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Cats Set For Opening Day, Weekend
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 02/17/2012
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Feb. 17, 2012

2012 Arizona Baseball
Feb. 17-19, 2012 | Tucson, Ariz. | Hi Corbett Field
North Dakota State Bison (22-32, 15-12 Summit) @ Arizona Wildcats (39-21, 15-12 Pac-10)
Friday, Feb. 17 •  6 p.m. (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field    Radio: 1290 AM 
RHP John Straka (3-2, 3.60) vs. RHP Kurt Heyer (8-5, 2.41)

GameTracker

Saturday, Feb. 18  •  4 p.m. (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field    Radio: 990 AM (Spanish)
RHP Luke Anderson (2-5, 5.69) vs. RHP Konner Wade (3-0, 3.21)

GameTracker

Sunday, Feb. 19  •  Noon (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field  •  No Radio  
RHP Zach Wentz (3-6, 7.12) vs. RHP James Farris (0-0, 36.00)

GameTracker

Some Series Themes
A new era of Arizona baseball begins as the Wildcats officially call Hi Corbett Field their new home starting Friday night ... Alumni Weekend for the program with more than 100 letterwinners expected to be on hand ... Jerry Kindall and Hank Rowe, the grandson of Frank Sancet, will throw out the ceremonial first pitches before Friday's game, while Terry Francona will do so on Saturday ... Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and former mayor Bob Walkup will represent the City of Tucson for Sunday's pregame ceremonies ... Indeed, a festive weekend to kick off the 2012 season ... On the diamond, a pair of clubs see what a new year has to offer ... The Wildcats have a lofty No. 5 preseason ranking in Baseball America entering the year, but performance on the field will speak for itself in the coming months ... The Bison venture to the Old Pueblo for a second consecutive season with UA alum Tod Brown leading the charges for his fourth season ... A mostly veteran Wildcat club will debut a few fresh faces at some key spots, notably catcher and second base ... Enough already, let's just play ball. Game Notes (PDF)
Season Statistics
Schedule/Results
2012 Media Guide
Pac-12 Standings
North Dakota State vs. Arizona Statistical Comparison (2011 Stats) Arizona Statistical Leaders
North Dakota State Stat Arizona Stat Player
22-32 (15-12 Summit) Record 39-21 (15-12 Pac-10) Avg. Joey Rickard (.347)
.289 Avg. .320 Hits Joey Rickard (86)
280 Runs 410 Runs Robert Refsnyder (51)
533 Hits 666 RBI Robert Refsnyder (55)
88 2B 118 2B Johnny Field (15)
11 3B 26 HR Robert Refsnyder (6)
10 HR 29 OB% Joey Rickard (.410)
39-54 SB-ATT 90-123 SLG% Robert Refsnyder (.498)
.360 OB% .384 SB Bryce Ortega (25)
.365 SLG% .443 ERA Kurt Heyer (2.41)
5.50 ERA 3.57 IP Kurt Heyer (138.1)
294  K's 4.38 K's  Kurt Heyer (134)
Arizona Baseball Game Notes:

 2011 UA-NDSU Series: The Wildcats opened the 2011 season by outscoring visiting North Dakota State 30-2 over three games at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium. UA used a balanced effort in all facets of the game. Offensively, UA hit .387 and had 12 extra base hits. On the mound, the Wildcats limited the Bison to a .130 team batting average and just 12 total hits. Defensively, the Wildcats turned a pair of double plays and committed just two errors in the three tilts. Offensively, Joey Rickard and Robert Refsnyder combined for 11 runs scored and 13 hits, while Josh Garcia, an undergraduate assistant coach this year, homered three times in the series. UA hurlers surrendered just two extra base hits and tallied 40 strikeouts against four walks.

