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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball opens season vs. Hornets

    Arizona shortstop Bryce Ortega moves in to catch the ball during Tuesdays intrasquad scrimmage at Jerry Kindall Field. The Wildcats will kick off their season with a three-game home series as they host Sacramento State, staring Friday night at 7.
    Arizona shortstop Bryce Ortega moves in to catch the ball during Tuesday’s intrasquad scrimmage at Jerry Kindall Field. The Wildcats will kick off their season with a three-game home series as they host Sacramento State, staring Friday night at 7.

    There are few players on the Arizona baseball team more excited for opening night than pitcher Preston Guilmet.

    “”I don’t even have the words to explain it,”” the senior said.

    Last season was far from what the right-hander would call optimal. He went through a midseason struggle with tightness in his right tricep which led to significantly lower numbers than those he put up during his sophomore campaign.

    Few people, including head coach Andy Lopez, expected Guilmet to have a season like 2007, in which he finished the season 12-2 with a 1.87 ERA. No one anticipated his follow-up year would yield a record of only 6-4 with an ERA well over four.

    “”Not being able to throw at 100 percent was pretty frustrating throughout the year,”” Guilmet said of his 2008 season. “”But every season is a new one and you never know what’s going to happen.””

    Guilmet will get his shot at starting the season off right with an opening-night start against Sacramento State at Frank Sancet Stadium.

    Last season the Wildcats’ ace handled the visiting Hornets, allowing just two earned runs through seven innings while throwing his fifth career walk-free effort.

    Lopez said he finds a distinct correlation between the success of game one and the remainder of the weekend.

    “”To me, the Friday-night guy sets the tempo for the Saturday and Sunday guys,”” Lopez said. “”If on Friday night the guy goes out and gets blown out, the guys in the bullpen are sitting there thinking, ‘Geez, these guys must be Babe Ruth or something.’

    “”But Guilmet is going to give us seven solid innings every Friday night,”” he added, “”and I have no reason to doubt that.””

    As a senior this season, as well as one of the most accomplished pitchers on Arizona’s staff, Guilmet has gained the respect of more than his coaches.

    In fact, Lopez said if he had thought about taking away Guilmet’s Friday night spot during his worst moments last year, there “”would have been a mass revolt.””

    Now with a much younger staff, Guilmet’s job as a leader has become all the more important, and he has recognized it.

    “”I go out and lead by example,”” Guilmet said. “”A lot of kids come in here and they have to learn how to compete at this level which is mostly preparation and being ready. Some guys do (prepare well) and some guys don’t and as the season goes on they learn more and more.””

    Guilmet has been a model of discipline in his preparation throughout his time at Arizona, as both coaches and teammates will attest to. But according to catcher Dwight Childs, the senior is mostly driven by winning.

    So perhaps that is one reason why he made his return for his senior season after being drafted in the 22nd round of the MLB Draft by the Oakland Athletics. But whether it was the reported contract negotiations or simply his desire to fulfill unfinished business, Guilmet is expected to be a catalyst for this Wildcats team and prove his arm is back to full strength.

    “”I’m always able to tell (if he’s on) from his first couple pitches and how he attacks the first hitter,”” Childs said of Guilmet. “”He doesn’t want to get beat. He wants to win at all costs. I think he’ll come on fire (tonight) and get the season started off right.””

    Extra Bases:

    Andy Lopez has tabbed six underclassmen as starters this weekend between his projected opening-day lineup and weekend pitching staff, including a pair of freshmen.

    “”Since we lost so many guys last year we don’t really have a bunch of seniors or juniors to throw out there,”” Lopez said of his youthful lineup. “”But this is also something we’ve done frequently throughout my time here. We lose a bunch of guys, then bring new ones in and say, ‘Hey, now it’s your turn.'””

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