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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball’s fate lays on young arms

    UA head coach Andy Lopez (7) meets with players on the mound during a 9-0 Arizona win against UMass on March 8 at Sancet Stadium. The Wildcats have struggled to a 3-12 record in Pacific 10 Conference play in large part because of poor performances by young pitchers.
    UA head coach Andy Lopez (7) meets with players on the mound during a 9-0 Arizona win against UMass on March 8 at Sancet Stadium. The Wildcats have struggled to a 3-12 record in Pacific 10 Conference play in large part because of poor performances by young pitchers.

    It’s time to face facts: the 2009 Arizona baseball season is over.

    The hype surrounding the team, thanks to the return of third baseman Brad Glenn and ace pitcher Preston Guilmet in addition to the arrival of a talented class of first-year players, inflated preseason hopes as high as the hopes were for the Hindenburg back in 1937.

    And yes, if you’re looking for the less-than-spectacular comparison to continue, the team failed to meet expectations and went down in flames just as quickly as the German zeppelin.

    Glenn is hitting for a putrid .239 average with just five homeruns and Guilmet, who hasn’t been quite as disappointing as Glenn, owns a 2-4 record, and with that coming from a former Pacific-10 Conference Pitcher of the Year, that usually leads to a sub-.500 team – which is exactly what the Wildcats are.

    The signs were there from the beginning – an embarrassing eight-error loss to Sacramento State in the first weekend of the season and a three-game sweep at the hands of Georgia the following week – but the Wildcats dismal 3-12 record in the Pac-10 is something that no one saw coming.

    “”We haven’t had many years like the one we’ve been having,”” said UA head coach Andy Lopez, trying to find a year in his coaching career comparable to this one. “”It’s always disappointing when things don’t go the way you want.””

    What exactly was it that the Wildcats wanted this year? Every team enters a season wanting a championship, and after last year’s bid at a berth in the College World Series fell just two runs short, it would be understandable that the team ended last season with a goal of building off of its most recent success.

    Thinking logically, though, anyone that thought that Arizona had a chance to make the CWS – or any sort of postseason tournament for that matter – was being naive.

    In order to have any chance at a postseason appearance, the Wildcats needed to rely heavily on young pitchers. Just as it is in any other sport, putting the success of a season in the hands of freshmen is nothing short of a high-stakes game of Russian roulette – especially at the most vital position on the field.

    If I were Lopez, I wouldn’t be taking this collection of first-year players to Vegas anytime soon. Or even Reno.

    Ineffectiveness from first-year players is understandable, but when they are constantly being asked to act as the engine, the car – the team – will ultimately break down, and that’s what happened to the Wildcats this season.

    When a team endures a season like this one, a silver lining is that these young players gain experience and build confidence in a coach for the seasons ahead. But according to Lopez, that is not the case here.

    And that is scary for the future of the program.

    “”Part of the reason they’ve struggled is because of the intangibles that they are missing,”” Lopez said following Monday’s game at Gonzaga. “”They lack accountability and leadership, and getting to class and doing the things you’re supposed to do.””

    Lopez has a very specific model for how he wants his players to act, and he believes those that follow that model will not only become successful baseball players, but also successful human beings. Look at sophomore Bryce Ortega – he is an example of a player that works hard both on and off the field, and because of that he has become the apple of Lopez’s eye.

    The same eye that holds Ortega in such high regard fails to even see some of the younger pitchers. Ever since the Pac-10 season started, the Arizona skipper hasn’t shied away from voicing his displeasure in the attitudes and preparedness of the inexperienced arms.

    Yet no matter how many times he points out their flaws, nothing seems to change. Things that, if executed, would instantly halt the downward spiral that this season and program seem to be trapped in.

    “”You’re supposed to do the little things right like going to class and going to study hall,”” Lopez said. “”The teams that have done the things off the field almost always have great years on the field, and when you don’t it catches up to you. It’s supposed to be that way.””

    There comes a point in the maturation of a young player where he “”get’s it,”” where he is able to take care of his classroom responsibilities and come to the field everyday with the mindset to give it everything he has.

    In the mind of Lopez, these young players need to reach that point, and quickly.

    “”The plan of action is always the same: be on time and do things right,”” Lopez said. “”Those that do that will find a place in the program.””

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