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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Lack of consistency has become an issue for UA

The No. 5 Arizona baseball team boasts an impressive 16-6 record, but after being swept by New Mexico State, the Wildcats have a lot of unanswered questions as they enter into the bulk of the Pac-12 season.

“I told the guys, ‘Don’t walk around like there is a big mystery going on,’” head coach Andy Lopez said after losing the series to New Mexico State.

Lopez said the last two games simply haven’t followed the same pattern as the start of the season — the Wildcats didn’t have the same reliable starting pitching, strong defense, and timely hitting they’ve shown before.

Lopez said he likes to break the season into 10-game intervals to assess where his team is at. And while Wildcats went 8-2 in each of the first two stretches of the season, they have now started this third stretch 0-2, and it won’t get any easier.

The Wildcats travel to No. 19 Oregon State for a three-game series, and then return home to take on No. 3 Stanford next weekend.

The team has shown that it has the ability to compete with top-tier teams after the Wildcats split on the road with No. 9 Rice — but they also have a knack for letting some easy home games get away.

The Wildcats were blown out by North Dakota State in the second game of the season, and they dropped the second game of a doubleheader to Auburn after winning the first two games of the series.

But what has been even more concerning is their play of late.
Since their comeback victory against Rice, the Wildcats have dropped three of five at home.

“I tell (the players) all the time there’s not a team that’ll just show up and beat you,” Lopez said. “But the other side of that coin is that there’s not a team you can’t lose to.”

Lopez stresses not overlooking teams, and the players seem to echo his teachings.

Juniors Alex Mejia and Seth Mejias-Brean both said the team tries not to pay attention to who it is playing because it can beat any team, and it can be beat by anyone as well.

However, with six of the 11 Pac-12 teams ranked in Baseball America’s Top 25, the Wildcats can’t afford to drop many more easy games.

Bullpen depth a concern as well

The Wildcats may have deeper problems than just consistency, as their bullpen again showed its lack of depth Wednesday in a 13-8 loss to New Mexico State.

“It was just not the best night for our staff as a whole,” reliever Tyler Crawford said.

And while Wednesday night may have just been a low point for the pitching staff, the bullpen hasn’t shown it can be reliable, even in the easier stretch of the season.

“We’re just not pitching deep (into the bullpen) yet,” Lopez said. “There’s a reason we’ve signed ten pitchers for this upcoming class.”

A couple of pitchers have stood out so far for the Wildcats — mainly starters Kurt Heyer and Konner Wade — but only relievers Stephen Manthei and Mathew Troupe have performed on a consistent basis.

Both Manthei and Troupe hold an ERA slightly under 3.40 in their combined 29.2 innings so far this season, but both are used primarily in late-game situations.

The Wildcats have yet to find a consistent long-inning reliever, and while freshman Lucas Long began the season strongly, he has struggled lately.

Long gave up five runs on six hits in just 1.2 innings against New Mexico State.

While Lopez hasn’t been satisfied with his bullpen this season, he said the midweek games in the compact schedule — 18 games in 24 days — has really had the most affect on the bullpen.

“It’s a strain on a staff unless you’re real deep — and we’re not,” Lopez said. “It’s a real pitching strain, there’s just so many innings you can throw guys.”

Lopez has even used Wade twice in relief situations, including Wednesday, to help alleviate some of the stress on the bullpen. Lopez said Wade used the real game innings as a substitute for practice pitches, but once Pac-12 play begins, the Wildcats are going to have to count on their bullpen to rescue themselves from tough situations.

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