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Baseball Season in Review
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 07/05/2006
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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Season In Review

The Arizona baseball team got off to a pretty good start, stumbled through the middle portion of its scheduled and came up just a win or two short of a fourth straight NCAA berth with a strong finish.

        The Wildcats opened the season in February 8-4 with series wins over Loyola Marymount, UC Riverside and La Salle. The lone shortcoming in the first month of the season was a 2-1 series loss to New Mexico.

        March proved to be a rough go for the Wildcats as they dropped six in a row for the first time since the end of the 2003 season (albeit the six losses were to then undefeated No. 15 Mississippi State on the road and No. 7 Cal State Fullerton at home) and finished with a 3-9 record in 12 games in the month.

        April opened the way March closed, with Arizona dropping road series to Cal and Oregon State 2-1 and a home three-game set to UCLA. A 2-1 series win over Stanford buoyed the Wildcats efforts and paved the way for a successful close to the season.

        Over the second half of April and the entire month of May, the Wildcats battled to a 12-8 record, including a five-game win streak to end the year, to lift them just one victory shy of a winning overall record and into sole possession of fourth place in the conference standings at an even 12-12.

 

Something Build On

The Wildcats finished the 2006 season with a five-game win streak. Arizona took two of three games from Arizona State and swept USC on the road to equal the longest string of victories for the year. The offense provided a big spark during the five-game streak, batting .360 and averaging 11.2 runs, 13.4 hits, 2.2 doubles, 2.2 home runs and 9.6 RBI per game. A total of eight different players batted over .300 during the streak, including four with an average of .400 or better.

 

Home Protection

It took a pair of victories in the final two home games of the year, but Arizona protected a 10-year string of winning seasons at Kindall Field with a series win over Arizona State. Taking two of three from the Devils on May 19-21 handed the Wildcats a 16-15 home record for the year. UA last failed to record a winning record on its home field in 1995 when it went 14-19.

 

Draft Plans

As expected, a number of Arizona players were selected in the annual MLB First Year Player Draft. Junior Jason Donald started it off for the Wildcats, getting selected in the third round by Philadelphia Phillies. Classmate Mark Melancon, a top-tier pick prior to the season, but who missed nearly two months with a sore elbow, slipped to the New York Yankees in the ninth round. Senior Brad Boyer, a 14th-round pick by Seattle Mariners in the 2005 draft, rounded out the first-day selectees when he was tabbed by the San Francisco Giants in the 13th round of the ?'06 draft. Junior Brad Mills, a second-team Academic All-Pac-10 selection in civil engineering, was the final UA player taken when his name was called by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 22nd round.

        Arizona also fared very well when only two players from the incoming signing class were taken by MLB teams. Outfielder Drew Rundle from Bend, Ore., was taken by the Chicago Cubs in the 14th round, and Tucsonan right-hander Taylor Lewis was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 28th round.

 

Offensive Numbers

The Arizona offense batted .305 as a team in 2006, and averaged 7.4 runs, 10.8 hits and 6.6 RBI per game.

 

Offense Turned It On

After bottoming out at a season-low .266 team batting average at Cal on April 1, the Arizona offense found its stroke the rest of the way. In the 30 games after the contest against the Golden Bears, the Wildcats batted .334 as a group and  averaged  8.8 runs, 12.4 hits, 2.1 doubles, 1.1 home runs and 7.8 RBI per game, well above the overall season averages noted above. The  offensive surge raised the team batting average from .266 to its final .305 mark, a 39-point swing.

 

Come On Back

Unlike the 2006 season in which Arizona had to replace nearly all of its offensive punch, the 2007 Wildcats will welcome back a bevy of talented hitters. In fact, UA returns 61 percent of its runs, hits and doubles from last season, as well as 56 percent of its triples, 77 percent of its home runs and 66 percent of its RBI.

        Among the core of returning players for the 2007 season will be senior Bill Rhinehart (.333, 58 H, 40 R, 14 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 48 RBI), juniors Colt Sedbrook (.339, 65 H, 48 R, 8 2B, 5 3B, 6 HR, 34 RBI) and Matt Denker (.333, 18 H, 9 R, 3 2B, 2 3B, 12 RBI), as well as sophomores T.J. Steele (.312, 54 H, 33 R, 13 2B, 5 3B, 33 RBI), Jon Gaston (.297, 47 H, 39 R, 4 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 28 RBI), Brad Glenn (.288, 53 H, 38 R, 11 2B, 10 HR, 32 RBI), David Plante (.271, 39 H, 22 R, 4 2B, 6 HR, 37 RBI) and Travis Peep (.432, 16 H, 10 R, 2 2B, 6 RBI).

