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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Berger embraces role as Mr. Everything

    JAKE LACEY / Arizona Daily Wildcat

baseball vs. La Salle (W) 15-1
    Jake Lacey
    JAKE LACEY / Arizona Daily Wildcat baseball vs. La Salle (W) 15-1

    Eric Berger is a man of many hats.

    One of them just happens to be a helmet.

    The Arizona baseball team’s sophomore Friday starter can be found both at the plate as a designated hitter and toeing the rubber on the mound as a pitcher.

    “”I’m a pitcher No. 1, of course,”” said Berger, who recorded 10 strikeouts in Friday’s 15-4 win over LaSalle. “”The coaches always say if it’s going to take anything away from pitching, I’d stop that right away. I don’t think it is taking anything (away from it). I’m going to swing it until somebody takes the bat out of my hand. As long as I can do it, I’ll do it.””

    In an era where many designated hitters never take the field over the course of a season and most pitchers at the college and pro levels count a sacrifice bunt here and there with a .200 batting average as a success at the plate, Berger is the ultimate Renaissance man.

    “”He’s doing a good job in every capacity right now for us,”” Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez said. “”The hard part is that we’d love to DH him even when he pitches, but we really can’t do that. So it makes it a little bit more challenging to us (with) him in just the DH on Saturday and Sunday.””

    This season marks the first time Berger has had the opportunity to regularly contribute offensively at the collegiate level.

    “”We didn’t use him last year only because we had so many good hitters last year,”” Lopez said. “”But I told him that this year, he would be hitting, and he is.””

    The Roseville, Calif., native isn’t just contributing to the Arizona offense but leading it, topping the team with a .438 batting average and .591 on-base percentage.

    “”I feel comfortable seeing the ball well,”” Berger said. “”I’m just going to try not to change anything and just keep doing what I’ve been doing.””

    What he has been doing so far this season seems to be working. In 16 at-bats this season, he has accumulated seven hits, four doubles and 10 RBIs and has scored three runs.

    On the mound, Berger (2-2) maintains a 4.03 ERA and has collected 22 strikeouts to just seven walks while serving as the Wildcats’ top starter.

    Berger also proved he can provide more offense than a couple of base hits, as he was the only Wildcat to hit a long ball in the home derby that preceded the Alumni Game on Jan. 22.

    “”I’ve told him before that ‘You’re the best baseball player I’ve ever seen,'”” said junior shortstop Jason Donald. “”He’s very gifted, very talented. He can swing it a little bit. He’s a dominant left-handed hitter. He’s a guy that could be a candidate for the Golden Spikes Player of the Year award probably next year.””

    Junior starter Brad Mills said that Berger seems to have found a way to balance his time and energy between hitting and pitching.

    “”Berger is amazing,”” Mills said. “”He just has an amazing bat. It’s hard to be a pitcher and a hitter. I mean, I’ve never done it. Your time is limited as far as doing work on pitching stuff and then getting enough swings in batting practice.

    “”A lot of hitters take 200, 300 swings a day,”” he said. “”With Berger pitching, he’s not able to get that many, and he’s still able to go out and hit.””

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