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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Sophomore’s solid start not enough to lock down Arizona baseball’s Sunday spot

Mike Christy
Mike Christy / Arizona Daily Wildcat The Arizona Wildcats baseball team hosted the Rice University Owls on Wednesday, March 2, 2011, at Frank Sancet Field in Tucson, Ariz. The visiting Owls rode an 8-run fifth inning to win 11-7.

Despite James Farris’ contributions to the No. 7 Arizona baseball team’s 13-2 win on Sunday, it wasn’t enough to put a vice grip on the third spot in the pitching rotation, meaning other pitchers still have a shot to take it.

“(Farris) is growing into it, but we have a couple other candidates if he chooses not to take that role,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “It’s really up to him — the opportunity is there for him, so it’s up to him to out there and pitch with a little more consistency, a little bit more will (and) a little more aggressiveness.”

With Arizona (8-2) entering a stretch of 15 games in 20 days — including the first tonight at 5 against UC Davis (6-5) at Hi Corbett Field — several pitchers will have the chance to make their bid for the final spot in the starting rotation.

Freshman Lucas Long is scheduled to get his first career start tonight, and while Lopez typically likes to give his more experienced players the first opportunities during the season, Long has shown he has the ability to contribute.

“I’m glad the coaches are able to have the confidence in me to put me on the mound in the first couple series,” Long said. “Hopefully I keep on doing well and get more playing time.”

Long is 1-0 on the season and has a 3.68 ERA in 7.1 innings pitched. He also has proven he can handle extended time on the mound after a five-inning relief performance against Utah Valley, which resulted in his first career win.

But even if Long has a strong outing, the job is still Farris’ to lose.

Farris is 2-1 on the year after his victory Sunday, but Lopez said he thought his performance was just OK against Harvard.

Farris gave up just two earned runs in seven innings pitched, but Harvard batters had no trouble reaching base. The Crimson had eight hits and a walk on the afternoon.

“My confidence level is very high right now, (but) as the season goes on I need to get better,” Farris said. “I can’t stop and say that I’m good enough, because then I’ll lose my spot.”

One thing that really concerned Lopez was a lead-off walk by Farris in the top of the second inning after he jumped ahead 0-2 in the count.

“Little things like that show me that he’s still kind of growing into the position,” Lopez said.

While Long has a chance to make a statement tonight, he’s not the only player getting an opportunity during the crammed schedule.

“As a coach you’re kind of forced to put some people in situations (with this schedule) and you get a chance to see if they want to be that person,” Lopez said.

The game Wednesday against UC Davis will feature either junior Tyler Hale or junior Vincent Littleman, both of whom are also compßeting for the third spot in the rotation.

Hale has already started a midweek game against Utah Valley this season, but he was pulled for Long after just 2.1 innings.

Littleman has had limited time on the mound so far — just three innings — but he has a 3.00 ERA to show for it.

The busy non-conference schedule will be a good early test for Arizona, but Lopez said it’s more important to figure out what the team will really have come conference play.

“The whole role of this part of the season is to get ready for Pac-12 play,” Lopez said. “If you play well in non-conference and stub your toe in Pac-12 play, it doesn’t matter — forget it.”

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