 

All In a Day’s Work

The Arizona offense exploded for 29 runs on 27 hits in a 25-run win over Washington State on May 13. The Wildcats scored a season-high 13 runs in the fourth inning alone and tied the previous season-high with eight runs in the seventh in the 29-4 victory. Arizona set school records for the most runs scored in a Pac-10 game (29), the most RBI in a Pac-10 game (29) and the most at-bats in a nine-inning Pac-10 game (50). UA collected three doubles, three triples and two home runs in the win.

 

Two Games, Two States, One Day

The Wildcats participated in a truly unique experience in early April. Playing in Berkeley, Calif., on April 1, the second game of a double header against Cal was halted due to darkness and the lack of lights at Evans Diamond. With the score tied 4-4 in the 12th inning, the end of the contest was postponed until Sunday morning at 10 a.m. The solution wouldn’t have presented any problems except for the fact that Arizona had already checked out of its hotel, had a 7:40 p.m. flight to Phoenix and was scheduled to play in-state rival Arizona State 650 miles away at Chase Field that same Sunday afternoon. Below is a timeline of Arizona’s unique two games, two states, one day adventure.

Saturday, April 1

8 a.m. - Arizona checks out of hotel, departs for Evans Diamond

10 a.m. - Cal and Arizona play game one of a double header, UA wins 5-1

2:45 p.m. - Second game of DH begins

6:30 p.m. - Game halted in 12th inning with the score tied 4-4 due to darkness

7:30 p.m. - Arizona checks back in to hotel, cancels flight and re-books airfare for Sunday

Sunday, April 2

8 a.m. - Arizona checks out of hotel for a second time, heads back to Evans Diamond

10 a.m. - Game from Saturday resumes in the top of the 13th

10:11 a.m. - Cal wins 5-4 on Brian Nesbitt’s one-out, walk-off home run in the 13th

10:45 a.m. - Arizona departs via bus for the Oakland airport

12:30 p.m. - Arizona splits up and boards two different flights to Phoenix

2:30-3:00 p.m. - Arizona arrives in Phoenix, gathers luggage and heads to Chase Field

3:30 p.m. - Arizona arrives at Chase

3:45 - 5:07 p.m. - Arizona misses batting practice, but warms up and takes infield /outfield

5:07 p.m. - Challenge at Chase begins

8:41 p.m. - Backed by an eighth-inning grand slam by David Plante, UA defeats No. 10 ASU 12-8

9:30 p.m. - Arizona departs via bus for Tucson

11:45 p.m. - Arizona arrives home at McKale Center

 

Powering Up

After hitting just eight home runs in the first 23 games of the season, and on pace for one of the worst HR seasons in school history, the Wildcats saw a surge in pitches going over the fence. In Arizona’s last 32 games of the year, it quadrupled its home run numbers with 35 bombs to raise its total to a respectable 43 for season.

        Individually, freshman Brad Glenn led the home run charge by hitting eight of his team-leading 10 homers over the last 32 games, while classmate David Plante added six more. Junior Bill Rhinehart and sophomore Colt Sedbrook chipped in with five apiece, while junior Jason Donald hit four home runs in the final 32 games and freshman Jon Gaston three. Konrad Schmidt and Brad Boyer added two each.

 

Second to One

Brad Glenn’s 10 home runs in 2006 put him in some pretty select company in the annals of freshmen years at Arizona. By reaching double-digit figures he became just the third first-year Wildcat to do so. Former Wildcat All-American Shelley Duncan clubbed an astonishing 20 home runs in 1999 to lead the freshman record book and 1986 CWS hero Dave Shermet hit 10 in 1985.

 

Putting Runs Up

The Wildcats scored at least one run in all 55 games in 2006, marking the first time since 1998 that UA was not shut out at least once during a season. Dating back to last year, the Wildcats have scored at least one run in their last 73 straight games.

