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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Big home games in store for baseball

    Wildcat third baseman Brad Glenn tags out San Diego States Troy Hanzawa during Arizonas 13-4 win over the Aztecs at Sancet Stadium April 30. Arizona plays the rest of its games at home as it faces Utah Valley State Friday through Sunday before meeting Stanford and ASU the following two weekends.
    Wildcat third baseman Brad Glenn tags out San Diego State’s Troy Hanzawa during Arizona’s 13-4 win over the Aztecs at Sancet Stadium April 30. Arizona plays the rest of its games at home as it faces Utah Valley State Friday through Sunday before meeting Stanford and ASU the following two weekends.

    Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez made a surprising move yesterday. After a weekend in which the Wildcats dropped a critical conference series to No. 16 California, and in the midst of a crucial home stretch of their season, Lopez passed on a rare opportunity for a practice to give his team an extra day off.

    More than a month has passed since the Arizona baseball team has found time to squeeze in a practice. In the last 30 days, the Wildcats (31-15, 8-10 Pacific 10 Conference) have filled 23 with competition, while many of the rest were consumed with travel.

    But with a home, nonconference match-up against Utah Valley State (14-31-1) this coming Friday and finals week rapidly approaching, Lopez gave his players some time to focus on school and on retaining their eligibility.

    “”I’m not the greatest student in the world so I’m obviously more focused on baseball,”” relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth said with a laugh. “”But you have to take your school work seriously because you don’t want to be the guy who misses the rest of the season because you’re ineligible.””

    Throughout the season, Lopez has expressed concern regarding his team’s eligibility, especially under the restrictions of the players’ classroom time due to the NCAA’s new condensed schedule.

    Despite his concerns, however, Arizona has yet to face any major issues regarding team eligibility.

    One advantage the Wildcats will have the rest of the way is that of home-field advantage. For the first time all season, Arizona will face three consecutive teams at home and host consecutive weekend series at Sancet Stadium – a much-welcomed change for both coaches and players.

    “”Traveling is pretty draining,”” said shortstop Bryce Ortega following Arizona’s 13-4 win over San Diego State last Wednesday. “”It takes a lot out of you, so hopefully when we’re playing back at home we’ll be a little bit more relaxed.””

    Second baseman Colt Sedbrook echoed Ortega’s comments, saying the team’s freedom from further travels should ultimately benefit the team.

    “”It feels good (to not worry about traveling), especially when you’ve got the constant worries about finals and stuff like that,”” the senior said. “”Now (we’re) just doing what you’ve got to do and worrying about everything we’ve got to do as a team.””

    With only nine games remaining and four games separating Arizona from Pac-10 leader ASU, the pressure is mounting for the Wildcats.

    Arizona missed an opportunity to move into third place in the conference by dropping two of three to California last weekend, landing the team in seventh with the entire conference heading into a weekend of non-conference games.

    But despite sitting in seventh place, a conference title or even becoming a regional host remains a possibly as both ASU and second-place Stanford will make the trip to Tucson before the postseason.

    “”(Lopez) brought us together the other day and told us we need to find a sense of urgency right here,”” Schlereth said. “”We’re getting into the end of the Pac-10 season where we only have six more (conference) games left and we need to win two out of three or sweep in order to get a good seed in the postseason.””

    Arizona has appeared to lack that urgency thus far, as inconsistency has plagued the team for much of the year.

    The Wildcats began the season 12-1 before dropping 10 of their next 13 games while in the middle of a season-worst hitting slump. Arizona appeared to have found its magic once again when previously-dormant hitters, like third baseman Brad Glenn, began raising their batting averages to the top of the Wildcats’ statistical charts while the team rode a season-high 13-game winning streak.

    But once again, Arizona’s offense faltered and its winning streak came to an end at the hands of conference foe Oregon State.

    The Wildcats’ usually stellar pitching staff even stumbled last weekend, allowing 26 runs in the series – uncharacteristic of a staff that carries a 3.75 ERA.

    “”As a staff, we had a little bump in the screen, but we just need to continue to focus on what we’ve been doing all season,”” Schlereth said. “”But like I’ve said, I think we’re just one clutch hit away from being ranked and 15-3 (in conference). So once we figure out how to come up with that clutch hit in a big situation, we’re gonna be pretty scary.””

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