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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Busy break for baseball

Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona baseball freshman reliever Tyler Hale delivers a pitch during the Wildcats
Tim Glass
Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat Arizona baseball freshman reliever Tyler Hale delivers a pitch during the Wildcats

After playing nine games in the last 13 days, Spring Break would be a reasonable time for the Arizona baseball team to catch its collective breath. But the youngest team in the Pacific 10 Conference will keep its foot on the gas, as the Wildcats (8-4) will play eight games in the next 10 days, starting with a three-game series against Northern Colorado this weekend at Frank Sancet Stadium.

The Wildcats will then host Wichita State in a two-game series on Tuesday and Wednesday, before facing Sacramento State for a three-game series next weekend.

Arizona won its last four games, but Pacific 10 Conference play is exactly two weeks away, and the Wildcats are still searching for some answers.

“”We’re still trying to settle in with some things,”” said head coach Andy Lopez.

The main “”things”” include solidifying the closer’s role and finding a No. 3 starting pitcher.

Sophomore left-hander Bryce Bandilla will get a shot as a weekend starter against Northern Colorado after sophomore Kyle Simon was recently summoned to long relief.

Lopez deemed Bandilla “”very impressive”” in his three innings against St. Joseph’s. The hard-throwing lefty struck out five batters in a row against the Hawks and currently boasts a 4.00 ERA and a 2-1 record in five appearances out of the bullpen.

As for the closer’s role, freshman Tyler Hale, who has a 0-1 record and a 5.84 ERA, appears to be the favorite.

“”I think Hale’s going to be our closer,”” Lopez said after the team swept St. Joseph’s on Wednesday. “”He’s got good enough stuff to close.””

Although Northern Colorado (5-6), Wichita State (9-1) and Sacramento State (5-6) are nothing like the competition the Wildcats will face in Pac-10 play, the next 10 days facilitate the perfect time for Arizona to tie up loose ends.

But one thing that doesn’t need much of an upgrade is the Arizona offense. The Wildcats have posted a combined 39 runs in the last three games and hit .470 as a team in two games against Saint Joseph’s.

The team has six everyday players hitting over .330 and two over .440. The bats are alive for the Wildcats, but the team is still young, and another eight games will undoubtedly help speed up the maturation process.

“”We’re young, but guys are getting older as the season proceeds,”” said senior first baseman Rafael Valenzuela. “”We just need to keep playing good baseball. We’re going to be alright during Pac-10.””

After the next 10 days, the Wildcats would have played 14 games in the last 20 days — all at home. But the only way a squad with 17 freshmen and 21 newcomers can grow is through experience. For now, the team is almost where Lopez wants it.

“”It’s getting closer for me personally,”” he said of the team’s development. “”I’m starting to get a little bit better feel for what’s going to happen at (certain positions).””

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