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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball tabbed as favorite to advance to World Series

Ginny Polin / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Ginny Polin
Ginny Polin / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Things are already looking bright for the Arizona baseball team and it hasn’t even recorded an out yet.

After a solid 2011 campaign and ushering in a skilled freshmen class, the Wildcats are ranked No. 5 in the nation, according to Baseball America’s preseason poll released yesterday. The Wildcats are one of two Pac-12 Conference teams ranked in the top five. Stanford was named the No. 2 club in the country.

The Wildcats bring 18 players back from the 2011 squad that finished one game short of the College Station Regional Championship at Texas A&M last June.

For Arizona head coach Andy Lopez, the ranking will not be used as a motivational point for his team.

“To be real honest, I probably (won’t mention it), only from the standpoint that I don’t really want to focus on that,” Lopez said. “Again, I think it’s great for the program and I think it’s great for the alumni, and it’s great for these guys. They go to bed at night, and somebody thinks they’re top five in the nation, I think that’s a special thing.”

Lopez said he wants to make sure that the ranking doesn’t get to players’ heads.

“I (want to focus on what) we do every day, that we improve every day and make sure we’re improving in every facet of the game,” he said. “That we’re getting better, we’re getting smarter, we’re getting tougher, and if we are a top five team in the nation then we’ll prove that on the field.”

Three weeks and counting

The Wildcats open against North Dakota State on Feb. 17. For Lopez, the key right now is to prepare his team for the switch to regular season speed.

“(We’ll be) getting a few pitchers ready to get into an actual situation with an actual enemy,” Lopez said. “Offensively, we’re going to let them see some live arms (as opposed to the pitching machine) which we will do in the last few weeks of intrasquads.”

For junior pitcher and two-time All-Pac-10 honoree Kurt Heyer, this season marks his third go-around as an Arizona starter.

“He’s probably worked harder this year than he has in the previous two years,” Lopez said.

Hi Corbett providing big league atmosphere

Lopez has noticed that his players have a little extra bounce in their step since the move to Hi Corbett Field, where the Wildcats will play all 35 home games this season.

The park has played host to both the Colorado Rockies’ and Cleveland Indians’ spring training in the past and features a full clubhouse — something that the Wildcats didn’t have at Sancet Stadium.

“It’s a real baseball-type atmosphere,” Lopez said. “It’s a great setting, it’s a great facility.”

Lopez said his players’ enthusiasm is evident with drills and exercises, especially with the daily 2:30 p.m. stretching.

“We have not stretched at 2:30 in seven days,” Lopez said. “They’re literally standing out here at 2:15, ready to get going.”

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