The Wildcats swept a midweek two-game series vs. visiting UNLV in Tucson ... The sweep improved Arizona to 5-0 at home early on ... The team batted .353 with five doubles, two triples and four home runs in two games ... Senior Colt Sedbrook hit a two-run inside-the-park homer on Tuesday ... Juniors T.J. Steele and Jon Gaston and senior C.J Ziegler all hit traditional homers against the Rebels ... True frosh Bryce Ortega made an impression in his first two starts, batting .571 (4 for 7) with a double and run scored ... Mike Weldon also made his first start of the year in the finale on Wednesday and went 3 for 4, with a double, a triple, five RBI and two runs scored ... Steele wrapped the series by going 3 for 5 with two RBI and three runs scored, while also taking away a home run in the field ... On the mound the Arizona pitching staff went 2-0 with a save, a 5.00 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 18 innings of work ... Relievers Cory Burns and Eric Berger each picked up their first win of the season, while closer Jason Stoffel tallied his fourth save of the year.
The Wildcats opened their home schedule with a weekend sweep of visiting Sacramento State ... The February 29 date for the home opener was the latest in a year that Arizona has played its first game in Tucson since 1968 ... The Cats defeated the Hornets 9-3, 15-7 and 10-9 to open the year 3-0 at Kindall Field ... Head coach Andy Lopez won his 900th collegiate game in Fridayˇ?s series-opening win ... Offense:?As a team the Wildcats batted .384 (38 for 99) with eight doubles, five triples and eight home runs against the Hornet pitching staff ˇ? The Cats slugged .808 as a team and had a .470 on-base percentage ˇ? The offensive outburst improved UAˇ?s team batting average for the year 47 points, from .286 to its current .333 ... Sophomore Diallo Fon continued his torrid start to the season, finishing the weekend series 4 for 6 (.667) with two doubles, two triples, three walks and five runs scored ˇ? Sophomore Dillon Baird batted .417 (5 for 12) with two doubles, a grand slam, six RBI and two runs scored in the series ˇ? Senior C.J. Ziegler batted .417 (5 for 12) with a double, three home runs, two walks, zero strikeouts, eight RBI and five runs scored in three games ˇ? Junior Jon Gaston led all players with six runs scored against Sac State and finished the series 4 for 12 (.333) with a homer and five RBI ˇ? Sophomore Robert Abel hit his first collegiate home run in Sundayˇ?s 10-9 win ˇ? Colt Sedbrook and T.J. Steele both hit homers in the series. Sedbrook also drove in five runs over the weekend, while Steeleˇ?s homer was the winning margin in Sundayˇ?s contest ˇ? Freshman Bobby Coyle hit a two-run triple in his first collegiate at bat ˇ? Pitching: The Wildcats posted a 4.67 team ERA in 27 innings of work ˇ? The UA pitching staff showed impressive control, recording 34 strikeouts against just five walks all weekend long ˇ? Sac State batted .291 against the Wildcat staff ˇ? Junior Preston Guilmet struck out 11 and walked none in the series opener to win his first game of the year ˇ? Sophomore Jason Stoffel picked up his third save of the season with scoreless innings of work on Sunday ˇ? Junior Daniel Schlereth won his first game of the year.
The Wildcats remained the No. 1 team in the nation in the weekly Baseball America?poll and held firm in the No. 2 slot of the Collegiate Baseball rankings. The Wildcats moved up two spots, from 5th to 3rd, in the first release of the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches poll since the preseason rankings came out and jumped up one spot in both the Rivals.com, No. 7 to No. 6, and NCBWA, No. 6 to No. 5, polls.
Arizona ?vs. the Whataburger College Classic Field
The Wildcats will be meeting up with South Alabama in Fridayˇ?s opener for the first time in the programˇ?s history ... The match up on Saturday with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi will be the sixth all-time meeting. The Wildcats have won all five of the previous meetings between the two ... Arizona and Notre Dame will be meeting up for the 10th time. Arizona holds a 7-2 edge in the all-time series, including a win in the 2004 South Bend Regional and a 1-0 extra inning affair in the 2006 Dairy Queen Classic in Minneapolis, Minn.
Redshirt sophomore Diallo Fon is apparently not satisfied with singles. The second-year Wildcat has collected nine total hits this season, of which seven are for extra bases. Fon has racked up three doubles, three triples and a home run in four starts and seven games played. He is tied for second on the team with 10 runs scored and has also driven in four runs this season. Fon is slugging 1.400 for the year and has posted a .667 on-base percentage out of the leadoff spot in the batting order.
