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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    The nine-inning specialist

    UA ace Preston Guilmet pitches at Sancet Stadium. The Arizona baseball team earned a top seed in its regional, but will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to play.
    UA ace Preston Guilmet pitches at Sancet Stadium. The Arizona baseball team earned a top seed in its regional, but will travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., to play.

    Preston Guilmet started 14 games last season. He never went past the seventh inning.

    The Citrus Heights, Calif., native opened this season with an 8 1/3-inning outing against Gonzaga, and went eight shutout innings against Hawaii on March 9.

    Then, four weeks ago, he pitched the first complete game of his career, a three-hit, 11-strikeout performance against Northern Colorado.

    A week later against then-No. 4 Oregon State, he did it again. The next week, he also went nine innings, this time against California in an 11-inning win.

    Last week at Stanford? Yep, he went nine yet again, for his third complete game of the season, striking out a career-high 15 along the way.

    “”It’s his normal thing,”” said pitcher Brad Mills. “”I guess if he doesn’t go nine, it’s going to be a shocker.””

    Added catcher Dwight Childs: “”With the way he conditions, sometimes it seems like it’s effortless.””

    The difference from 2006 to 2007?

    “”It’s his normal thing. I guess if he doesn’t go nine, it’s going to be a shocker.””
    – Brad Mills,
    senior pitcher

    “”Last year, I nibbled and walked more batters, and took guys deeper in counts, stuff like that,”” Guilmet said. “”This year, it’s just go get ’em, go get outs.””

    Guilmet, a sophomore, threw more than 120 pitches just once all of last season, 121 in a loss to Stanford last April.

    In his last four starts, he hasn’t thrown less than 120 pitches: 124 against Northern Colorado, 132 against Oregon State, 125 against Cal and then 145 at Stanford.

    The crazy part? UA head coach Andy Lopez said his right-handed ace has gotten even stronger as the season’s gone on.

    “”Preston Guilmet’s first five starts, he was throwing 86 to 87 miles an hour, touching 88 maybe five times in 100 pitches,”” Lopez said. “”He touched 90 five times (last) Friday, and he’s pitching at 88 to 89 now.””

    Childs said Guilmet’s conditioning, both running-wise and in terms of his arm – Guilmet runs throughout the week and after each start, and also plays long toss with Mills – plays a big part in how he can stretch out his outings.

    But Mills, who threw the first complete game of his career in a seven-hit, 126-pitch outing against Stanford last weekend, said the secret of throwing nine lies in staying out of deep counts early.

    “”When I go a lot of pitches in the first three or four innings, there’s no way (Lopez) is going to leave you out there for 150 pitches – well, Guilmet, but,”” Mills said, smiling as he referenced Guilmet’s performance against the Cardinal.

    “”I mean, you’re pretty much shooting yourself in the foot when you’re getting in deep counts like that early in the game.””

    Like Guilmet, Mills has also been stretched of late (three of his past four starts have gone more than 120 pitches), but the absence of closer Daniel Schlereth, who has missed the past three weekends with torn cartilage in his ribs, hasn’t helped.

    “”Right now, we don’t have a lot of wiggle room with Schlereth (being injured),”” Lopez said. “”And so we are, we’re stretching those guys out. I’m not going to lie about that. But the good thing is that we’re stretching guys out with arms that are resilient.””

    And though the average number of pitches Guilmet and Mills have been throwing the last four weekends are adding up – an average of 125 per start – nearly everyone involved downplayed the significance of pitch counts.

    “”I don’t think they need to be watched constantly, every pitch,”” Guilmet said. “”A guy can go out and throw an easy 120 pitches, or a guy can go out and throw a hard 120 pitches.

    “”If you’re in jams and you’re struggling and you’re working hard for four innings, and you throw 100 pitches, that’s a hard 100 pitches right there.””

    Added Childs: “”I’m not so much worried about the pitch count with Preston. It’s more about are his pitches getting flat, which, obviously, it hasn’t happened.””

    At 7-0, Guilmet’s already more than doubled his win total from last season, and his 1.58 ERA leads the Pacific 10 Conference.

    Through midseason, he’s already been named sophomore of the year by the Arizona Athletics department, and has twice been Collegiate Baseball Newspaper’s National Player of the Week.

    “”It’s not necessarily that he’s spectacular or he’s real electric in what he does,”” Lopez said. “”We’ve probably got more arms on staff that are more electric, so to speak, with the Schlereths and the (Jason) Stoffels, but his work ethic is – man, his work ethic is second to none. I mean it’s been a long time since I’ve had a guy work like he works in terms of his preparation in all that he does.””

    But perhaps most surprising – even to Guilmet himself – is the fact that he leads the Pac-10 in strikeouts, with 83.

    “”To be honest with you, not to knock his abilities, but he’s not a power guy, he’s not a 92-, 93-mile-per-hour guy,”” Lopez said of the strikeouts. “”It’s just – it’s a tribute to him.””

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