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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Two-game series more critical than originally thought

    Arizona second baseman Mike Weldon turns a double play as Georgia infielder Colby May slides into second base during a 10-5 Bulldog win on Sunday at Sancet Stadium. The Wildcats play Holy Cross tonight at 7.
    Arizona second baseman Mike Weldon turns a double play as Georgia infielder Colby May slides into second base during a 10-5 Bulldog win on Sunday at Sancet Stadium. The Wildcats play Holy Cross tonight at 7.

    Holy Cross vs. Arizona

    The 2009 Arizona baseball team started its season against the same competition as the 2008 team – three games against Georgia, three games against Sacramento State, and two games against UNLV.

    The similarity in schedules shows the dedication to head coach Andy Lopez’s philosophy that playing a tough non-conference schedule is the best way to get better and is the strongest indicator a coach can use to judge his teams’ talent.

    Last year’s squad, the No. 1 team in the country, was 7-1 through the first eight games and set the table for an appearance in the Super Regional.

    Unfortunately for the 2009 squad, the only thing similar to 2008 is the schedule.

    The Wildcats, with a record of 4-4 after being dismantled by Georgia over the weekend, are on the cusp of desperation just eight games into the season.

    Yes, there are still 47 games left – starting tonight at 7 against Holy Cross – but the inconsistency that has plagued Wildcat arms is a cause for concern.

    Outside of freshman Donn Roach’s six-inning shutout on Feb. 22, Arizona has yet to receive a dominant, or even impressive outing from a starting pitcher. As a matter of fact, the Wildcats have allowed 12, 11, 12, and 10 runs in each of last four games, respectively.

    And it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that, that kind of pitching makes it difficult to win games.

    “”It’s all about the pitching,”” Lopez said when asked about his team’s struggles over the weekend. “”Offense comes and goes, but you have to be able to have consistent pitching to win.

    “”We didn’t get a good starting performance, we didn’t get a good bullpen performance, and we never gave our offense a chance to get going,”” he added. “”We have to pitch better.””

    Lopez made that statement on Friday night after the first loss to Georgia, but his sentiments could easily be applied to the beatings that the Bulldogs put on Saturday and Sunday.

    The first issue needing to be addressed is Friday-night starter Preston Guilmet. The right-hander has shown signs of his 2007 Pacific 10 Conference Pitcher of the Year form, but he has been a victim of far too many bad innings.

    “”I pitched like shit,”” a visibly angry Guilmet said following Friday night’s game. “”It wasn’t the Georgia offense. I couldn’t locate the fastball, and I didn’t make the adjustments that I needed. There’s really no excuse.””

    Guilmet’s struggles have left Wildcat fans scratching their heads, but the experienced senior is blessed with one of the most talented arms in the country as well as confidence and faith from his coach.

    “”Guilmet is Guilmet, he’ll be fine,”” Lopez said.

    Another struggling pitcher that Lopez has confidence in is sophomore Matt Veltmann.

    “”He’ll be okay, he had a great fall,”” Lopez said on

    Saturday after Veltmann and the Wildcats fell to Georgia 12-5. “”He’s earned his spot as the Saturday starter.””

    While the confidence from Lopez is reassuring, Veltmann is in need of confidence from someone much more important than the head coach: himself.

    “”I need to find my own confidence,”” Veltmann said. “”He has the confidence in me, but I need the confidence in myself to go pitch well.””

    Veltmann will receive some relief after he undergoes an epidural shot to heal a bulging disc in his back. The hope is that the shot will rid Veltmann of the pain and stiffness that has been bothering him since December and in turn allow him to bend more in his windup, thus giving him the ability to keep his fastball down in the zone.

    Bullpen also an early concern

    In addition to Guilmet and Veltmann’s struggles, the bullpen has yet to find its stride. While Lopez does concede that his pitching staff is particularly young and not as deep as previous years, he has faith that the talent is there.

    “”We did see some good things this weekend,”” Lopez said. “”(Freshman pitcher) Kyle Simon showed us some things and he may have earned himself a start.””

    Simon and fellow freshman pitcher Bryce Bandilla have already logged some valuable innings, but it hasn’t exactly gone without a hitch. Simon, who leads the Wildcats with 11 innings pitched, has an ERA of 8.18 and Bandilla has an ERA of 8.31.

    Snowstorm begins rough week for Holy Cross

    Both pitchers will have a chance to improve this week as the Wildcats play host to the Holy Cross Crusaders.

    The team from Worcester, Mass., is about to embark on a brutal week, starting with two games in Tucson and finishing with a three-game series in Tempe against ASU.

    While the Crusaders are likely thrilled to have avoided the snowstorm that wreaked havoc across New England, their time in the sun this week will likely be spoiled by the Wildcats and Sun Devils – two teams that are both supremely talented compared to Holy Cross.

    That doesn’t mean that the Wildcats can coast through the series – which will be played on Tuesday and Wednesday night at 7 – and rest on the notion that Holy Cross (0-3) is an inferior opponent.

    This is a critical pair of games for Arizona. Not only is it a chance to develop young players, it is a chance to rebuild the confidence that was shattered by Georgia over the weekend.

    “”We can’t get too caught up in who we are playing,”” Lopez said. “”We need to just go out there and play the game.””

    Arizona vs. Holy Cross

    Sancet Stadium

    Tuesday & Wednesday

    7 p.m.

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