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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball squares of against Stanford, potential No. 1 pick

Amy+Webb+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AUA+Baseball+vs.+NDSU+in+the+opening+weekend+of+the+season+and+on+Hi-Corbet+Field.
Amy Webb
Amy Webb / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Baseball vs. NDSU in the opening weekend of the season and on Hi-Corbet Field.

The No. 8 Arizona baseball team will host the second-ranked team in the country, Stanford, for a three-game series this weekend at Hi Corbett Field.

While the Cardinal (16-3, 2-1 Pac-12) boasts a pair of projected first-round picks and the top-rated pitching staff in the Pac-12, the Wildcats are openly embracing the challenge.

“I tell our guys all the time, this is why you come to Arizona,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “You come to a place like this to play in a big series and go out and compete.”

Arizona (18-7, 4-2) is coming off of a series victory against No. 22 Oregon State in rainy Corvallis, Ore., but the Wildcats now have an even tougher challenge in Stanford. Lopez said there isn’t really a weak link in the Pac-12 and the Wildcats have to be prepared for every team.

But tonight at 6, the Wildcats will face the highest-ranked squad in the conference, and Stanford has the talent to back up that distinction.

The Cardinal is pitching the No. 1 overall prospect in June’s MLB Draft in ace Mark Appel, and it also has another potential first-round pick in shortstop Kenny Diekroger, according to MLB.com.
But the Wildcats have talent of their own, such as Friday starter Kurt Heyer — a preseason All-American and a recipient of Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week this season — as well as several junior leaders on the field.

Since this is the only meeting between the two teams, the series presents the only chance for Arizona to get an edge on the favorite to win the Pac-12.

“Everybody is just really excited (for this weekend),” reliever Stephen Manthei said.

The potential conference title implications are obvious as these two talented heavyweights meet, but for one Wildcat, the series could be a launching point for his future career. Friday night will feature Heyer going against Appel — a matchup between two potential Major League pitchers that has already proven to be close.

Last season, the two pitchers dueled to the end in a game, eventually needing extra innings to decide the game. Appel threw eight scoreless innings and had nine strikeouts on the night while Heyer outdid him, recording nine scoreless innings and 10 strikeouts.

Appel did get the last laugh though, as Stanford beat Arizona 1-0 in 11 innings.

“(Appel) is good, he’s really good,” Lopez said. “But you know what, Heyer’s pretty good too.”

However, Heyer has not been up to form in his last two starts. He’s gone 0-1 with a 6.00 ERA and Arizona lost both games.

Lopez said that despite the struggles, Heyer has always shown the ability to pitch against other elite pitchers during his career.

“I’ve always felt that he’s going to be OK (with the pressure) and I think he will enjoy the competition,” Lopez said.

Lopez said he told Heyer that there will be plenty of scouts there watching the No. 1 pick in the country, so he has a chance to show if he can match with him the best.

“As I tell our guys all the time, you shouldn’t shy away from competition,” Lopez said. “Life’s pretty boring without it, so why not enjoy it?”

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