Potential Starting Lineup
Soph. JC transfer from Dixie State College 2
JC transfer from Santa Rosa JC 3
Has missed just one game in two years (123 of 124) 4
14th-round pick by Seattle in last year’s MLB draft 5
2005 Nor-Cal JC Player of the Year 6
Friday starter on the mound will DH for other two games 7
First true frosh CF since Brian Anderson in 2001 8
First new RF at UA since 2001 (Jeff Van Houten 2002-05) 9
Regains starting OF spot after DHing in 2005 Pitching
Went 6-2 with a 3.82 ERA in his freshman year Sat.
Tossed a no-no in Central Coast Section Champ in HS. Sun.
Only pitcher on the staff with 4 or more career starts (12) CP
School record 11 saves in 2005
Opening It Up
Arizona will open the 2006 season with a visit from Loyola Marymount ... The three-game series runs Feb. 3-5 at Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium ... The Wildcats and Lions will meet up for the first time since 1999 on opening weekend ... UA owns a 12-7 advantage in the 19-game all-time series that dates back to 1974.
Opening Weekend Success
After opening the 2005 season with a three-game sweep of visiting New Mexico, Arizona has won 11 straight opening weekend series dating back to 1995 and has gone 28-6 on the first weekend of the season during that span ... Dating back to 1994 Arizona is 11-1 on opening day, with the lone loss coming to BYU in 2003 ... Arizona is 3-1 all-time under Andy Lopez on opening day and has won all four opening weekend series.
A Quick Look at LMU
The Lions head into the 2006 season with 20 returning letterwinners, including six position starters and seven pitchers, from last year’s 31-27 team ... LMU went 18-12 in the West Coast Conference to take home the regular season title, but lost to Pepperdine in the WCC tournament championship game which kept it from advancing to the postseason ... Senior outfielder Chris Pettit highlights the returning offense. First-team All-WCC in 2005, he batted .329 in 59 games and finished the year with nine HRs and 44 RBI ... Right-handed sophomore Brad Meyers was named one of the Cape Cod League’s top 10 prospects on the mound over the summer. He finished the 2005 season at LMU 4-3 with a 5.19 ERA ... Head coach Frank Cruz is in his 10th season at LMU and has compiled a 260-259-2 record with the Lions.
Cape Stars to Square Off in Opener
Friday’s starting pitchers, UA soph Eric Berger and LMU soph Brad Meyers, stared in the Cape Cod League over the summer. Berger went 2-0 with a 0.48 ERA in 18 2/3 innings for Yarmouth-Dennis, while Meyers was 4-2 with a 1.61 ERA for Orleans. Baseball America named Meyers the No. 9 prospect in the Cape, while Berger was recognized by the publication as the No. 13 prospect.
Lopez To Face Former WCC Foe
During his six-year stint as head coach at Pepperdine (1989-94), current UA skipper Andy Lopez posted a 23-11 all-time record against the Lions.
Assistants to Face Alma Maters
Both squads will have a former player coaching in the opposite dugout. UA’s pitching coach Andy Diver (it rhymes with river) was a two-year letterwinner at LMU (1995-96), while Lions’ assistant coach Robbie Moen was a four-year letterwinner at Arizona (1990-93). Moen, a 1993 Sporting News All-American, is among the Wildcats’ all-time leaders in games played, starts, at bats, runs, hits, doubles and RBI.
The Non-Conference Slate
Arizona is set to meet up with 12 teams outside of the Pac-10 Conference and twice with rival Arizona State in non-conference games. Some non-conference opponents Arizona faced just last year (Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, UNLV, UC Riverside, New Mexico, Arizona State and Mississippi State), some in the not so distant past (Loyola Marymount 1999, Minnesota 2003, Notre Dame 2004, and Southern Utah 2002), one in the way by gone (Nebraska 1939) and one never at all (La Salle). The Wildcats went 22-14 in non-conference action last year including the NCAA tournament.
Looking For Offense
As expected, the 2005 MLB First-Year Player Draft was not kind to the Arizona offense. Trevor Crowe, Nick Hundley, Jordan Brown, Chris Frey and Jeff Van Houten were are picked within the first 13 rounds of the annual draft, and with the loss of Bryan Kervin to a transfer to TCU, UA lost all six of its top hitters from 2005. Although no one is expecting the returning players and 2006 newcomers to match the numbers of the Pac-10’s top offensive team last year, Arizona will need to find someone to help replace the loss of 70 percent of its runs, 68 percent of its hits, 78 percent of its home runs and 70 percent of its RBI from a season ago.
