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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Club baseball kicks off season in L.A.

    After a highly-successful inaugural season in 2008, the Arizona Club Baseball team will open this season with one goal in mind – to be better.

    But it won’t be easy for a team that finished seventh in the country last season.

    The Wildcats will open their 2009 season against USC with a three-game series in Los Angeles this weekend, and although they didn’t play the Trojans in the regular season last year, that doesn’t mean the team is apprehensive going into its season-opening road trip.

    “”We definitely hope to come out of here with three wins,”” said UA senior Brandon Thielk. “”As far as the season goes, if we don’t win it all it’ll be a big disappointment just because we have so much talent.””

    That talent is blatantly obvious to those on the team, coaches and players alike say it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the club-baseball world knows just how good the Wildcats can be.

    “”We’re out there for the love of the game. We pay to be out there and we just want to play baseball,”” said first baseman and team captain Kevin Scott. “”We didn’t get an opportunity to play for the varsity team but we feel like this is the next step.””

    Arizona made it to the Club Baseball World Series last year, mostly thanks to its high-powered offense, and it primarily used just four pitchers to get there. With 12 pitchers on its roster this year, the UA could have all the pieces they need for a deep run into the postseason.

    That added pitching depth will come in handy as the team will play about 20 more games this season that last, and Thielk said part of the reason for failing at the World Series was tired arms.

    The best part about their pitching staff, though, is its youth movement. Seven freshmen ð- redshirt or trueÿ- dot the Arizona roster and each brings something different to the mound.

    Drew Freeman, likely to be the team’s closer, and Troy Nielsen are a pair of flamethrowers the Wildcats have in their arsenal. Scott said Nielsen even flirted with 90 mph on the radar gun in practice a few days ago.

    Jimmy Westling is another young arm who is turning heads, mostly because his teammates turn to see the ball after he floats one by them.

    “”He’s a crafty guy. He only hits like mid-70’s but he’s got a real nice slider,”” Thielk said, adding Westling is almost like a younger version of MLB pitcher Jamie Moyer.

    Head coach Shane Folsom states: “”I think as the season goes on (the young pitchers are) going to mature and do real well, but they may have butterflies this weekend and control-wise they could struggle a little bit.””

    Regardless of how the youngsters fare in L.A., the season is long and there’s plenty of time to work out the kinks. Last season the team played 32 games – winning 25 of them – but this season the team will play upwards of 50 games, including many games against Arizona junior colleges.

    “”We’re playing Pima and some of the good ones up in Phoenix, so we’re excited about playing them because we feel like we can take it to ’em a little bit,”” Scott said. “”Hopefully we can win some ball games and prove that we’re not just a bunch of guys that just want to go out and have fun.

    “”You know, this isn’t intramurals,”” he added, “”but we love baseball and we’re looking forward to a good season.””

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