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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Scouting the Wildcats

Mike+Christy+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Arizona+Wildcats+baseball+team+hosted+the+Rice+University+Owls+on+Wednesday%2C+March+2%2C+2011%2C+at+Frank+Sancet+Field+in+Tucson%2C+Ariz.+The+visiting+Owls+rode+an+8-run+fifth+inning+to+win+11-7.
Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats baseball team hosted the Rice University Owls on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at Frank Sancet Field in Tucson, Ariz. The visiting Owls rode an 8-run fifth inning to win 11-7.

At the plate

They say that hitting a round ball thrown at 90-plus miles per hour with a bat is the single hardest thing to do in sports. This is the reason that offense in baseball is so inconsistent.

There have been games that teams have won 19-1, and then will come out the next day and lose 19-1.

Luckily for the No. 15 Arizona baseball team, the offensive production has not been an issue.

During their first 21 games, the Wildcats (16-5) averaged 7.9 runs per game, and have seven hitters with at least 67 at bats with an average over .300.

Here’s what the Wildcats will need to continue doing as they move into Pacific 10 conference play.

The team leaders

Joey Rickard, Cole Frenzel and Bryce Ortega are at the top of the heap for the Arizona hitters with batting averages over .400 since the start of the season.

Of the three, Rickard leads by a significant margin, batting .495 with 45 hits.

Frenzel, the first baseman, who’s also been touted highly on the defensive side this year, is hitting .413 with 33 hits, including four doubles, a triple and a home run. His 25 RBIs also lead the team.

Ortega is always a threat to squeeze one into the gap, and with a .408 average and 31 hits on the year, he has proven that all doubts of his abilities after coming off a serious back injury should be shaken off immediately.

The power

Freshman Johnny Field leads the charge for the Arizona power hitters with a .612 slugging percentage. He also has two home runs, and leads the team with nine doubles.

Designated hitter and first baseman Josh Garcia paces the Wildcats with five home runs and a .565 slugging percentage.

Preseason All-American Steve Selsky hit two home runs, and plated 6 RBIs last series after missing the beginning of the season with a wrist injury.

Selsky led the team last year with a .370 batting average last season, and his return is right on par for where the team and coaching staff thought he would be this year.

The table setters

Sophomore Robert Refsnyder leads the team with a trio of triples to go along with his .341 batting average.

Both Alex Mejia and Seth Mejias-Brean are hitting .313 and .325, respectively, and have also hit for a combined 20 RBIs on the season.

An APB for Jett

Despite being given the title of Preseason All-American by several publications, catcher Jett Bandy hasn’t quite lived up to the offensive hype.

Bandy was named to the All Pac-10 team last season and finished second on the club with a .354 batting average, Bandy was also a finalist for the Johnny Bench award.

This season, though, it seems as if Bandy’s prior successes have created a hangover affect, as he trails the starters with a .253 batting average and is slugging just .316.

Head coach Andy Lopez will be always be the first to come to Bandy’s defense, however, saying that he will eventually get back in the groove.

In the field

With its conference schedule set to get underway this weekend, the Arizona baseball team is comfortable with where it stands.

With a 16-5 record, the No. 15 Wildcats appear ready to take on the buzzsaw that is its Pacific 10 Conference schedule.

At the start of the season, head coach Andy Lopez talked about the inconsistencies that an offense can bring­ — the only way is to balance it on the defensive side of the ball.

Lopez said he goes through the same thought process before every game.

“”We have to pitch. We have to pitch and play defense,”” he said. “”If we can do that then we gear ourselves offensively to manufacture some runs at some point in the game.””

With the controllable factors of pitching and defense taking pretty solid form throughout the start of the season, let’s take a look at the keys, defensively, for the Wildcats.

The starters

In their first few weeks as the Arizona starters, Kurt Heyer, Kyle Simon and Tyler Hale have proved to be dominant innings eaters.

Returning to the No. 1 role on the pitching rotation was Heyer, who led the team with a 3.26 ERA and 109 strikeouts as a freshman last year.

With a 3-1 record backed by a 1.12 ERA, Heyer looks primed to take on his conference opponents, especially after his 11 strikeout performance against the University of San Francisco.

Simon made headlines the first weekend of the season when he was named one of three Louisville Slugger Players of the Week after striking out 13 North Dakota State Bison hitters, a career high, over 7.2 innings on the hill.

Simon is a perfect a 5-0 with a 1.77 ERA.

Hale, a sophomore Sunday starter, is 3-0 with a 2.37 ERA.

Despite having only 23 strikeouts — compared to Heyer’s 52 – Hale is able to drop a lot of balls toward the lower half of the strike zone, creating ground outs and double play opportunities.

The relievers

As golden as the starters have looked at times, the game is only won if the bullpen can come out and close the game.

This is the biggest issue plaguing the Wildcat pitchers so far this season.

The 6-5 loss in 11 innings against Wichita State was a result of the Arizona bullpen blowing a 5-1 lead in the eighth inning.

According to Lopez, most of it is immaturity. The freshmen on the staff don’t have the necessary experience to pitch successfully at the collegiate level yet.

A silver lining remains, however, in middle reliever Konner Wade and closer Bryce Bandilla.

Wade, a freshman, has a 3.21 ERA in 14.0 innings pitched on the season, while Bandilla, a junior, recorded his first win of the season on a wild Arizona 10-8 win over the Rice Owls.

Around the diamond

Short of a few errors that have just been blips on the radar, the Arizona fielders have been consistent throughout the season.

With Bryce Ortega making diving catches across the infield and Cole Frenzel digging balls out of the dirt at first, Arizona’s pitchers have the luxury of knowing that a ball put in play has a good chance of being an out.

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