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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball hits road to Wazzu

    UA freshman Kyle Stiner hurls the ball across the diamond during a 9-3 Wildcat win against New Mexico on Tuesday night at Sancet Stadium. Arizona will take on Washington State in Pullman, Wash., for a three-game series this weekend.
    UA freshman Kyle Stiner hurls the ball across the diamond during a 9-3 Wildcat win against New Mexico on Tuesday night at Sancet Stadium. Arizona will take on Washington State in Pullman, Wash., for a three-game series this weekend.

    Arizona designated hitter Shaun Cooper grew up watching the UA baseball team from the stands. In high school, his attendance increased as the possibility of playing for the Wildcats and head coach Andy Lopez grew.

    Now halfway through his freshman year, the Catalina High School graduate is not only watching the games from Arizona’s first-base dugout, but he’s in the batter’s box and contributing to the team he was a fan of for so long.

    “”It’s cool to be playing here,””

    Cooper said. “”I really like the coaching staff and their style of play and I’m just glad to help keep the tradition (of Arizona baseball) going.””

    Cooper began seeing time as the Wildcats’ designated hitter near the mid-point of the season and since then has proven his worth.

    The Tucson native is third on the team in slugging percentage at .615 with seven doubles and three home runs. Two of those three long balls came this week in consecutive games against New Mexico.

    His efforts haven’t been lost on

    Lopez, who spoke nothing but praise regarding Cooper following Wednesday night’s 13-5 win over the Lobos.

    “”Cooper’s been swinging well, he’s been one of our bright spots,”” Lopez said. “”We’ve got some young guys who are starting to show their abilities and we need that to get hot.””

    Although Cooper has only seen action in 20 games so far this season, he’s on pace to be one of the team’s top RBI producers. After the last series – in which Cooper blasted two-run and three-run shots in each game – his RBI total hit 14, good for most on the team out of players with 50 or fewer at-bats.

    Although Cooper yearns to be a contributor on the defensive side of the game, he said he is content with his current role.

    “”I like (the DH role), it lets me focus on my hitting,”” Cooper said. “”I’ve always had (power) throughout high school and all that. But I just focus on hitting line drives and making good contact and the power just comes.””

    The Wildcats (16-16, 3-9 Pacific 10 Conference) will need Cooper’s power streak to continue as the team heads to Pullman, Wash., tonight to face Washington State (15-16, 5-4) in a three-game set.

    Arizona has struggled in each conference play thus far, collecting no series wins in four attempts.

    To the Wildcats’ credit, however, three of the teams they have faced currently make up the top three in the Pac-10. Against those teams Arizona’s youthful pitching staff has been bullied around as the Wildcats’ conference opponents have scored an average of more than eight runs per game against them.

    But Arizona did get two quality starting performances against New Mexico, which provides a reason for hope. Both sophomore Joe Allison and freshman Daniel Workman threw well in what was the first start for each of them. During the two-game stretch, Arizona allowed a total of eight runs which resulted in a pair of non-conference wins.

    “”(Good pitching) really gives us a lot of momentum going into at-bats,”” shortstop Bryce Ortega said. “”We want to help them out when they’re out there throwing strikes and getting us ground balls and hopefully (Allison’s and

    Workman’s) performances will give the whole pitching staff more confidence.””

    Because of his effort in Tuesday’s 9-3 win, Lopez has given the Saturday starting job to Allison this weekend – partially due to the expected starter Kyle Simon being out of town due to a family emergency.

    Allison currently holds the second lowest ERA on the staff – behind Workmann’s 1.65 mark – allowing just 2.60 earned runs per game. Although for both of these pitchers, each has seen less than 18 innings of work.

    Nonetheless, Lopez said after this weekend Allison and Workman will both be in competition for a weekend starting position.

    “”Workman and Allison are definitely in competition for that third spot once we get back from Simon’s absence,”” Lopez said. “”Both guys have been throwing well and looking very impressive so it’s time we give them a shot.””

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