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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona baseball practices for first time under Johnson

The Arizona baseball team held its first practice of the fall on Friday evening at Hi Corbett Field, kicking off a fall schedule filled with 21 intrasquad matchups that runs until Nov. 22.

The final games of the Wildcats’ intrasquad season will feature the first ever “Wild vs. Cats World Series,” which will be a best-of-three series between two teams that will be drafted from Arizona’s roster.

This also marks the first official practice under new head coach Jay Johnson, who came over from Nevada after former coach Andy Lopez retired following last season. In his two seasons as head coach with the Wolf Pack, Johnson compiled a 72-42 overall record and led Nevada to a Mountain West Conference title last year.

Johnson is well aware of how important fall preparation is for the upcoming 2016 season and that winning in the spring begins in the fall.

“In the fall, it’s all about finding out what these guys do well and making sure, as coaches, we put these guys in a situation where they feel like they can be successful early on, so when the bell rings in February, we can play to our potential,” Johnson said prior to Friday’s practice.

The players were anxious to get back on the field after being in the weight room and running individual workouts up until this point.

“Everyone’s fired up to get on the field and get things rolling,” said junior pitcher and third baseman Bobby Dalbec. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

Dalbec, who is considered a potential first-round draft pick in the 2016 MLB Draft in June, had an eventful summer playing for both Team USA and also in the highly regarded Cape Cod League in Massachusetts.

Dalbec admits that “it’s a lot different” with the new head coach, but likes the way he’s started things off.

“I think coach Johnson is doing a good job of giving everyone a fresh start, and all the guys are starting from ground zero,” Dalbec said.

Johnson has to be excited about how successful his players were in their summer leagues this past summer. Seven Wildcats made their summer league all-star teams including Dalbec (Cape Cod), JJ Matijevic (Cape Cod), Zach Gibbons (Cal League), Cody Ramer (Cal League), Ryan Aguilar (West Coast League), Michael Hoard (Cal League) and Matt Hartman (Valley League).

Gibbons was named Arizona Summer Player of the Year and Hartman was deemed Summer Pitcher of the Year. Dalbec, Matijevic and Gibbons all went on to make their respective leagues’ All-League teams.

Johnson expects a lot from his players and believes that the outcomes will be there if the right measures are taken.

“The expectation is maximum effort in our preparation and execution, and if we do that for a long period of time and focus on the process part of it, results should follow suit,” Johnson said.

The Wildcats’ season begins Feb. 19-21 on the road against Rice and Feb. 22 at Lamar. Following the Lamar game, the ‘Cats will participate in the Tony Gwynn Classic in San Diego from Feb. 26-28. The Wildcats home opener will be against Cal State Fullerton on March 2, which will start a nine-game home stand.

Follow Ross Olson on Twitter.

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