Arizona Head Coach Andy Lopez: The Wildcats are coached by Andy Lopez, who is now in his 11th season with a 355-229-1 record at the school. He has guided the Wildcats to postseason competition in seven of the last nine years, including two straight NCAA regionals and highlighted by a 2004 College World Series appearance. The Wildcats have won at least 30 games in five straight years and in nine of Lopez's 10 seasons at the school. Overall, Lopez has more than 1,000 career victories, one national championship and four College World Series appearances. Lopez owns a career record of 1,042-647-7 in 30 years as a head coach, including stints at Cal State Dominguez Hills (1983-88), Pepperdine (1989-94), Florida (1995-2001) and Arizona (2002-present). Lopez led Pepperdine, Florida (twice) and Arizona to College World Series appearances. His total victories are 13th-most among active coaches and he is just one of just 45 individuals to reach 1,000 career victories.

Starting Fast: After opening the 2011 season with a 10-0 series victory and an eventual three-game sweep of North Dakota State last year, the Wildcats have won 17-straight opening weekend series dating back to 1995 and have gone 43-9 on the first weekend of the year during this span ... Dating back 1994, Arizona is 16-2 on Opening Day with the lone losses coming to BYU in 2003 and at Georgia in 2008 ... Under 11th-year head coach Andy Lopez, UA is 26-4 all-time on opening weekend and has won eight-of-10 season-opening games.

Buckle Up: Once Arizona begins its season on Friday, the Wildcats will play 25 games in a span of 39 days. Of those, 23 contests will be at Hi Corbett Field, with a mid-week trip to No. 6 Rice (March 13-14) the only scheduled road games. The Wildcats, who opened the 2012 season with 25-straight home games, play 35 of their 55 regular season games at home.

That Was Quick: All three of Arizona's games against North Dakota State last season checked in under two-and-a-half hours in length. Friday's opener lasted 2:29, while Saturday's afternoon contest was the shortest at 2:17. Sunday's finale registered in the middle at 2:21.

Solid Start: Arizona's pitching staff did what it set out to do in its season-opening series last year against North Dakota State: pitch with poise, confidence and command. The Wildcats used just three pitcher's in the first two games, with Friday night starter Kurt Heyer pitching 7.0 innings and Saturday starter Kyle Simon going 7.2 innings. Matt Chaffee closed out both those first games, combining for 3.1 innings of scoreless relief. On Sunday, Tyler Hale turned in 6.0 strong innings, before giving way to five relievers who saw their first action of the season. The bullpen combined for four scoreless innings in the series finale and registered seven strikeouts.

2011 Offensive Review: Last season, the Wildcats averaged 6.8 runs scored on 11.1 hits per game ... Arizona led the Pac-10 in several statistical categories, including batting average (.320), on base percentage (.384), runs scored (410), hits (666) and RBI (370) ... The Wildcats' .320 team batting average ranked No. 3 in the nation ... UA hitters collected the second-most extra base hits (173) in the conference ... Robert Refsnyder (51 R, 55 RBI) and Cole Frenzel (48 R, 48 RBI) were two of only three players league players with 40+ RBI and runs scored on season ... UA's 29 home runs ranked No. 5 in the league ... Wildcat hitters struck out 294 times in 55 games (4.9/game), the fewest of any conference school ... UA batters were hit by a pitch a league-leading 80 times ... Four Wildcats placed in the top-10 in individual batting average ... Joey Rickard (86) was second in the league in hits, Bryce Ortega (57) led the conference in runs scored and Cole Frenzel (.461) led all players in on base percentage ... Robert Refsnyder finished tied for first with 55 RBI and second in total bases (120) ... Alex Mejia (.346 overall) finished with a .369 batting average in 27 Pac-10 games ... The Wildcats hit .351 overall and .319 in conference games with runners in scoring position on the season ... In 55 regular season contests, UA was 32-2 when out-hitting opponents and 30-4 when scoring more than five runs in a game.

