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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Base-swiping baseball heads to Honolulu, Hilo”

    UA freshman shortstop Robert Abel takes a hack during the Wildcats 22-8 loss to ASU Feb. 27 at Sancet Stadium. With eight stolen bases, Abel leads an Arizona squad that has stolen 19 consecutive bases without being caught.
    UA freshman shortstop Robert Abel takes a hack during the Wildcats’ 22-8 loss to ASU Feb. 27 at Sancet Stadium. With eight stolen bases, Abel leads an Arizona squad that has stolen 19 consecutive bases without being caught.

    The Arizona baseball team will look to steal a series or two in paradise over spring break – literally.

    The Wildcats (13-5) have been terrorizing the base paths of late, swiping 19 straight bags without getting caught dating back to Feb. 10, a stretch of 12 games.

    They’ll look to do more of the same over the break, as they start a three-game set tonight with Hawaii (14-6) that lasts through Sunday in Honolulu before hopping over to the Big Island for a mid-week series at Hawaii-Hilo (4-16) Tuesday and Wednesday.

    “”Speed can get you in scoring position, and you don’t need a ball off the wall to score now, you just need something squeaking through an infielder or a little bloop over an infielder’s head and you’ve got a run,”” said UA head coach Andy Lopez. “”We try diligently to do that. Always have.””

    Leading the charge early this season has been freshman shortstop Robert Abel, who has swiped eight bags this season without getting caught, including 5-of-5 during the team’s streak.

    “”You’ve got to kind of sneak out as far as you can without them seeing you,”” Abel said of the art of stealing. “”Sometimes (pitchers) look and step off, sometimes they look and keep going, and sometimes they just don’t look at all.

    “”You kind of have to get a read on the pitcher and know what he’s doing.””

    Seven other Wildcats have taken part in the hefty amount of heisting since mid-February, including center fielder T.J. Steele, who’s 5-of-5 on the season, and the recently returned second baseman Colt Sedbrook, who converted his only steal attempt of the season Feb. 25 at Nevada-Las Vegas.

    “”You’re reading a guy constantly,”” Sedbrook said. “”Other teams may not take advantage of that, but I think we do.

    “”I think with Abel getting on base, Steele getting on base, me getting on base, the percentages (to score) are so much higher when you get from second base on,”” he added, “”and so we take a lot of pride in that.””

    Both Sedbrook and Abel agreed that the key to a good steal is the jump that leads to it.

    “”Coach Lopez says it all the time: ‘Good steal, good jump,’ “” Sedbrook said. “”You’ve got to start with that. If you don’t, then shut it down.””

    The team works on what Sedbrook called “”live”” base running each day in practice.

    “”It’s not a something-to-do station, kill time for 20 minutes,”” Lopez said. “”There’s a coach with them through the entire station. That’s something we work on. I’m glad to see the dividends of it.””

    On the flip side of the diamond, Lopez’s catchers have been gunning runners down at an impressive 50 percent (9-of-18) marker so far this season, led by freshman Dwight Childs, who’s shot down 5-of-8 steal attempts this season.

    “”We really, really take a lot of pride in that, in terms of our pitchers doing a good job of holding runners on and our catchers’ ability just to play catch,”” Lopez said. “”If you put those two combinations together, you’re usually pretty successful.””

    Stellar base running or not, the journey to the tropical locale has had Lopez worried since the start of the season that some of his players may have a hard time shaking the relaxed atmosphere that surrounds the islands.

    “”I’ve taken two teams to Hawaii, and it’s always a challenge,”” he said. “”As much as you tell them, ‘Hey, let’s get it going,’ you really – the one thing that’s really good about it is you find out how mature they are, in terms of can they go to a place like Hawaii and really concentrate for us for five games.””

    But his players feel that the trip they made to Las Vegas two weeks ago when Arizona took two-of-three from UNLV presented more distractions than this one will.

    “”There’s going to be the distractions, but it’s just like Vegas, you know. It’s like ‘Sin City,’ “” said Sedbrook, who has never been to the islands and admitted that he was “”Googling”” the landscape earlier this week.

    Sedbrook added: “”It’s Hawaii. Yeah, it’s relaxed, but we’ve got to get out there and take care of business.””

    Against the Warriors tonight at 9:30, right-hander Preston Guilmet (3-0) will again get the call as Lopez’s Friday-night guy. Lefties Brad Mills (4-1) and David Coulon (2-1) will go Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

    Tuesday’s start against the Vulcans, who’ve already taken on a Pacific 10 Conference opponent this season in dropping four games to Oregon State Jan. 25-27, remains up in the air.

    Guilmet and Mills normally throw 50-pitch bullpen sessions on Tuesdays, but Lopez said he’ll give the duo an extra day of rest and have them split Wednesday’s game.

    “”Without a weekend series (next weekend), I don’t want them sitting around for two weeks without throwing in a competitive environment,”” Lopez said.

    Lopez’s staff will be aided by the return of righty Ryan Perry, who hasn’t pitched this season since injuring his non-throwing arm in January. Perry made the trip to the islands and should be available to throw a couple of innings.

    “”He’s coming around like we hoped he would,”” Lopez said. “”All things (are) going in the right direction.””

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