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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘Cats bats continue to explode

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

Before the 2010 Arizona baseball season began, head coach Andy Lopez expected his team to be in a lot of low-scoring, one or two-run ball games, while relying heavily on the pitching staff.

But after 20 games, the Wildcats (16-4), who are currently riding an 11-game win streak, are absolutely dominating behind the plate, as they lead the Pacific 10 Conference in almost every offensive category, while averaging 9.8 runs per game.

“”I don’t think I’ve had a team hit like this team since 1998,”” Lopez said. “”Offensively, our numbers are pretty astounding.””

Arizona is tops in the Pac-10 in batting average (.370), hits (274) and runs (196), and second in RBIs (176), doubles (50), triples (14) and total bases (385). The Wildcats have scored 10 or more runs six times through 20 games, including four times in the last six games.

The youngest team in the Pac-10 is collectively hitting .407 during the last five games, but no one is swinging a hotter bat than sophomore catcher Jett Bandy, who was naomed Pac-10 Player of the Week on Monday.

Bandy hit .611 during the last five games, while accounting for 15 of the Wildcats’ 55 runs. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder leads the Pac-10 in batting average (.506), runs (30), hits (41), doubles (11) and total bases (64).

“”When you’re 20 games into a college baseball season and you’re hitting .500, that would be pretty good if you’re playing tee-ball,”” Lopez said.

“”I don’t think he’s going to stay (above .500),”” he added, “”but if he’d like to I am all for that. We need a consistent offense and it’s good to have him there.””

Bandy is hitting as well as anyone in college baseball right now, and the hitters behind him have followed suit. Of the top five hit leaders in the conference, four are Arizona players. 

Freshman Robert Refsnyder is currently third in the Pac-10 in batting average (.458), while sophomore Steve Selsky ranks seventh in batting average (.438) and second in hits (39).

The fact that Arizona’s 3-4-5 hitters are all batting over .430 and ranked in the top-10 in batting average for the conference says a lot about the Wildcats’ hitting prowess.

But when you add in a leadoff hitter like Joey Rickard (.386), who was Pac-10 Player of the Week for the week of March 8-14 and leads the Pac-10 in stolen bases (11) and two-hole hitter Rafael Valenzuela (.363), the Arizona offense becomes lethal.

The 1-5 hitters, however, aren’t the only ones who can put the bat on the ball. Freshman third baseman and usual No. 6 hitter Seth Mejias-Brean is hitting .371, while part-time players Bobby Rinard and Bobby Brown are hitting .345 and .342, respectively.

The options are certainly there for coach Lopez, and the Wildcats have lit up scoreboards by implementing a small-ball style of baseball built upon stolen bases, productive outs and timely hitting. 

“”We have to be able to bunt and we have to be able to run,”” Lopez said of his team that is first in the Pac-10 in stolen bases (50) and second in sacrifice bunts (18) and sacrifice flies (12).

“”We didn’t hit a home run in those two games (against Wichita State), but we scored 13 and 19 runs in two games,”” he added. “”We stole a lot of bases, we hit and ran successfully and did some things that constitute an offense.””

Through 20 games, the Wildcats have done just about everything right behind the plate and on the base paths, and it has paid dividends. The pitching staff continues to work toward stability, but whatever Arizona has lacked in pitching, it has made up for in hitting.

“”We have to have an offense until we have a dominant staff,”” Lopez said. “”Will it happen this year? Again, pitching is more challenging than hitting.””

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