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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Baseball to get a lift from home

    Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez made one thing clear to reporters last season: he was not fond of the NCAA’s new schedule to say the least.

    In 2008, the NCAA chose to shorten the collegiate baseball season by nearly three weeks while keeping the same number of games. This resulted in a slew of midweek games topped off by a three-game series almost every weekend, and in the case of the Wildcats, the majority of these were spent on the road.

    While the schedule was intriguing for many of the players who enjoyed being exposed to a major league-type atmosphere, for Arizona coaches the situation was far from ideal.

    “”I never want to have to go through that again – it was horrendous,”” Lopez said. “”I can understand if you’re in (Los Angeles) and you can travel 30 minutes to play a game and get back by ten that night. But we’re in Tucson and there’s only one other school in the state that plays Division I baseball: our archrival.

    “”I don’t think we’re going to play (ASU) 15 times a year,”” he added. “”That wouldn’t be good for anybody.””

    This season, while the NCAA still stayed with the scheduling format, Lopez did get a hand from UA athletic director Jim Livengood who managed to keep the Wildcats in Tucson more frequently.

    Last season, Arizona traveled 10 weeks during the regular season while having its longest home-stretch at the tail end of the season in late May. This year, the Wildcats only play three non-conference teams away from home while playing all but two games in Tucson out of their first 18 games – a schedule similar to ASU, which managed to not schedule a game outside the Phoenix area until late March for the second straight season.

    One of the major advantages of the home-heavy schedule for Arizona is the ability for the players to go to class.

    Last season, the Wildcats seemingly spent the season on the brink of players becoming academically ineligible. However, despite the struggles, Arizona lost no major contributors to grades throughout the season. But according to Lopez, some of the academic stress put on the program last season is still a potential threat.

    “”We are feeling the effects of (last season), absolutely,”” Lopez said. “”We have guys that really had to do a good job (academically) in the fall and need to continue to do a good job now.

    “”The academic thing is like recruiting,”” Lopez added. “”You may not see the effects of it right away, but it’ll become evident over the next couple years.””

    Despite many of the players having initially stated their enjoyment of the traveling experiences last season, few said they want to go through it again.

    Shortstop Bryce Ortega was one of the freshmen on the traveling squad throughout the season. He said even though he enjoyed the traveling, being at home will be a much-welcomed change.

    “”I was excited to go on the road and just experience everything, but looking back on it, I did miss a lot of school and it’ll help out a lot to be able to get to class more this year,”” Ortega said. “”Being home will also give us more rest and more time to get healthy, which at times became tough last season.””

    Arizona also proved extremely effective at home last season with a home record of 25-5 while its record fell below .500 on the road – yet another reason why the majority of the Wildcats are looking forward to their new schedule.

    The Wildcats will start their season with a three-game home-stand against Sacramento State tomorrow night at 7 at Kindall Field. After starting the season on the road in adverse conditions last year against eventual College World Series participant Georgia, many of Arizona’s younger players say having their college debut come at home will be beneficial.

    “”It would be fun to travel and everything, but I think being at home will help out with some of the nerves and things,”” said freshman shortstop Kyle Steiner. “”Plus starting here will give me a good feeling on how the rest of my career here is going to go, so I’m pretty excited for that.””

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