh arms for when we get in the Pac-10 play.

    – Andy Lopez,
    UA head coach

    Guilmet will pitch series openers on Friday nights, deserving the spot after earning the 2007 Pacific 10 Conference Pitcher of the Year award. Games two and three of the series rely on the arms of a dangerous pair of Cs: David Coulon and Mike Colla, who both pitched outstanding at the Witchita Regional last spring.

    The left-hander Coulon went 4-3 last season with a 4.98 ERA and 62 strikeouts, while Colla went 3-3 with a 5.20 ERA and 44 strikeouts.

    Though the rotation could have traditionally reset back to Guilmet for the following weekend series after Sunday, this year’s scheduling gives two more slots for the occasional Tuesday and Wednesday games. Left-hander Eric Berger and right-hander Ryan Perry will compete for the weekend spots, but could still get the opportunity to start throughout the week, since Arizona plays 16 weekday games (not including Friday).

    “”If you were to ask me my starting rotation right now I’d say those five guys,”” Lopez said. “”Before we didn’t have that many games, but this year we’re gonna have to use a lot of guys.

    “”And we also want to keep a few fresh arms for when we get into Pac-10 play,”” Lopez added. “”On paper we should have the depth to go do that.””

    Perry begins a fresh season after last year’s early motorcycle accident forced him to gradually recover and prepare for the super regional. The junior from Marana struck out three in two scoreless innings against Wichita State in the regional championship.

    “”(His recovery) has been fantastic,”” Lopez said. “”At the end of last season, he was outstanding for us. He was very consistent throughout the fall and in spring. He’s definitely a factor.””

    Fresh arms and good health are undoubtedly vital every season, from the starting rotation to the bullpen. But this season particularly, its depth to begin the season is crucial to propel Arizona throughout the year with weekday games.

    “”Again we’re really deep,”” said right handed closer Jason Stoffel. “”We have a bunch of arms that can throw midweek games – we’ll be fine.””

    Stoffel joins LPH Daniel Schlereth as Arizona’s two closers, who will combine to shorten the game for the starters.

    Still recovering from a rib injury, Schlereth was selected by the Oakland Athletics in the eighth round of the Major League Baseball draft, but opted to return to Arizona as the school’s freshman save record holder (7). Perry posted a 2.68 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 37 innings last season, through tweaking his delivery by opening up his hips earlier to relieve the torque on his ribs.

    “”It’s not nearly as bad as it was so my mechanics have stayed the same for the most part,”” said Perry, a redshirt junior who sat out his freshman year at UNLV after undergone Tommy John surgery (ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction) on his left elbow after his senior year in high school.

    “”It was tough to come back,”” he said. “”I wish it never happened in the first place, but it’s still kind of healing. Back then it was a lot worse than it is now so I’m happy about that.

    “”I just approached (this season) like I would any other one and I started conditioning pretty early so I’m ready to go this spring.””

    ‘Cats picked to win Pac-10; pitchers earn watch-list honors

    National recognition continues to pour into Tucson.

    The Arizona baseball team was picked to win the Pacific 10 Conference in the preseason coaches poll, finishing with six first place votes, ahead of ASU and UCLA.

    The two-time defending champions Oregon State placed fourth, followed by California and Stanford.

    “”Everyone has their own opinion of us, but we just need to come out and play hard and try to live up to those expectations,”” said UA pitcher Jason Stoffel.

    Added fellow closer Daniel Schlereth, “”I think it’s more of a respect issue since the coaches actually picked it as opposed to the guys from Baseball America. So it’s good to see that respect because we worked hard to get to this level and we just have to go out and prove it now.””

    The two closers join ace pitcher Preston Guilmet as Arizona’s three pitchers on preseason watch lists.

    Guilmet was named on the Golden Spikes Award watch list, awarded annually to the nation’s top college baseball player.

    Stoffel and Schlereth were also recognized by being added to the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association Stopper of the Year watch list.

    Arizona earned a No. 1 preseason ranking in the Collegiate Baseball’s top 40, and a No. 2 ranking in Baseball America’s preseason top 25.

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