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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Freshmen lead baseball against N.M.

    True freshman shortstop Robert Abel prepares to throw during Arizonas 13-2 win over Utah Valley State Wednesday night at Sancet Stadium. Abel and two other freshmen, second baseman Kevin Rodland and third baseman Erik Castro, have contributed right away, hitting a combined .339 with 10 RBIs.
    True freshman shortstop Robert Abel prepares to throw during Arizona’s 13-2 win over Utah Valley State Wednesday night at Sancet Stadium. Abel and two other freshmen, second baseman Kevin Rodland and third baseman Erik Castro, have contributed right away, hitting a combined .339 with 10 RBIs.

    The learning curve may not be over yet, but a trio of true freshman starting in Arizona baseball’s infield are riding its crest.

    “”It’s pretty fun, to be honest with you,”” said one of those freshmen, second baseman Kevin Rodland. “”When we all showed up for the first time, being freshmen and stuff, we all kind of hung out a lot together.””

    Rodland’s teamed with shortstop Robert Abel and third baseman Erik Castro in the early parts of the season to form a youthful infield for Arizona (5-0), which opens a three-game set today at 4 p.m. with New Mexico (1-0) at Sancet Stadium.

    “”I use the term a lot, being able to ‘slow the game down,’ and they’ve handled that pretty well,”” said UA head coach Andy Lopez. “”They’ve taken a lot of at bats into deep counts, made a lot of good plays.””

    Whether at the plate – the trio combined to hit .339 with 10 RBIs, 15 runs scored, three doubles and a triple through the first five games – or in the field – “”I thought Abel’s made a couple of plays over his shoulder and short pop-ups that look like an old veteran, so to speak,”” Lopez said – it’s safe to say they’ve had a big hand in the Wildcats’ success.

    “”We knew we were going to have to put two or three of them in the lineup everyday, I didn’t know we’d have to put four or five of them,”” Lopez said, noting Florida’s 1996 team that he took to the College World Series. “”But that’s OK, that’s OK. I’ve done it before. I’ve had some teams be successful in that realm.

    “”It’s not impossible,”” he added. “”I mean it is a challenge, there’s no ifs, ands, ors, or buts about it, but it’s not an impossible task.””

    Rodland, who has six RBIs by himself, was pressed into the starting lineup because of the absence of Colt Sedbrook, last year’s leading hitter, from the lineup.

    Sedbrook, who has yet to play in 2007, has been dealing with personal issues this season, and Lopez said he had a “”meeting”” yesterday afternoon to address them. There was no word about the result as of last night, but a return to the lineup today is possible.

    But Lopez said that “”one of the things that I’ve always preached is you can’t be concerned with who’s not here, you have to be concerned with who’s here as a coaching staff and as players and as teammates.””

    And those that have been there include catchers Dwight Childs, another true freshman, and Daniel Butler, a redshirt freshman, who have split time behind the dish and showed some pop in their bat, combining to hit .471 with four doubles and five RBIs.

    Together with the trio of Rodland, Abel and Castro, Lopez looks to have a formidable infield for years to come.

    “”I’ve never been one to say ‘Well, it’s a three-year project,’ or ‘It’s a five-year project.’ It’s always been, ‘Hey, it’s a one-year project, let’s be good this year, let’s get better every day out here,'”” Lopez said. “”But there are some days and some moments where I sit around and go ‘Boy, we’re going to have a lot of these guys around for a few years. That’s kinda nice.'””

    Though the trio are a mere five games into their collegiate careers, Rodland said the adjustment from high school started early in practice last fall.

    “”I feel like the preparation that we’ve done all fall and the three weeks prior to the season starting, coaches do a great job,”” he said.

    “”They say that there’s nothing that you’ll get in a game that you’re not prepared for, and it’s true. Every situation, we’ve known exactly what to do.””

    Abel, meanwhile, dismissed the experience factor when discussing the trio’s success.

    “”We’ve got high standards here, so it’s kind of expected, no matter what the age,”” he said.

    “”It’s kind of a learning experience for everybody, but at the same time, we’ve got to get it done,”” he added. “”No excuses. That’s how I think of it. (Age) shouldn’t really matter.””

    A week after throwing eight no-hit innings in Arizona’s season-opening romp of Gonzaga, right-hander Preston Guilmet (1-0) will again toe the rubber today at 4 p.m.

    Saturday’s starter, Brad Mills (1-0), moved up a day from Sunday after giving up just one run over 6 2/3 innings in his start last weekend.

    Mike Colla (1-0) captured the No. 3 role after he went 4 2/3 solid innings in picking up a win in relief of closer Daniel Schlereth last Saturday.

    “”You come in and you want to start,”” said Colla, who was pushed by lefty David Coulon for the spot in the rotation. “”It’s a good feeling, but there’s a lot of competition right now.

    “”Each week, it’s like you’re pitching for your spot.””

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