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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Baseball update: No .7 Fullerton visits Sancet

    National Championship Dr. will welcome a familiar foe this weekend, when four-time national champion Cal State Fullerton pays visit to Sancet Stadium.

    The Titans (14-6), ranked No. 7 nationally by Baseball America, will be the second-straight top-ten opponent faced by head coach Andy Lopez and his Arizona baseball squad (10-8) in as many weeks.

    The Wildcats were swept in Starkville, Miss., last weekend by No. 6 Mississippi State – and Lopez wouldn’t have it any other way.

    “”When I look at what we did against Loyola (Marymount) and New Mexico and now where we are the last two weekends, with the opponents we’ve been playing, I tell (the team) that I’m not unhappy, I’m pretty pleased,”” Lopez said. “”I will never mistake what I want for what I know we need, and what we need is to play good people and to play good baseball, and we’ve been doing a pretty good job of that.””

    A match-up of premier programs, Friday’s 7 p.m. start features sophomore ace Eric Berger (3-3) facing off against the reining Big West Pitcher of the Week in Fullerton’s Wes Roemer (4-0), who has yet to allow a walk in 45 innings this season while striking out 46 batters.

    Saturday’s first pitch is at 6 p.m., with Sunday’s game getting underway at noon.

    Roemer will be a familiar arm for Wildcat batters, as the sophomore right-hander went eight innings to knock Arizona out of the Fullerton Regional last summer. The two teams met a total of six times last season – including three times in regional play – with Fullerton gaining the upper hand four times.

    “”They’ll definitely pose a very good test for us, but we’re up to the challenge,”” said sophomore shortstop Jason Donald, who is hitting .328 to go along with a homerun and 18 RBIs on the season. “”I think the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen good teams, and certainly this weekend’s no different, we’re going to have to bring our A game.””

    After early season pitching woes forced Lopez to reevaluate the rotation – sliding hard-throwing junior closer Mark Melancon into the Friday night slot at one point – the pitching staff has emerged as the club’s strong point, surrendering and average of 3.7 runs over the past six games.

    “”I was surprised earlier in the season when we were swinging the bat so well and our pitching was so sporadic,”” Lopez said. “”I didn’t see that this year. I saw a club that could pitch a little bit and keep us close in games, hopefully we can get the bit hit, get the offense.””

    This past weekend, the Wildcats were unable to do exactly that, as they fell just short of the Bulldogs, 3-2 on Friday, 9-2 on Saturday and 5-4 on Sunday.

    “”We obviously didn’t get the big hit,”” Lopez said. “”The kicker to it is that we did make some real good contact in situations where the big hits would’ve come through, but we didn’t get anything to benefit from it … we had line drives right at people.””

    Added Donald: “”The pitching staff has done a tremendous job for us the last couple of weeks, and they’ve kept their end of the bargain. I think it’s time for us to give them a little bit more support.””

    One area of the offense that is starting to bloom is its young core, namely freshmen outfielders Brad Glenn and T.J. Steele and fellow freshman David Plante, a first baseman.

    “”Those guys have kind of established themselves on this team as kinda being the go-to guys a little bit,”” Donald said. “”I think it takes a little bit of pressure off the older guys to feel like we have to produce a little bit more, knowing that Glenn and T. J. – and even (freshman outfielder Jon) Gaston – they can handle their own, they certainly can.””

    Glenn went 2-for-4 with a two-run homerun that put the Wildcats up 4-1 on Sunday, but the bullpen wasn’t able to hold the lead, as Melancon blew his first save of the year.

    “”I just don’t think that’s going to happen very often to Mark Melancon,”” Lopez said. “”That’s just life, that’s part of college athletics.””

    Though now fully recovered, Donald and Berger were unable to play in the Saturday game due to food poisoning.

    “”Friday night after the game, I had some pizza, and I swear I was on my death bed,”” said Donald, who returned to play on Sunday.

    “”I just had to get through it though,”” he added. “”That’s just something where it helps to have another older guy on the field. I knew I had to play.””

    Now, as the Wildcats turn their sights to Fullerton, it’ll be Berger who hopes to make the opposing batters feel sick as Arizona looks to bring all aspects of their games together.

    “”All weekend we just want to put together good at-bats,”” said Donald, “”and if we consistently do that, we’re going to give ourselves a better opportunity to win games.””

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