 

26-Straight

Junior Jason Donald wrapped up 2006 and his UA career with a season-high 26-game hitting streak. Beginning on April 9 at Oregon State and running through the end of the year, Donald batted .368 (43 for 1117) with 10 doubles, a triple, four home runs, 25 RBI and 22 runs scored during the streak. It was the most consecutive games with a hit in Donald’s three-year career at UA (nine, twice) and helped boost his season average 41 points from .291 to .332.

 

Maybe It Was Contagious

Perhaps it was coincidence, maybe it wasn’t, but during Donald’s 26-game hitting streak seven other Wildcat hitters hit over .300 during that same time span. Travis Peep (.457) and T.J. Steele (.400) hit over the .400 mark, while Colt Sedbrook (.366), Bill Rhinehart (.388), Matt Denker (.351), Brad Glenn (.327) and Brad Boyer (.342) all saw more success at the plate during Donald’s streak. As a team, Arizona hit .341 with 56  doubles, 17 triples, 31 home runs and 212 RBI over the last 26 games.

 

He Was More Than Just Target Practice

Sophomore Colt Sedbrook, UA’s single season HBP leader (see note below), was probably the most-improved player on the Arizona roster by the end of the season. Arizona’s leading hitter with a .339 season average, he was the lone player on the UA roster to start all 55 games for the Wildcats and played in six different spots defensively (all four infield positions and left and center field). Along with leading the team in average, he showed an all-around game that left among the top five players on the UA roster in slugging (.526, 3rd), on-base percentage (.455, 1st), runs (48, 2nd), hits (65, 3rd), triples (5, t2nd), home runs (6, t2nd), total bases (101, 3rd), walks (20, t2nd), sac flies (6), t1st), sac bunts (12, 1st) and HBP (26, 1st). In Arizona’s final 16 games, Sedbrook batted .371 (23 for 62) with two doubles, a triple, five home runs, 21 RBI and 20 runs scored.

 

Forged in Pac-10 Play

Freshman T.J. Steele may have been taking part in his first go-around in the Pac-10 conference, but the first-year Wildcat certainly didn’t show it. In fact, his numbers against the Pac-10 were so far different then those against non-conference competition it’s startling. In 21 conference games, Steele batted .418 (28 for 67) with seven doubles, 13 RBI and 21 runs scored. In 30 out-of-conference games, the outfielder managed just a .245 average (26 for 106), with six doubles, 20 RBI and 12 runs scored.

        Steele led the conference in batting average in Pac-10 contests (.418), and finished among the top 10 players in conference-only games in slugging (.552, 8th), on-base percentage (.467, 4th), runs scored (21, 10th) and doubles (7, t6th). He finished the 2006 season with a personal-best eight-game hitting streak

 

Chalk It Up

Senior Brad Boyer wrapped up his Arizona career much like the way he opened it - Scoring runs. The four-year starter came around to score at least one run in 18 of UA’s last 21 games, including a pair of straight steals of home, and scored in 39 of the 53 games he played in 2006. The recent run, pun intended, boosted Boyer into some very exclusive company in the annals of Arizona baseball history. His 218 career runs scored makes Boyer only the fourth player in Arizona history to tally 200 or more at UA. Against Washington on April 30 he moved past former teammate Jeff Van Houten for fourth on career list and he finished just two runs shy of tying Les Pearsey for third on the list.

Top Run Scorers in School History
1 Dave Stegman 1973-76 287
2 Chip Hale 1984-87 246
3 Les Pearsey 1975-78 220
4 Brad Boyer 2003-2006 218

 

Grand Theft

In addition to his run-scoring prowess, Brad Boyer has also finished his career as one of the most successful base stealers at UA. With 73 career stolen bases, Boyer finished fourth all-time at Arizona.

 

Change For a Dollar

Midway through the 2006 season junior Bill Rhinehart got together with assistant coach Mark Wasikowski and made a change to his approach at the plate. The alterations paid off handsomely as the first-year starter exploded over his final 28 games played. After bottoming out at a season-low .250 batting average at Cal on April 1, Rhinehart went on a 14-game hitting streak in which he collected 22 hits in 54 at bats (.407) with 18 RBI and 19 runs scored. He lost the streak with a hitless game at Washington on April 30, but even the minor setback couldn’t hold him down. In his final 13 games played, Rhinehart batted .375 with three home runs, 19 RBI and 14 runs scored. In Arizona’s 29-4 win over Washington State on May 13, Rhinehart led all players with five hits, four RBI and four runs scored, and he added a four-hit game, including his first career grand slam, against USC in the series finale on May 28.

