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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    2006 Baseball Season Preview: Leading by example

    In the wake of the Arizona baseball team’s wholesale roster change-out, there has been at least one constant source of reliability for the Wildcats – senior infielder Brad Boyer.

    Boyer, who was drafted in the 14th round by the Seattle Mariners in June’s Major League Baseball draft, decided to return to Tucson for his senior season while former teammates Trevor Crowe, Nick Hundley, Jordan Brown, John Meloan, Kevin Guyette and Chris Frey all left early after being drafted.

    Boyer, alongside senior outfielder Derek Decater, makes up a modest senior class for the Wildcats, one that is expected to help Arizona head coach Andy Lopez get past the loss of eight key contributors and mold and develop 20 fresh faces on this year’s roster.

    “”One of the things I said to Brad is – how about you come back and give some leadership to a lot of the young guys,”” Lopez said. “”And he’s jumped all over it, and he’s done a great job. As a coach you can’t really chose your favorites so to speak, but I’d be lying to you if I told you he wasn’t one of my favorites.””

    Boyer, who started all 60 games last season, batting .285 with three home runs, 46 RBIs and seven stolen bases, said that because Arizona has been so young in previous seasons, he is prepared to take on a vocal leadership role as a senior.

    “”Over the last couple of years, we’ve always been young,”” said Boyer, who is expected to play both second and third base, along with sophomore junior college transfer Colt Sedbrook. “”We didn’t really have a lot of older guys. When we were young, we had to be leaders. Now I think it’s easier.””

    Boyer said after struggling a bit at second base last season, he wanted to improve athletically before being drafted again after his season.

    “”Last year was my first season at second base. I felt I needed a little more work on that,”” he said. “”I felt that I’d like to have a stronger season where I can go out and be a little more confident. This year is going to be something to refine my skills and to keep improving.””

    Boyer said although he was initially impressed by the abilities of the freshman class, he was even more impressed by the new players’ improvement in a short period of time.

    “”I think when you come out in the fall, you see a lot of talent out there, but there’s a lot of things they needed to refine,”” he said. “”But you come back after break, and I know I feel that these guys are ready to compete and go out and win a series.””

    Junior shortstop Jason Donald said he has also noticed how the newcomers eased into the transition to the college game.

    “”This is a new environment for them,”” he said. “”The fall was really helpful for them, just so they can get acclimated to the speed of the game. I think they’ve done a pretty good job balancing everything.

    “”They’re physical, they’re a little bit bigger, a little faster. The kind of guys coach Lopez gets, they’re ready to go from day one, and that’s the way it seems to be with our young guys. I think a lot of them stepped up and have put themselves into a position to play this spring.””

    Due to the vacancies left by last year’s junior class, junior college transfers Konrad Schmidt and Sedbrook are expected to start at catcher and third base, respectively.

    “”Boy, I’m really happy (with Sedbrook),”” Lopez said. “”He’s really, really been a good player for us this year in the fall.””

    Lopez said Decater and freshman Canyon del Oro graduate T.J. Steele will be starting outfielders, while sophomore Kenny Williams Jr. and freshmen David Plante, Jon Gaston, Brad Glenn and Hunter Pace will compete for the final spot.

    Junior Stephen Pearson, a junior college transfer, is slated to start at first base for the Wildcats after playing for two years at Santa Rosa Junior College.

    Freshman Mike Colla looks to anchor the starting pitcher spot on Saturdays between sophomore southpaws Eric Berger and David Coulon. Lopez said that if need be, junior closer Mark Melancon, a member of the Roger Clemens Award “”Watch List”” for the nation’s top pitcher, could also be used as a starter.

    “”Coach said that if things start to fall apart or we need an extra starter, I could jump into the starting role,”” Melancon said. “”To me, I enjoy closing a lot, but I’d like to start also.””

    Lopez said he is not unfamiliar with having a small senior class, which is a compliment to any collegiate baseball program.

    “”I don’t know what it’s like to coach a lot of seniors,”” he said. “”There’s a part of me that’s thankful for that because that means the program’s been going good, and they’ve been leaving in their junior year because they’ve had good junior years. That’s never going to change.

    “”The one thing I learned a long time (ago) is you can’t concern yourself with the guys that aren’t here,”” he added. “”They’re not going to be here today, they won’t be here tomorrow, they won’t be here next week, so you spend all your time and energy with the guys that are here.

    “”And I like the guys that are here.””

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