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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Streaky ‘Cats get back into groove

    Wildcat shortstop Bryce Ortega swings at a pitch against No. 23 UCLA in 20-8 loss March 29 at Sancet Stadium. Arizona practiced Tuesday for the first time in three weeks due to its rigorous road schedule.
    Wildcat shortstop Bryce Ortega swings at a pitch against No. 23 UCLA in 20-8 loss March 29 at Sancet Stadium. Arizona practiced Tuesday for the first time in three weeks due to its rigorous road schedule.

    A six-game losing streak in most other sports causes panic, widespread frustration and prompts fans to postpone postseason hopes until the following season.

    But not college baseball, a sport without the pressure to make a bowl game or break the tournament bubble based on a select number of games.

    That’s how the No. 18 Arizona baseball team approaches the entire season – not as a sprint, but a marathon, as UA head coach Andy Lopez often says after every game.

    “”That’s the good thing about baseball, you just have to put it behind you and the next day anything can happen,”” said UA shortstop Bryce Ortega.

    After dropping their first game of the season at Georgia, the Wildcats (14-9, 2-4 Pacific 10 Conference) began the season on a 12-game winning streak, propelling them to a top ranking in the Baseball America Top 25 poll for three weeks. Throughout spring break, Arizona’s streaky play continued, but instead in the loss column with a six-game losing streak.

    During their 2-10 stretch, the Wildcats lost three one-run games and were held to fewer than four runs for five straight games at one point.

    In Tuesday’s team practice – the first since March 12 – Arizona aimed to get the kinks out offensively, while working in the field to cut down on an error-plagued season (44 on the season).

    “”We’ve been gone so much it’s been kind of tiring,”” Ortega said. “”It’ll be good to get some things nailed down. We just need to work on staying confident and not getting down on ourselves over the last few games.””

    Said designated hitter Colt Sedbrook of the first practice in weeks: “”It’s great to get out here and concentrate on what you need to work on. If you need to work on defense you can adjust that and anything that comes to mind you can make those adjustments.””

    Through its first 14 games, an offensive explosion propelled Arizona to a 12-2 record, with third baseman Dillon Baird leading the team in hits (24), left fielder Diallo Fon leading in batting average (.450) and designated hitter C.J. Ziegler leading in homers (8) and RBIs (22).

    A cautionous Lopez, though, knew such white-hot statistics would never remain constant from the heavy-hitting bats that hit a .334 team batting average to lead the Pac-10.

    Since scoring 137 runs in those first 14 games, Arizona has only managed to scrape together 46 in its last nine games.

    A frustrated Ziegler thought a passive approach during at-bats caused the slump, he said after a 4-3 loss to No. 23 UCLA on March 28, but assistant coach Mark Wasikowski thought otherwise, saying the team needed to grind through the slump. Either way, the Wildcats practiced Tuesday and yesterday in an attempt workout the kinks.

    “”That’s the luxury of having practice,”” said Sedbrook, who practiced in long sleeves, anticipating Seattle’s temperatures to be in the 40s and 50s when the Wildcats face

    Washington this weekend. “”You can work on those things and boost your confidence up and do those little things that can translate to a game.””

    Arizona plummets hard in latest national rankings

    Arizona’s recent slump brought the Wildcats down from No. 6 last week to No. 18 in this week’s Baseball America Top 25 poll.

    The Wildcats also garnered the same slot in Monday’s USA Today/ESPN Coaches’ poll.

    “”I know we can play with the best teams in the country so as long as we get out of this funk, the rankings will take of itself,”” Ortega said.

    Added Sedbrook of the rankings: “”I don’t really look at (the rankings) on a personal level, it’s not a big thing to me at all. I don’t think it’s a big thing for the team either. We just need to focus on going out as a team and competing and put a good Pac-10 performance out there.””

    The Pac-10 fields five of its nine teams – Oregon doesn’t have a team – in Baseball America’s poll, with No. 1 ASU, No. 7 California, No. 13 Stanford and No. 23 UCLA also receiving national attention.

    Lingering illness affects squad

    Although most health concerns typically cultivate from sore arms, tired legs or other on-field injuries, Lopez, an assistant coach and a few players have caught an illness that forced the head coach to miss the March 28 game.

    With Tucson’s pollen at the “”high level”” according to KOLD-TV news, allergies have taken over the clubhouse, along with Lopez’s flu.

    “”That’s a little issue right now,”” Lopez said. “”I wish I could say (the scratchy voice) was because I was singing in the choir but I’m fighting allergies. We’re battling that (cold) bug.

    “”We brought it back from (Oklahoma) State,”” he added. “”But we’ll be alright. If we had to play tonight we’d be fine.””

    – Bobby Stover contributed reporting

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