2011 Pitching Review: Arizona's staff finished the regular season with a 3.57 ERA, 212 earned runs and 495 hits allowed, 438 strikeouts and 1180 walks in 534.0 innings pitched ... Most statistics finished in the second half of the Pac-10 categories, but the staff showed significant improvement over last month or more of the season ... In final 27 games, UA pitchers had a 17-10 mark, a 2.96 ERA, 160 strikeouts and 68 walks in 240.1 innings pitched ... Aces RHP Kurt Heyer (8-5, 2.41 ERA, 134 SO, 26 BB, 138.1 IP) and RHP Kyle Simon (11-3, 2.72 ERA, 86 SO, 11 BB, 129.0 IP) ranked in the top-10 nationally for most innings pitched ... Heyer's strikeout tally of 134 ranks second among Pac-10 pitchers and fourth in the nation ... RHP Konner Wade (3-0, 3.21 ERA, 28 SO, 197 BB, 61.2 IP) solidified the weekend rotation over the final six weeks, accumulating a 2.45 ERA in 44 innings pitched in eight starts (includes two early-season mid-week starts) ... LHP Matt Chaffee settled in as the closer and led club with seven saves, six of which came in Pac-10 games ... Team only allowed more than four runs in a game in five times over last 27 games to end season ... Arizona had seven shutouts on the season, the most since 2008.

Heyer Standards: Junior Kurt Heyer enters his third season as the Friday starter for the Wildcats. He is a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree and has been tabbed as preseason third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball. As a sophomore, Heyer tied for the most starts in the nation (20) and ranked fourth nationally with 134 strikeouts. The 6-foot-2 right-hander tallied double-digit strikeouts six times in 2011, and has done so nine times in career. His 243 strikeouts in two seasons are 40 shy of breaking into the school's career top-10 list in the category. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native boasts a 15-9 record and a 2.77 ERA in his career.

Wade on the Hill: Sophomore righty Konner Wade is slated to open the season as the team's Saturday following a breakout freshman season. Wade, a native of Scottsdale, Ariz., emerged as the No. 3 starter in the final six weeks of the season last spring. In six games as a regular weekend starter, Wade went 2-0 with a 2.94 ERA in 33.2 innings. He tossed 7.0 innings of shutout ball in an elimination game against Seton Hall at the College Station Regional to improve his season record to 3-0. He went on to a have a tremendous summer in the Cape Cod league working primarily as a closer. He was named a Cape Cod League All-Star and garnered the All-Star game MVP award.

Cunningham Closing: Junior right-hander Nick Cunningham is poised to open the season as the team's closer. The 6-foot-2, 204-pounder has dabbled with it at times early in his career. As a freshmen in 2010, he held the role for a significant portion of the season, collecting three saves while setting a school freshman record for appearances in a season (35). A year ago he yielded to a healthy Matt Chaffee, a left-hander who turned himself into a 12th-round draft choice by the Atlanta Braves. Now the ball will be turned over to Cunningham late in games, and he may even see a familiar set-up guy in front of him. Stephen Manthei, a righty who did not throw a season ago, was a late-inning set-up guy as a freshman in 2010, often turning games over to Cunningham. It's the likely eighth and ninth-inning combination the Wildcats will send out this weekend.

Freshmen Arms: The Wildcats have a handful of freshmen arms that give Andy Lopez and his staff depth entering the season, but a pair of rookies in that class stand out: Mathew Troupe and Lucas Long. Both pitchers figure to vie for time out of the bullpen and will contend for starting spots on Sundays and in mid-week games. Two years ago Kurt Heyer emerged as the ace of the staff as a freshman, and a season ago Konner Wade settled into the No. 3 spot in the second half of the year. It will be interesting to see where Troupe and Long find their roles on the club this season.

Ref Rev'd Up: Junior Robert Refsnyder figures to be one of the power bats in the Wildcats batting order. Refsnyder had a strong sophomore season that earned him All-Pac-10 honors at seasons end. He was also named an ABCA All-West Region First Team player. A Laguna Hills, Calif., native, Refsnyder finished tied for first in the Pac-10 with 55 RBI, third in runs scored (51) eighth in hits (77) and third in slugging percentage (.498). He had a league-best 30 RBI in conference-only games a season ago, and led the Wildcats with 25 extra base hits and 16 multi-RBI games.

Mejia's the Man: Junior Alex Mejia enters his third season as the team's starting shortstop. An All-Conference player a season ago, Mejia is one of the team's vocal leaders that also provides the balance of excellence defensive skill and timely hitting. In Pac-10 games, Mejia hit .369 - second-best among conference players. He committed just three errors in the final 24 games of the season, and struck out only 23 times in 230 at-bats on the season. He was instrumental in helping turn a league-best 31 doubles in Pac-10 games and a total of 55 on the season.

