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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Errors, defense primary focus for baseball team”

    Arizona first baseman C.J. Ziegler awaits a throw during the Wildcats 6-2 victory over Cal State-Fullerton at Sancet Stadium on March 15. Ziegler has been the only Wildcat infielder that hasnt swapped positions with another teammate so far this season.
    Arizona first baseman C.J. Ziegler awaits a throw during the Wildcats’ 6-2 victory over Cal State-Fullerton at Sancet Stadium on March 15. Ziegler has been the only Wildcat infielder that hasn’t swapped positions with another teammate so far this season.

    No. 6 Arizona at Oklahoma State

    The glamour title of the nation’s top team has worn off.

    The Arizona baseball team started the season ranked No. 1 overall, but after a brutal spring break, the No. 6 Wildcats have a lot of work to do after they stumbled to a 3-5 record over eight games.

    Arizona (13-5, 1-2 Pacific 10 Conference) can make an effort to right itself starting tonight when it opens a two-game series against Oklahoma State (15-6, 3-3 Big 12 Conference) in Stillwater, Okla.

    Making the biggest impact in the Wildcats’ recent slide has been multiple inconsistencies on defense.

    In Arizona’s 2-1 series loss to conference foe USC last weekend, the Wildcats committed six errors in just two games including a season high four in Friday night’s 5-0 loss to the Trojans.

    “”It’s frustrating since we were a No. 1 and it’d be nice to play like a top-ranked team,”” said pitcher Eric Berger. “”We’ve just got a couple aspects to our game that are a little sloppy right now that need to be cleaned up.””

    Arizona has battled miscues throughout the season with a trio of errors contributing to an opening day loss to Georgia on Feb. 22. But for much of the last few weeks, the Wildcats’ potent offense has made up for the team’s defensive issues, helping Arizona go on a 12-game win streak after its opening day set back.

    Over the past week, however, mistakes proved costly for the Wildcats once again. In Arizona’s last five games, in which the team lost four, the Wildcats committed 11 errors and gave up five unearned runs, including two in a one-run loss to No. 1 ASU (22-1) last Tuesday.

    “”We just need to do a better job of playing catch,”” Berger said. “”I don’t really let (sloppy defense) effect my pitching. I know this defense is capable of being excellent so I just focus on trying to pitch for contact.””

    The numerous inconsistencies on defense have caught the attention of head coach Andy Lopez, who has made various defensive changes throughout the season, particularly with his infield.

    His first move was to replace shortstop Robert Abel with freshman Bryce Ortega. Lopez also gave second baseman Mike Weldon some playing time in alternation with Colt Sedbrook.

    Because of Ortega’s and Weldon’s strong play both offensively and defensively as well as the impressive performance of Sedbrook, Lopez chose to keep all three in starting roles against USC last weekend.

    Sedbrook moved to third base, a position previously held by sophomore Dillon Baird and junior Brad Glenn, while Weldon took over the primary role at second.

    “”Third base has been one place where we’ve had several defensive mishaps,”” Lopez said. “”That is one position we need be very sure at and Colt (Sedbrook) did a good job. I was happy with the way he played and he’ll get some a few more opportunities this week.””

    While cutting down on errors is a primary focus for the Wildcats, the NCAA’s new baseball schedule is not making it easy. Due to the shorter season implemented just this year; teams are given even fewer days for practice as the weeks are filled with games and travel days.

    Next Tuesday will be the team’s first practice since March 13. This day is one Lopez said he is much looking forward to.

    “”I like practices,”” Lopez said. “”I like getting out on the field and teaching. It’s hard to teach in a game. It’ll be nice when we eventually get out there and work on some things defensively that we need to get done.

    “”But this new schedule is what it is and we have to do the best we can with it.””

    Although Arizona will not be allowed any practice time before its meeting with the Cowboys tonight, Baird said he feels much of the Wildcats mistakes are not skill related.

    “”I think it’s all just mental,”” Baird said. “”I know everybody here knows how to play defense. But the mental part of the game is tougher than the physical so if we take care of things mentally I think that will help us out.””

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