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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Coming back down to Earth

The No. 20 Arizona baseball team featuring 17 freshmen and 23 underclassmen took the collegiate baseball world by storm when it started the season 20-4, rattling off a 15-game win streak along the way.

The Wildcats (20-8, 2-4 Pacific 10 Conference) were putting up monstrous offensive numbers that even head coach Andy Lopez didn’t expect.

“”I’m not going to lie to you. Did I think (the freshmen) were all going to come in here and hit .350 like they’re doing? Come on,”” Lopez said before the California series.

Three of the team’s four freshmen who play every day were hitting over .390 through 25 games, and the Wildcats were leading the Pac-10 in virtually every offensive category.

Although the team of youngsters showed no signs of slowing down when it took two of three from Oregon to begin Pac-10 play, it would have been ignorant to believe that the Wildcats could keep this up all season.

Or even for a few more weeks, for that matter.

Something had to give.

That proved true when the Wildcats scored only five total runs during a three-game sweep at the hands of the California Golden Bears — they had only scored five or fewer runs in four of the first 25 games.

The team that nobody could get out for the first 25 games of the season — during which it averaged 9.9 runs per game and collected 10 or more hits 23 times — finally became human.

Even though the Wildcats were riding high into Pac-10 play, a hiccup had to be coming. Most high school teams play no more than 25 games in a season, so is it a coincidence that the freshmen hit a bit of a wall during games 26, 27 and 28?

The Cal series was also the team’s first road trip after spending the first month and a half at Sancet Stadium, so is it a coincidence that the Wildcats struggled in Berkely?

The series sweep at Cal could be attributed to the comebacker that struck the head of Arizona’s ace Kurt Heyer at 110 miles per hour.

Although that was the biggest reason for the Game 1 loss, it couldn’t have impacted the team so much that it scored only three runs on 12 hits during the next two contests.

No, the 15-game winning streak wasn’t a mirage. This plethora of youngsters have proven over the course of almost two months that they can play at the collegiate level.

“”It was very evident that (the freshmen) were very motivated,”” Lopez said. “”They had some maturity to them, and they had some discipline to them.””

There is still no questioning this group’s talent, but the Cal series further proved that the domination at the plate wouldn’t last forever and that the freshman class that seemed flawless after 25 games was eventually due for a few mediocre games.

The real Wildcats aren’t the team that mashed in March or the team that was beat down in Berkeley, but somewhere in between.

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