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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No sophomore slump for Arizona outfielder tandem

Rose Aly Valenzuela

Sophomore outfielders Scott Kingery (left) and Zach Gibbons (right) were in the top five in the Pac-12 in hits and in the top 15 in batting going into Tuesday’s games.

Things have changed for the two sophomores: They are no longer the youngest players, and they are now expected to be some of the leaders on their team.

“From a baseball standpoint, they both look more comfortable,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “They both look like they’re more accustomed to the team here.”

Kingery was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Feb. 25.

“Kingery deserves it,” Lopez said. “His numbers deserve something. He seems to be on base almost all the time, stealing bases and driving in runs. He has had good weekends.”

Kingery received the award after a team-best 10 base knocks, hitting .500 (10-for-20), with five RBIs and seven stolen bases in one week. He is now one of the top five players in the Pac-12 Conference with stolen bases.

“Last year I struggled a bit, and this year I’m just starting off hot and it feels really good to know that people are seeing that,” Kingery said. “I just feel like my hard work is paying off.”

Lopez has taught both outfielders how to improve their offense and given them tips on how to get on base.

“Coach tells me I’m a fast guy in the program, so as long as I put the ball in play, I have a good shot of getting on base,” Kingery said.

Their improvements have been noticeable, and they have grown from one season to another.

“Both of them are bigger and stronger thanks to our strength coach,” Lopez said. “He has done a great job with Gibbons and Kingery. They’re probably a little bit quicker than last year, too.”

Gibbons said the duo share a rapport.

“It’s awesome being in the outfield with Scott,” Gibbons said. “Just knowing he’s our center fielder, or right fielder or wherever he’s playing — it’s awesome knowing we have him out there.”

Kingery said he feels that he and Gibbons have the same style of play. He said they both just like to put the ball in play and try to get on base.

Being able to hit the ball on the ground more than he did last year is important for Gibbons. He said Lopez always tells him to hit in on the ground.

Going into Tuesday’s games, Gibbons and Kingery were two of the top 15 players in the Pac-12 with the highest batting averages, and two of the five players with the most hits in the conference as well. Gibbons is also listed as one of the top five in the conference with runs scored.

“I need to keep getting better everyday,” Gibbons said. “Getting hits for the team means a lot to me.”

Lopez said he likes their intensity and that it is a staple of the program.

“Our program is built on discipline and intensity,” Lopez said. “I always talk about intensity and efficiency, and they understand that and I think both of those guys like that. The credit goes to them for their mental growth. They’ve showed that they understand the intensity level. It’s been good to have them.”

—Follow Rose Aly Valenzuela @RoseAlyVal

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