Look at Us
The Wildcats received a fair share of preseason recognition because of the depth of the pitching staff. While the UA arms will definitely contribute to the success of the 2008 season, the Wildcat offense has stolen the show eight games into the year. The Catsˇ? bats are hitting .338 as a group and are averaging 9.9 runs, 11.5 hits, two doubles, 0.9 triples, 2.1 home runs and 9.5 RBI per game this season. The Cats have scored six or more runs in all eight games thus far and have been into double digits three times already. Individually, five different players are averaging better than a run scored per game, seven different players have hit a home run and three players are already into double digits in RBI.
Just Warming Up
The Wildcats havenˇ?t exactly gotten off to quick starts. UA has scored just 11 of its 79 runs this season in the first three innings (14%). From the fourth inning on though watch out. The Cats have scored 15 runs in the fourth, 11 in the fifth, 20 in the seventh and 14 in the eighth. The late game surges has helped Arizona overcome the fact that the opposition has scored first in five of eight games so far.
Winning the Close Ones
The Wildcats have been pretty successful in nail biters. Including a 3-0 mark so far this season, Arizona is 15-3 in one-run games dating back to the start of last season.
Long Distance Rates May Apply
The Wildcats have been on a power surge to start the 2008 season. UA has hit at least one home run in all eight games played thus far and has gone yard multiple times in five contests to amass an impressive 17 in eight games played. C.J. Ziegler has led the charge with six fence-busters, but is followed closely by T.J. Steeleˇ?s three and Jon Gastonˇ?s, Dillon Bairdˇ?s and Colt Sedbrookˇ?s two. The Cats have recorded an inside the park homer (Sedbrook vs. UNLV), a grand slam (Baird vs. Sac State) and an individual multi-homer game (Ziegler vs. Sac State). The Wildcats didnˇ?t hit their 17th homer of the season last year until their 16th game.
Odds and Ends
Colt Sedbrook pushed his lead in the all-time hit by pitch record book up another notch after getting plunked in Saturdayˇ?s contest against Sac State. He has now been hit by 44 pitches in 109 games played, the most in school history ... After hitting just eight extra base hits at Georgia in the three-game season opening series, the Wildcats have rapped out 32 non-singles in the last five games, including 13 doubles, seven triples and 12 home runs ... The Wildcats have hit at least one home run in all eight games thus far and have hit two or more in a contest five times ... The Wildcats have scored 41 of their 79 runs this season with two outs (52%), including six scoring frames where the first run wasnˇ?t scored until two outs had been made.
The crowd of 3,398 on opening day last Friday against Sac State was the fourth-largest to witness the Wildcats first home game of the year and the most fans for opening day since 4,012 turned out to watch the 1992 home opener against New Mexico. The weekend tally of 6,700 fans was the best for any home opening weekend since the 1980 club drew 12,111 fans to see the Cats take on the 1979 CWS champs Cal State Fullerton in a three-game series.
The Wildcats have been opportunistic on the base paths this season. Through the first eight games Arizona is 16 for 21 in stolen base tries for an average of two steals per game. Sophomore Robert Abel is the top thief, going a perfect 6 for 6 thus far, but is followed closely by Colt Sedbrook (3 for 3) and Jon Gaston (3 for 4)
Highlighted by a three-run homer by Diallo Fon and two-run triple by Bobby Coyle, Arizonaˇ?s reserves are putting the pressure on the starters to keep their productivity up. Arizonaˇ?s non-starters are batting .429 (6 for 14) with nine RBI and seven runs scored in eight games thus far. Led by sophomore Mike Weldonˇ?s three RBI, UA pinch hitters are 5 for 10 (.500) with six RBI early on.
Sophomore closer Jason Stoffel has been pretty close to automatic in shutting down games. In 29 all-time relief outings the right-hander is 5-0 with a 1.20 ERA, eight saves and 57 strikeouts in 45 innings pitched. Last season he allowed just one earned run in 12 Pac-10 appearances and he has already successfully converted his first four save opportunities this season.
Keeping the Boys Busy
Arizona is in the midst of a stretch in which it will play eight games in 10 days. It is the first of three parts of the year in which the Wildcats will see a ton of action a short time frame. The Cats close the end of March with a nine games in 13 days stint before taking on the month of April that will feature 20 contests in just 30 days. In order to keep up on their studies with the compacted schedule, the Wildcats will travel with an academic advisor on all road trips this season.
Coaches Pick Cats
The Wildcats have been named the team to beat in the Pacific-10 Conference this season. In a vote by the leagueˇ?s coaches, Arizona was named to the top spot, garnering 61 total points. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team and the point totals go eight for a first place vote, seven for second and so on. It is the first time Arizona has been named the preseason favorite since the Pac-10 North and South merged prior to the 1999 season.
