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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Lanky lefty becoming relevant

Rodney Haas/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

When Arizona freshman hurler Augey Bill stepped foot on Jerry Kindall Field for the start of official practices, he was viewed by most as six feet and eight inches of pure potential, with little short-term value.

But after 35 games, the lanky lefty has made massive strides. So big, in fact, that Arizona (26-9, 7-5 Pacific 10 Conference) head coach Andy Lopez may very well give Bill the start in today’s game against the ESPN/USA Today’s No. 1 ASU.

“”You can’t judge a book by its cover, and I’m the biggest at fault on that,”” Lopez said after a 5-3 victory over Washington State on Friday. “”Big, long freshman, I think, ‘Oh my gosh, he’s a freshman.’ But the smart guy that I am, everyone on our club is a freshman.

“”He’s doing a much better job,”” Lopez added.

With two outs in the ninth inning and the tying run at the plate last Friday against Washington State, Lopez called on Bill to preserve Kurt Heyer’s 14-strikeout performance and give the Wildcats the victory. It was three strikes — game over.

“”He’s my roommate. Hey, he backs me up so I’m happy with that,”” Heyer said of Bill’s performance. “”I was like, ‘Oh man, you’ve got to strike this guy out, come on. I did that for you, now you’ve got to do that for me.'””

And Bill, who is becoming the perfect lefty specialist, got the job done.

He was called upon in the next two games against WSU, and pitched a combined 1 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball.

A few weeks ago, when the Wildcats were looking for a No. 3 starter, Bill was near the bottom of the totem pole. Arizona is still searching for that Sunday guy, but the Danville, Calif. native has pitched himself to the top of the list.

The man better known as Big Bird around the clubhouse has the tools to be the answer to Arizona’s dilemma, and he is only going to get better. 

“”He’s really developed,”” Lopez said. “”He has good work ethic. Sharp kid. He’s easy to teach. You can work on things with him and he adapts real quick.””

A lot of that adaptability has to do with Bill’s brains.

“”He’s a brilliant kid, brilliant student and a real good pitcher now,”” Lopez said.

Bill was being heavily recruited by MIT, but wasn’t able to get into one of the nation’s best schools. Arizona was his plan B, but he couldn’t be happier in the desert.

“”I’m loving it here,”” he said. “”I’m so glad I came here. I’ve been improving a lot and I still have a long way to go.””

After 35 games, Bill is now relevant in Arizona’s pitching circuit. He picked up his first win of the season after allowing only one hit and one run in 3 innings of work against Gonzaga on April 12, and has shined out of the pen ever since.

Although he is making a push for that No. 3 spot, Bill’s true value will be in the years to come. He throws in the mid-80s right now, but with his frame and release, low-to-mid-90s is right around the corner.

“”He’s going to fill out and be the next Randy Johnson in my eyes,”” said Heyer of his roommate. “”He just needs to grow that hair out a little longer and he’ll be good.””

It may be a little early to call Bill the next Randy Johnson, but with his frame, work ethic and willingness to learn, the sky is the limit for the lanky lefty.

“”He’s got huge potential,”” Heyer said. “”He’s really going to be a factor for us in the future, and hopefully he can keep pitching like he has been for us.””

 

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