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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball team opens spring practice with youthful squad

    UA shortstop Bryce Ortega throws across the infield last season at Sancet Stadium. Arizona will have two players who were drafted by MLB teams returning to play for the Wildcats. The team kicks off its season on Feb. 20 with a three-game series against Sacramento State.
    UA shortstop Bryce Ortega throws across the infield last season at Sancet Stadium. Arizona will have two players who were drafted by MLB teams returning to play for the Wildcats. The team kicks off its season on Feb. 20 with a three-game series against Sacramento State.

    Spring Training

    With the ping of aluminum ringing throughout Jerry Kindall Field Monday afternoon, UA baseball head coach Andy Lopez approached reporters for the first time this season and fielded several questions, many of which included a common theme: his team’s youth.

    After an offseason that saw nine of the Wildcats’ 11 draft picks sign professional contracts – six of whom still maintained their collegiate eligibility – Arizona will be faced with the task of filling the shoes of several top players from a team who came within two runs of the College World Series in ’08.

    “”That group was pretty special,”” Lopez said of last year’s squad. “”It’d be nice if some of my players would have turned down those million-dollar contracts and hung around with me.

    “”It tests you a little bit, but (losing players is) all part of the process,”” Lopez added.

    While the majority of his players were lured away by the Major League checkbook, two of Lopez’s top veterans chose to return: pitcher Preston Guilmet and third baseman Brad Glenn.

    Both players have had great success in the past. Glenn took over the third baseman job early last season and proved vital on both offense and defense as he hit for a .302 average and was second on the team in home runs and RBI’s.

    On the mound, Guilmet pulled in a slew of awards during his sophomore campaign where he finished the year 12-2 with a 1.87 ERA. Last season the junior cooled off and battled what Lopez called “”a dead arm”” for part of the year but still managed to finish with a winning record at 6-4.

    But over the summer, Guilmet regained his strength and is expected to return to a similar form as in 2007.

    “”I took a couple weeks off from throwing, hit the weights and I felt pretty good,”” Guilmet said of his summer training. “”I’m feeling strong once again and just can’t wait to get out there.””

    Glenn also had to recover during the offseason and missed the majority of fall ball due to an accidental, off-the-field injury to his hand. But according to Lopez, Glenn has fully recovered and is expected to be one of the Wildcats’ primary contributors come opening day on Feb. 20, when the team will host Sacramento State.

    Although Guilmet and Glenn return for Arizona, along with the other strong veteran players remaining from last year’s Super-Regional team, the Wildcats could not find their way into a preseason poll. Last season Arizona was ranked No. 1 in several polls and in the top-five in nearly every preseason ranking.

    This year, however, there will be no such hype. But for many of the Wildcats, that shouldn’t matter.

    “”Rankings are overrated,”” said catcher Dwight Childs. “”Look at Fresno State. They started with nothing (last season) and by the end of it they got rings on their fingers. Hopefully we can go out and do the same thing.””

    One major advantage the Wildcats will have this year over last year’s squad is an improved schedule. After last season, in which Arizona was forced to play away from home in 25 games during the regular season, athletic director Jim Livengood and the athletic department did Lopez and the Wildcats a favor by scheduling only 20 road games – while also increasing the number of mid-week home games. It is a change welcomed by players and coaches alike.

    “”That’s awesome. It makes me really happy,”” Guilmet said of the schedule change. “”Academics are going to be a lot easier compared to last year. Last year’s schedule was unbelievable for a college athlete.

    “”It gives us a lot more time and now hopefully we’ll have more time to go to class.””

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