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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball returns home to take on Cougars

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Baseball vs Fullerton Sunday
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs Fullerton Sunday

After playing its last seven games on the road, the No. 21 Arizona baseball team returns to Sancet Stadium this weekend to host the red-hot Washington State Cougars in a three-game series. beginning tonight at 6

The Wildcats (23-9, 4-5 Pacific 10 Conference) have bounced back from a four-game losing streak nicely, winning three of their last four, but Wazzou (19-11, 3-3) made a big splash in the Pac-10 last weekend when it knocked off No. 1 ASU, taking two of three games from the Sun Devils in Pullman.

“”They’re on a high because they beat ASU. Washington State’s always good,”” said junior second baseman Bryce Ortega, who is questionable for the series due to a back injury.

“”You can’t take (ASU) lightly at all,”” Ortega added. “”They’re scrappy.””

WSU will be a tough out, but Arizona has some confidence of its own, especially on the mound.

Sophomore starter Kyle Simon (5-2, 2.93 ERA) broke out in his last start against Washington, during which he went the distance, and in nine innings of work, allowed only one run on three hits.

With Simon’s emergence and the continual dominance of freshman ace Kurt Heyer (5-0, 2.16 ERA), the Wildcats now boast two potential

 No. 1 arms on consecutive nights.

“”I thought Simon was going to be our Friday-night guy to start off the season, but Kurt took that spot,”” said senior first baseman Rafael Valenzuela. “”I’m more than OK with that because (Heyer’s) done a good job, but if Simon keeps pitching well that means we’ve got two No. 1s back-to-back, and that gives us a good chance to win two nights in a row.””

When the 6-foot-5, lanky Simon is on his game, the Heyer-Simon duo is as good as it gets in the Pac-10, which is very encouraging to head coach Andy Lopez.

“”If you can (have two good starters in a row) on a weekend, you feel pretty good about your chances,”” Lopez said. “”Kyle’s gotten better which is good. If there’s a right time to get hot, it’s now.””

The Wildcats will start Heyer on Friday, Simon on Saturday and sophomore lefty Bryce Bandilla on Sunday. Bandilla had a few encouraging starts, but a rough outing in a 10-2 loss against Washington last weekend has him on thin ice of sorts.

But if he can be a serviceable starter this weekend, Bandilla can solidify himself as the Sunday guy.

All Lopez wants from Bandilla is “”a clean five, six innings. Nothing special, nothing spectacular, just five or six clean innings.””

The pitching staff is shaping up for the Wildcats, but they still aren’t pleased with their current standing — No. 7 in the Pac-10.

“”Judging by our record, we’re not very happy right now,”” Valenzuela said. “”We should be at the top, and that’s where we’re trying to be.””

The Pac-10 is undoubtedly one of college baseball’s toughest conferences, but Arizona feels that it can be amongst the cream of the crop.

“”I think we’re right up there with the ASUs and the UCLAs,”” Ortega said. “”We’ve got the players, we’ve got the talent, so I think it’s going to be real competitive when we play all of the top teams.””

But before the Wildcats can prove their worth against the conference’s best, they need to take care of Washington State at home.

“”If we can go out there against Washington State and have a good showing,”” Ortega said, “”it will really give us a lot of confidence.””

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