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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball learning to take advantage of pitcher-friendly Hi Corbett Field

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs UCLA

When the Arizona baseball team moved to Hi Corbett Field, the cavernous pitchers’ ballpark seemed to favor the rotation and defense for Arizona, but the Wildcat offense has been the unit preying on the opportunities.

“At first you didn’t really know how to expect how the ball was going to play,” sophomore Johnny Field said. “Everyone knows it’s a huge yard and anything hit into the air is probably going to get run down. Everyone is used to it now, everyone knows what to expect from it.”

The transition from Frank Sancet Stadium to Hi Corbett Field has been smooth for No. 11 Arizona, and even though the Wildcats have played in less than 30 games at the park, it already feels like home.

Arizona has a 19-7 record at Hi Corbett, and leads a talented Pac-12 Conference despite an average 7-6 road mark.

Of course performing better at home is nothing novel, but the effectiveness of the offense at the pitcher’s ballpark has been the real surprise.

The Wildcats average slightly more runs per game (6.88) at home versus what they’ve done on the road (6.54), and despite the lack of home runs by both sides at Hi Corbett, the Wildcats have been dangerous this year.

The team leads the Pac-12 in batting average, runs and doubles, and ranks fourth in slugging percentage.

Field said the assumed pitcher’s ballpark has actually helped the Wildcat hitters perfect their strokes at the plate this year. The offense is getting on the ball and hitting hard line drives with backspin instead of hitting it high into the deep outfield, he said.

But the offense hasn’t just been managing to stay afloat at Hi Corbett this year — it’s what has kept the team at the top of the conference.

Arizona leads the Pac-12 by one game over No. 10 Oregon and No. 12 UCLA, but the Wildcats have the third-worst ERA in the conference (4.10 ERA), and their fielding percentage (.961) only ranks better than California.

The Wildcats have even kept pace with their production last year at Frank Sancet Stadium.

In 2011, Arizona finished the season batting .320 with a .433 slugging percentage and a .384 on-base percentage.

Throughout the first 39 games this year, the stats are eerily similar — the Wildcats are batting .320 with a .426 slugging percentage and a .387 on-base percentage.

“Our mentality is to go in and win every pitch … and not throw any at-bats away,” Field said. “If one-through-nine in our lineup has that mentality, everyone is going to be a tough out.”

Every returning player has increased their batting average by at least .018 this season, with the lone exception of junior Joey Rickard, whose average has slightly dipped.

It may not be the perfect park for hitting, but the Wildcats have taken advantage so far this year, and the offensive attack become the team’s identity.

“I think everyone has bought in and knows what you have to do at this field to be successful,” Field said.

Heyer the workhorse

Success can’t be had just with great offense, and junior starter Kurt Heyer has answered the call.

Coming into the season, Heyer was expected to have a great junior season at Arizona, and the preseason All-American hasn’t disappointed.

Heyer was just listed as a candidate for Pitcher of the Year by the College Baseball Hall of Fame, but his importance to the pitching staff goes well beyond a 7-1 record or an ERA of 1.96.

Heyer has been a workhorse all season, leading the team with 78 innings pitched.

Even more importantly, he has four complete games on the season, and that ability has given the team peace of mind every times Heyer toes the rubber.

Heyer has gone the full nine innings in his past three starts, all of which have been wins for Arizona, and with a struggling bullpen that’s exactly what the team has needs.

“It’s nice going the (complete game), it gives the bullpen a break,” Heyer said. “Hopefully I can keep doing it, but I don’t know if I can make it a normal thing — it’s just been happening the last couple of weeks.”

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