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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “‘Scuffling’ baseball loses Berger for season, Melancon for series”

    Arizonas Colt Sedbrook tags UCLAs Chris Jensen out in a rundown during the sixth inning of Arizonas 8-5 loss to UCLA, Saturday April 15, 2006. (photo by chris coduto/arizona daily wildcat)
    Arizona’s Colt Sedbrook tags UCLA’s Chris Jensen out in a rundown during the sixth inning of Arizona’s 8-5 loss to UCLA, Saturday April 15, 2006. (photo by chris coduto/arizona daily wildcat)

    A bad series turned into a bad week, and a bad week turned into an even worse week for the Arizona baseball team recently when it learned that sophomore lefty Eric Berger is out for the rest of the season.

    After dropping two of three to UCLA over the weekend to fall back into eighth place in the Pacific 10 Conference, the Wildcats (15-19, 3-6 Pac-10) had, as termed by junior shortstop Jason Donald, “”a terrible day”” against New Mexico on Tuesday, falling 13-3 in Albuquerque.

    Then, to top things off, they learned that not only would their Friday starter and designated hitter Berger be shut down for the year, but junior closer Mark Melancon would miss the series against ninth-place Stanford (16-15, 2-7) – which starts tonight at 7 with freshman righty Preston Guilmet (2-4, 3.36 ERA) facing Stanford’s right-handed junior Greg Reynolds (2-3, 3.82) – after having an MRI on his throwing arm on Tuesday.

    Berger’s season ends after just seven starts because he tweaked an old tendon injury in his throwing arm in mid-March against No. 1 Cal State Fullerton. He was 3-4 on the year with a 4.42 ERA in 38.2 innings and also batted .278 with 10 RBI in 12 games at the plate.

    “”His parents have a desire for him not to throw for the next couple of months,”” Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said. “”He’s not responding the way we thought he would respond.

    “”We are scuffling, and it’d be nice to have him – even if it were just at the plate – but they really, really do not want him to miss any more.””

    Berger will rehab until June 1, when he’ll have a supervised bullpen session, and, if all goes well, he will return to the Wildcat lineup in 2007. But if there’s a snag, it could potentially mean going under the knife for Tommy John surgery, which would keep him out all of next season.

    Lopez was blunt on the effect that would have on his squad.

    “”(That) would be a real kick in the head,”” he said.

    Melancon, who missed last weekend’s series against the Bruins with a stomach ailment, apparently had also been feeling “”tightness”” in his throwing arm for a number of weeks, Lopez said.

    “”He said he’d felt it for a couple of weeks off and on,”” Lopez said. “”He knows we’re scuffling. If he could, I think he’d try to hit for us, too, that’s just his makeup – so he didn’t want to say anything.””

    Melancon last toed the mound April 7 at No. 9 Oregon State in relief of Guilmet and had a rare rough outing, surrendering seven runs – all earned – on six hits, and walked three in just two innings.

    “”It makes sense now,”” Lopez said of the injury, “”because his outing against Oregon State that Friday night was really very, very – for Mark Melancon – really, really not good.””

    The results of the MRI were not immediately known, and the team was waiting to hear back yesterday – but at the very least, they will be without his services against the Cardinal.

    Melancon did have an X-ray earlier this week, Lopez said, which came back negative.

    “”I was a little upset that he didn’t share that with us, though,”” Lopez said. “”I mean, yeah, we want to win every game … but not at the expense of a young man’s career.

    “”We need him badly, but not at the expense of his elbow.””

    Said Donald, Melancon’s roommate: “”It’s definitely not good news for the team, but more importantly, Mark’s health. That’s my main concern.””

    Injuries aren’t the only thing plaguing the Wildcats. In the past four games, the team has committed nine errors.

    “”I need to start playing some better defense,”” said sophomore third baseman Colt Sedbrook, who shares the team lead in errors with Donald at 12. “”It’s not necessarily that I’ve never played third before or anything like that. I’ve played third before, and I need to make the plays.

    “”I think it’s a lack of concentrating on the ball and really concentrating on what I need to do with my feet and all that kind of stuff. I kind of get lazy defensively.””

    Sedbrook, who leads the team in batting average (.321) and on-base percentage (.449), still isn’t satisfied with his offensive production at the plate.

    “”You’ve got to look at the whole picture,”” he said. “”I need to start producing when there’s guys on base. My job’s not all the time just to get on base.””

    The matchup between the Cardinal and Wildcats is a peculiar one, as this season’s series won’t draw near as much fanfare as those of years past, which normally are battles for first-place bragging rights, not battles to stay out of the Pac-10 cellar, like the one this year.

    “”I think we’d like to drop them down even farther in the Pac-10,”” Donald said. “”And slowly get ourselves up there.””

    With the Pac-10 still as close as it is – 4 1/2 games separates all nine teams – a good series could put Arizona right back in the thick of things.

    “”It’s come to a point where, honestly, who cares who we play?”” Donald said. “”It really has gotten to that point. We’re ready just to get wins.””

    The series continues through the weekend, with a pair of southpaws facing off tomorrow night at 6 as junior Brad Mills (3-3, 4.09) goes for the Wildcats and freshman Jeremy Bleich (2-2, 2.08) for the Cardinal. On Sunday, Wildcat sophomore lefty David Coulon (1-3, 7.00) and Cardinal senior right-hander Matt Manship (1-4, 5.31) will toe the rubber at noon.

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