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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Heyer’s ‘bulldog’ attitude keeps Wildcats moving

Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat

OMAHA, Neb. – He’s done it before, and with the announcement that he will start today against Florida State, he’ll probably pitch over seven innings for the fourth time in four postseason starts, a feat he has made look common this year. Heck, in every game he’s started, he’s pitched into at least the sixth inning.

Arizona ace Kurt Heyer leads the nation in innings pitched with 138, and averages 8.11 innings pitched in 17 season starts, including the postseason. That consistency is a contributing factor as to why James Farris, the Wildcats’ (45-17) third regular starter, who would pitch in this third World Series game if it were played on a regular weekend, is not pitching this afternoon.

“He works hard,” junior centerfielder Robert Refnsyder said. “He works hard in the weight room, running, and he really puts his body in a position where he can throw 130 if need be. You know what you’re going to get with Kurt. That’s a big confidence booster.”

The confidence the Wildcats play with when standing behind Heyer only grows knowing the type of pitcher he is. Teams get a lot of hard swings on him – right to one of the best defenses in the country.

“Every team is going to hit some balls hard against Kurt, but Kurt comes back,” Refsnyder said. “He’s resilient, a bulldog.”

Heyer, a second team All-American and sixth round selection of the St. Louis Cardinals in this year’s draft, lined up 102 strikeouts on the season, good enough for second in the Pac-12. Against Florida State Friday, he struck out eight in his 7 2/3 innings pitched.

“Kurt’s been Kurt all year long,” catcher Riley Moore said. “He’s a strike thrower, he attacks the zone. It’s really going to be no different than the first time. He’s ready, he knows what the reward is.”

The secret to Heyer’s success, especially in longer games, might just be how little he actually tries to do.

“I just go out there and pitch,” Heyer said. “I don’t try to do too much. In the past, I did do too much and that didn’t allow me to go deeper into games, so my ability to keep my pitch count down has helped.”

Heyer’s propensity to throw deep into games has made life easier on Arizona’s sometimes shaky bullpen, but on Friday, relief duo Tyler Crawford and Mathew Troupe entered the game and essentially iced the game for the Wildcats. Crawford and Troupe gave up just one hit each in four innings of work and combined to strike out four.

Because of the bullpen’s shaky performances in the past, one might think that Heyer takes that on the mound with him, believing if he doesn’t at least give the Wildcats a fighter’s chance, the bullpen wont be able to get the job done, but that’s not the case.

“I go out there knowing that the guys in the pen are going to back me up no matter what the situation is,” Heyer said. “We expect that out of our bullpen.”

Because Heyer has faced them before, he knows the Seminoles are a patient team at the plate, meaning they are very disciplined in their pitch selection, in an effort to get Heyer’s pitch count up to get him out of the game quicker. Head coach Andy Lopez, who is in his fourth College World Series as a head coach, understands the challenge and has his team prepared for it.

“They do an unbelievable job of taking pitches, working the count,” Lopez said. “If the pitch count gets up, I’m not going to blow up Kurt Heyer, I’m going to go to the bullpen. I know they’ll be taking pitches and working on pitch counts. That’ll be the challenge.”

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