Table-Setter: An All-Pac-10 selection as a sophomore, Joey Rickard returns for his third season as the Wildcats' leadoff hitter and starting centerfielder. In 2011, Rickard registered a .347 batting average to rank second on the club among UA regulars. His 86 hits and 49 runs scored ranked second and fourth, respectively, in the Pac-10. With 16 extra base hits, including four home runs, Rickard slugged .448 for the season to go with 49 runs scored and 37 RBI on the season. In his career, the LasVegas, Nev., native has a .327 batting average, 161 base hits, 96 runs scored and 88 RBI. Defensively, he has nine career assists, including five a year ago.

A Year Under His Belt: A Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American a season ago, Johnny Field wasted no time making his impact on the club. But after a season in which he hit .297 with 15 doubles and three homers, Field is looking to turn in a more consistent sophomore campaign. Field struggled at times a year ago, including down the stretch when he tallied just one hit in his final eight games played. But he also showed signs of being a key middle-of-the-order weapon, evidenced by his seventh-inning and eventual game-winning home run in a 2-1 Wildcat victory last April. Field was one of many Wildcats to score at least 30 runs and drive in 30 runs a year ago, and he is poised for even more production this season.

Local Product: Junior third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean anchors the hot corner for his third season. A graduate of nearby Cienega High School, Mejias-Brean has been a steady player at the plate and in the field in his first two seasons. He finished his sophomore season on a tear, committing only two errors in the final 30 games a season ago while hitting .424 in the final 19 contests. In his two seasons, Mejias-Brean has hit .312 with 124 total hits, 63 runs scored and 59 RBI. 

The Lone Senior: Arizona's junior class steals much of the headline attention, but Bobby Brown is a steady senior that should find himself in the lineup on a much more consistent basis this season. In 2012, Brown started 33 games and hit .294, but he saw action in just 17 contests a year ago. This year, the San Diego native will provide a key left-handed bat to the lineup and should see time as both a designated hitter and corner outfielder. For his career, Brown carries a .299 average and 18 extra base hits in 164 at-bats.

New to the Nine: New to Arizona's starting nine this season are likely to be Riley Moore at catcher and Trent Gilbert at second base. Both are freshmen filling voids from former All-Conference players (Jett Bandy at catcher and Bryce Ortega at second base). Moore is a talented player that turned down the Phillies who drafted in the 21st round last summer. A switch-hitter, Moore is a natural left-handed hitter that will balance out the Wildcats' batting order. Gilbert is a left-handed hitter too that played shortstop in high school. He, too, turned down pro waters, after the marlins drafted him in the 40th round last summer. 

.300 Club: Arizona led the Pac-10 and ranked No. 3 in the nation in 2011 with a .320 team batting average, which extended the program's streak to nine consecutive seasons with an overall batting average of .300 or better. In 2011, UA hit .321 as a team which was the best clip for a Wildcat team since 2005, when a veteran squad turned in a blistering .328 average. The 2003 club - Andy Lopez's second year - also hit .328, while the 2009 club hit .314. Other marks include .306 in 2007, .305 in 2006 and in the 2004 College World Series season, and .301 in 2008.

Tough to Strikeout: One thing the Wildcat hitters hope to continue in 2012 is be a tough team strike out. In 2011, Arizona struck out the fewest times per game of any conference team (4.9 per game). Interestingly, Arizona has seen its total number of strikeouts drop in each of the last four seasons. UA dropped its strikeouts from a high of 413 in 2007 to 405 in 2008, then down to 388 in 2009, 337 in 2010 and ultimately last year's 294 mark. In total, the Wildcats have seen their strikeouts decrease by more than 100 per season over the last several years.

Up Next: The Wildcats will take Monday off before hosting Utah Valley for a single non-conference on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at 5 p.m. at Hi Corbett Field. Arizona will then host Auburn in a three-game series that will begin on Friday, Feb. 24, at 6 p.m. The series concludes with a double-header on Saturday at 2 p.m.

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