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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

COMIC: Rat’s Nest #3
Olivia MoreyFebruary 28, 2024
 

Baseball hosts Runnin’ Rebels

Rodney+Haas+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat
Valentina Martinelli
Rodney Haas / Arizona Daily Wildcat

With 17 freshmen and 21 newcomers on the Arizona baseball roster, five games isn’t nearly enough time for head coach Andy Lopez and his staff to see what type of team they have.

The Wildcats (3-2) play 18 games in the next 23 days starting with University of Nevada, Las Vegas tonight at 5 p.m. and tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Frank Sancet Stadium. Lopez and his staff should have almost all the answers they are looking for from the youngest team in the Pacific 10 Conference.

“”We’re going to find out a lot in the next few weeks because we’re going to be playing five games a week,”” Lopez said. “”Honestly, for a young team like we have right now, it’s going to answer a lot of questions that don’t get answered in practice.””

About three-and-a-half games into the season, Lopez had to be feeling pretty good, as the team convincingly swept Utah Valley University in a three-game series and carried a 7-4 lead heading into the seventh inning against Long Beach State.

But sophomore reliever Bryce Bandilla ultimately blew the save in the ninth inning of Game 1, and, thanks to an unimpressive performance from sophomore pitcher Kyle Simon coupled with some sloppy play all around the diamond, the Wildcats received a 10-3 beat down in Game 2.

“”Saturday, we played very young, and I’m not exactly sure as to why,”” Lopez said. “”I want to believe it was just kind of a bad ball game. But we made a lot of mistakes, we gave them I think three or four runs, and Kyle Simon did not pitch very well. Hopefully we get it out of our system, and now here we go for the next three weeks.””

The team will now turn its attention to the Runnin’ Rebels (6-2). Freshman Stephen Manthei will take the mound tonight, and redshirt junior Daniel Workman will start the afternoon game tomorrow.

Manthei, a 6-foot, 208-pound right-hander out of Las Vegas, was scheduled to start the Sunday game against LBSU, but the game was cancelled due to rain.

“”He’s 88 to 90 (miles per hour). He’s got a slider. His ball runs a little bit. It’s got some sink to it,”” Lopez said of Manthei before the Long Beach State series. “”He has pretty good presence out there.””

The freshman has made only one appearance in five games but tossed 4 1/3 innings of shutout ball when he came on in relief for Workman during the 8-7, extra-inning victory against Utah Valley.

Workman, who ended as the team’s No. 3 starter last season, was blasted for six runs in only 1 2/3 innings but was dealing with tightness in his arm. He is now fully healthy and has the opportunity to pitch his way into the rotation.

“”He’s ready to go, and I think he wants to make a run at one of those rotation spots,”” Lopez said.

Lopez admitted freshman Kurt Heyer is the only one who has solidified a spot in the rotation, and the other two spots are “”wide open.””

As the Wildcats play 18 games — all at home — in the next 23 games before Pac-10 play begins, the pitching staff is certainly one of the many questions that will be answered in the next few weeks.

In addition to the rotation, the youthful Arizona bullpen has also been a big question mark for the Wildcats. Lopez said freshman Nick Cunningham — 5.4 ERA in 3 1/3 innings pitched — will get some chances at the closer position this upcoming week.

The lineup will still be shuffled around the next couple of weeks, with the most movement coming from the outfield, according to Lopez. Newcomers Ethan Chavez and Bobby Rinard are expected to get their chance in the outfield, but the biggest developments will undoubtedly come from the pitching circuit.

“”The big thing is pitching right now, which it pretty much always is that way unless you have an older staff,”” Lopez said. “”But we have a lot of young guys and they need to get a chance to pitch and see where they sort themselves in and see where they fit.””

The open competition for the pitching staff begins, and position platoons will become more and more evident over the next few weeks. If Lopez isn’t sure what type of team he has before Pac-10 play starts on March 26, it could be a long season.

“”This is a good stretch for us,”” Lopez said. “”Like I said, at the end of the three weeks, there will be a lot of answers to some questions.””

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