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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball rolls into Riverside with confidence

    Arizona sophomore pitcher David Coulon throws against Loyola Marymount in last weekends home opener against the Lions. Coulon, one of the three Wildcat starters who struggled against LMU, will be replaced in the rotation this weekend by a fellow lefty, junior Brad Mills.
    Arizona sophomore pitcher David Coulon throws against Loyola Marymount in last weekend’s home opener against the Lions. Coulon, one of the three Wildcat starters who struggled against LMU, will be replaced in the rotation this weekend by a fellow lefty, junior Brad Mills.

    Not many careers start in the manner Jon Gaston began his.

    When the freshman right fielder pinch hit for junior right fielder Bill Rhinehart in the eighth inning of Friday’s season-opening win over Loyola Marymount, he did just that.

    Gaston plastered the first pitch he ever saw as a collegiate baseball player to right field, extending the two-run Wildcat lead to 8-5. They would go on to win, 10-5.

    “”Gaston hit a bomb, man,”” junior shortstop Jason Donald said. “”That was pretty sweet.””

    Said Gaston: “”It was probably one of the best experiences I ever had. It was something that I’ll always remember.””

    For the Wildcats, it was a much-needed boost of offense that they’ll need to continue through this weekend’s three-game set at University of California-Riverside. Tonight’s first pitch is slated for 6 p.m. with both weekend games getting under way at 2 p.m.

    The Wildcats face a UC-Riverside team that took two-of-three from the Wildcats at Sancet Stadium last February and a bit of revenge is on the players’ minds.

    “”Some of us older guys, we really want to get after it,”” said senior third baseman Brad Boyer.

    “”I just look at it as another opportunity to go and try to play the game a little better this weekend than we did the past weekend,”” Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said. “”There’s room for improvement, there’s areas we need to work on.””

    The Wildcats fell behind early to Loyola Marymount in every game of the series, something Lopez said is due to subpar starting pitching throughout the weekend.

    “”I thought we would get better performances out of our starters, (but) we obviously didn’t,”” he said of the starting staff that gave up a combined 15 runs, nine of which were earned, in 11 innings of work over the weekend.

    When pooled with the success of the relievers (five earned runs in 16 innings pitched), the starters’ struggles forced Lopez to mull some changes to the starting rotation for his team’s upcoming series against UC-Riverside.

    Though sophomore left-handed pitcher Eric Berger (1-0) and freshman righty Mike Colla (0-0) are expected to remain the starters tonight and tomorrow, junior left-hander Brad Mills (1-0) will most likely replace fellow lefty David Coulon (0-1), a sophomore, on Sunday afternoon, according to a press release.

    Mills, who made Baseball America’s summer All-American team, didn’t give up a run in notching his first victory of the season in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Lions, going 3 1/3 innings and striking out one. It will be his first career start.

    Another area of concern for the Wildcats has been sloppy defensive play, committing 11 errors in their series against the Lions.

    “”Defensively, (I’m) not real happy with the way we went about playing catch, especially the two older guys,”” Lopez said, referring to the upperclassmen Donald and Boyer, who accounted for six of the boots between themselves. “”I don’t think that’s going to happen much anymore this year.””

    Donald attributed the defensive gaffes to “”playing the game too quickly.””

    “”Just being in a game setting … it’s a lot different than in intrasquad,”” Donald said. “”Like coach Lopez says, ‘Just slow the game down, play catch on defense,’ and we certainly didn’t do that.””

    Despite the errors on defense, both Donald and Boyer produced in a big way at the plate. Donald jacked his first home run of the season and drove in four runs, while Boyer recorded a triple, three stolen bases and an on-base percentage of .400 out of the leadoff spot.

    “”I just think (Boyer) understands his role now as a senior and the importance of him getting on base and stealing some bases,”” Lopez said.

    Said Boyer: “”It’s my job to set the tone and be the spark in the team and hope these other guys get me in.””

    Donald, who hits directly behind Boyer in No. 2 spot, will look to do just that tonight in Riverside. If he does, it would go a long way in improving the team’s performance from last weekend.

    “”We didn’t play very well (against LMU),”” he said. “”I think this program’s at a point where it’s nice to win two out of three, but we expect sweeps. We always go into a weekend looking to sweep.

    “”I think the most important thing is if we play the game well, we swing the bats, put the ball in play, play defense – it doesn’t matter who our opponent is – if we play the game well, we should win.””

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