As noted above, Arizona lost a lot of offense from last year, but the cupboard isn’t exactly bare either. Returning for the Wildcats this season is senior second baseman Brad Boyer (career - .304, 153 R, 193 H, 37 2B, 9 HR, 116 RBI), junior shortstop Jason Donald (.306, 96 R, 148 H, 27 2B, 14 HR, 78 RBI), senior outfielder Derek Decater (.283, 75 R, 104 H, 18 2B, 6 HR, 71 RBI) and junior first baseman/DH Bill Rhinehart (.307, 43 R, 70 H, 14 2B, 12 HR, 47 RBI). Sophomore outfielder Kenny Williams Jr. is also expected to make an impact after seeing limited action in his first year at UA.
In addition to the returning regulars, Arizona will also rely on a number of talented new comers on offense this season. Catcher Konrad Schmidt was the 2005 California JC Player of the Year at Santa Rosa Junior College and will fill the void left by the departure of Nick Hundley behind the plate. Other newcomers looking to make an impact include freshmen Jon Gaston (OF), Brad Glenn (OF/1B), David Plante (1B/DH) and T.J. Steele (OF), as well as sophomore JUCO transfers Colt Sedbrook (3B) and Stephen Pearson (1B/OF).
On The Bump
Although not unexpected, the 2005 MLB Draft hit the pitching rotation hard with UA’s top two starters and 10-game winners John Meloan and Kevin Guyette getting snatched up in the fifth and 10th rounds, respectively. However , the loss of the pair creates an opportunity for UA’s sophomore left-handed tandem of Eric Berger and David Coulon to step to the forefront. Berger will take on the Friday pitching duties and Coulon will be slotted into either the Saturday or Sunday spot after the coaches determine the match up that best suits the Wildcats over the course of the year. The third starter in the weekend rotation is expected to be true freshman Mike Colla. The right-hander impressed the coaching staff during the fall workouts and will pitch on either Saturday or Sunday.
The Wild Card
Arizona might have an ace up its sleeve in junior right-hander Mark Melancon. Tied for the all-time lead in career saves at Arizona, Melancon is slotted to resume his closer role in 2006. However, he could also figure into the starting rotation even as early as the opening weekend. Melancon has the ability to go a distance as a starter, but with the loss of so much offense from last year and the uncertainty of how many runs the Wildcats can muster on a daily basis, the reassurance that quality arm like Mark’s will available throughout a series has to give the UA coaching staff a reason to pause. Either way, from the get-go or out of the pen, Melancon will be a much-needed factor on the Wildcat pitching staff this year.
Preseason Pac-10 Poll
The Wildcats have been picked to finish in a tie for fifth in the conference this year in the annual preseason coaches poll. Defending champs Oregon State was selected to hold on to the top spot, while USC was picked to finish second, Stanford and Arizona State to share third and the Wildcats and Cal earned a tie for the fifth spot.
Arizona juniors Jason Donald and Mark Melancon have been honored by Baseball America with preseason All-America honors. Donald was named to the preseason second team, while Melancon garnered third-team honors.
Clemens Award Watch List
Junior Mark Melancon was one of 40 collegiate players nationwide to be named to the early watch list for the 2006 Roger Clemens Award. The award is presented to the top player in the nation upon the conclusion of the year. UA’s John Meloan was named to the watch list a year ago for the Wildcats.
The offseason was busy time around Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium. After the July summer camps wrapped up the heavy equipment moved in, tore out the entire playing surface, a total of six rows of bleachers and the old score board. In their stead was placed a laser-leveled playing surface, grass berms for seating down both the right and left field lines and a new score board and video board. Also added was a billboard in right field with UA’s 15 CWS appearances and three national titles represented. The left field area behind the grass berm, which is still under construction, is being remade into a Legends Plaza and picnic area. The plaza will honor all the individual award winners at UA, as well as the team members from UA’s 15 CWS teams.
The recently completed/on going renovations are just phase one of a two-part job. On the drawing board are a new entranceway, concourses, concession stands and restrooms. Sun shades over some of the seating areas in the main grand stand and a new press box. Work is scheduled to begin at the conclusion of the 2006 baseball summer camps.
The Home Schedule
Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium will be the site of 30 regular season home games in 2006. Since moving to the corner of Enke and National Championship Drive in 1967 the Wildcats have posted 36 home winning seasons, including the last 10 straight. Arizona has averaged 25 home wins a year and is 970-428-4 all-time at the facility.
Doing the Streak
Entering Friday’s game senior Brad Boyer has started the most consecutive games for any of the current UA players (65 straight), while junior Jason Donald carries over a four-game hitting streak from the 2005 season. While the four-game streak might be modest now, Arizona’s last two school record 28-game hitting streaks were started in one season and carried over to another. Ernie Durazo had a hit in his final three games in 2000 and his first 25 in 2001, and Jeff Van Houten ended the 2004 season with seven straight games with a hit and then added to his total over the first 21 straight games of 2005.