Preseason Pac-10 Poll (First-Place Votes) Total Points
1 Arizona (6) 61
2 Arizona State (3) 56
3 UCLA 51
4 Oregon State 44
5 Cal 32
6 Stanford 30
7 USC 23
8 Washington State 18
9 Washington 9
Individual Honors: ? Junior Preston Guilmet, the 2007 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year, has been rewarded for his outstanding sophomore season in 2007. The third-year Wildcat has been tabbed a first-team preseason All-American by NCBWA, Collegiate Baseball and Rivals.com. He has also garnered third-team preseason honors from Baseball America, joining classmate T.J. Steele. Prompted by an outstanding showing in the Cape Cod summer league, BA has named Ryan Perry as first-team preseason AA selection. Senior C.J. Ziegler was feted with first-team honors by NCBWA and joined LHP Daniel Schlereth on the third-team by Collegiate Baseball.
Junior right-hander Preston Guilmet has been named to the initial ˇ?watch listˇ± for the 2008 Golden Spikes Award ... He is also on the CSTV.comˇ?s Player of the Year Watch List ... Guilmet and outfield classmate Jon Gaston have each been listed on the preseason Brooks Wallace Award Watch List ... Arizonaˇ?s closing tandem of LHP Daniel Schlereth and RHP Jason Stoffel has each be named to the NCBWAˇ?s preseason Stopper of the Year Watch List. Schlereth, a junior, needs just four more saves to move past former teammate Mark Melancon for the career saves lead and Stoffel looks to build off an impressive freshman season that saw him allow just one earned run in 12 Pac-10 appearances last year and strike out 11 of the 15 hitters he faced in the NCAA Regional in Wichita, Kan., last year.
The Wildcats return nine position players that saw action in 30 or more games, including seven that started at least 48 games ... Led by senior C.J. Ziegler (.355, 23 2B, 13 HR, 63 RBI), Arizona returns 84 percent of its runs, 82 percent of its hits, 84 percent of its doubles, 76 percent of its triples, 75 percent of its home runs, 78 percent of its RBI and 92 percent of its stolen bases from last season ... The Wildcats finished at or near the top of the Pacific-10 Conference in a number of team offensive categories last season, including batting average (.306, 2nd), slugging percentage (.478, 2nd), on base percentage (.391, 2nd), runs (428, 3rd), hits (619, 3rd), RBI (389, 3rd), doubles (126, 3rd), triples (33, 1st), home runs (52, 3rd) and stolen bases (95, 1st).
On the Bump
The Wildcats return seven arms that logged significant innings for one of the best UA pitching staffs in the last 30 years, including the top four ERA leaders and four of the top five strikeout artists. Highlighted by 2007 Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Preston Guilmet (12-2, 1.87 ERA, 146 Ks), last yearˇ?s Arizona staff finished the season with the lowest team ERA since 1976 (3.90), the fewest home runs allowed in 34 years (20) and the fewest hits (516), runs (273) and earned runs (228) allowed in 30 years. The collective group posted the second-most strikeouts in school history and finished in a tie for second for the most saves in a single season ... Much like the offense, the pitchers finished among the Pac-10ˇ?s best statistically last seasons, including second in ERA, second in opponent batting average (.257), first in strikeouts (541) and third in wins (42), as well as the fewest hits, earned runs and home runs allowed in the Pac-10.
The Wildcats received some good news at the start of the school year when five drafted UA players opted not to sign professional contracts and return to campus. Junior LHP Daniel Schlereth was picked in the eighth round by the Oakland Aˇ?s, junior LHP Eric Berger in the ninth by the Aˇ?s, senior 1B C.J. Ziegler in the 37th round by the St. Louis Cardinals, and classmates Colt Sedbrook (2B) and David Coulon (LHP) in the 42nd round by the Cubs and Rockies, respectively. Additionally, freshmen signees Bobby Coyle (19th, Cleveland), Matt Presley (24th, Boston) and Andrew Allen (43rd, Arizona) all enrolled in class rather than sign.
The Wildcats wrapped up their 2007 season with a 42-17 overall record and a 15-9 mark in the Pac-10. The 42 wins were the most for any Arizona team since 1989 and the league record was good enough for a second place finish. UA advanced to the regional championship game against Wichita State in Wichita, Kan., but fell to the Shockers, 3-0, in the title game. Departed senior Bill Rhinehart finished the season with the team triple crown, batting a team-high .372 with 13 HRs and 66 RBI. It marked just the third time school history a player had accomplished such a feat. Current junior Preston Guilmet paced a Wildcat pitching staff that posted very impressive numbers over the course of the season and Guilmet became UAˇ?s first Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year since Scott Erickson in 1989.
Head Coach Andy Lopez
Now in his seventh season at Arizona, Andy Lopez has revitalized the Wildcat baseball program. He won his 900th career game last weekend vs. Sac State and has posted a 217-142-1 record in Tucson. He has led UA to its most wins since 1989 (42 in 2007), its first College World Series appearance since 1986 (2004) and to four NCAA regional appearances (2003-05, 2007). One of only three coaches in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the College World Series he is also one of just nine active coaches with a national title to his credit (1992 at Pepperdine).