 

The Nine Hole

The last spot in the batting order was one of the most productive for Arizona in 2006. The No. 9 hole in the order saw the 11 players that hit there post a batting order-best .362 average (72 for 199) with 41 runs scored, 35 RBI and two home runs this season.

 

Wearing It

When T.J. Steele was plunked with the bases loaded against Southern Utah on April 25, it pushed the Wildcats into uncharted territory in the annals of school history. Steele’s third HBP of the year was the 70th overall for Arizona as a team, eclipsing the former school record of 69 set in 55 games in 2002. The Wildcats went on to be hit an additional 27 times to establish the new highwater mark at 96.

 

It Didn’t Last Long

Jason Donald’s stay atop the single season list for getting hit by pitches was a short one. Sophomore teammate Colt Sedbrook displaced his junior teammate in the record books in less than one season when he was hit for the 20th time against Southern Utah on April 26. Sedbrook went on to get hit by a total of 26 pitches in 2006 and finished first in the nation among all Division I players with a 0.47 HBP/game average. Donald, the all-time HBP leader at UA with 39, was hit by 19 pitches in 55 games last year to set the now-broken record. To put things further in perspective, Sedbrook’s 26 HBP in 2006 places him alone in third on the all-time career list at UA, just six behind Kenny Korley for second and 13 behind all-time leader Donald..

 

Bulls Eye

Getting plunked in back-to-back ABs against La Salle on Feb. 25 moved junior Jason Donald past Kenny Corley for the top spot on the all-time HBP list at Arizona. Donald, who was hit by 10 pitches his freshman season and by 19 last year, has been hit by 10 pitches in 54 games in 2006 for an all-time high of 39. To put Donald’s record-breaking wayward pitch magnetism in perspective, Corley’s former record of 32 was set in 201 games played over four seasons (1995-98). Donald was hit by 39 pitches in three seasons and 177 games played.

 

Oh So Close

Arizona was just a couple of runs away from  being a sub-.500 team to a force in college baseball. In seven losses to No. 3 Cal State Fullerton, No. 6 Nebraska and No. 19 Mississippi State, six were by two runs or less, including a pair of one-run losses. For the year, 12 of Arizona’s 28 losses were by two or fewer runs. The Wildcats dropped seven games by one run and five by two. Hey a key hit here or there and who knows?.

 

One Pitch, One Swing, Two Accomplishments

Freshman Jon Gaston hit the first collegiate pitch thrown to him over the right field fence at Kindall Field in UA’s season-opener against LMU on Feb. 3. The home run marked the first time since Nick Hundley in 2003 that a UA player homered in his first career at-bat. Hitting the home run as pinch hitter, Gaston’s HR was also the first for a replacement batter at Arizona since Dallas Haught went yard for the Wildcats as a PH against Washington State on 4/19/2003.

 

Pitching Numbers

The Wildcats posted a 5.41 team ERA in 490 1/3 innings pitched, and finished with 484 strikeouts against 238 walks.

 

Sitting Them Down

All 10 pitchers that threw for the Wildcats finished with more Ks then BBs, including five with a better then a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. As a team, UA averaged 8.9 strikeouts per game. As a comparison, the 2005 staff, which struck out a school record 554 batters in 60 games averaged 9.2 K/nine innings. Arizona punched out double digit hitters in 22 of 55 contests, including a season-high 17 against Cal on April 1.

 

Keeping the Streak Alive

The opposition collected 591 hits against Arizona in 2006, but it came up one base knock shy of snapping a five-year streak of the Wildcats holding their opponents below the .300 mark for team batting. The opposition batted .299 in 2006 against the injury-riddled Wildcats, barely enough, but enough to keep the streak alive at six-straight. The last year Arizona pitchers allowed their opponents to hit .300 or better against them was in the 2000 (.308).

 

Pressing On

Any team that lost not only its Friday starter (Eric Berger, elbow), but its closer (Mark Melancon, elbow) as well, would certainly struggle, and Arizona was no exception to that in 2006. With the loss of Berger for the season and relief expert Melancon for an extended time (the two regularly combined for about 14 of the 27 regulation innings pitched over a weekend), a number of Arizona pitchers were thrust into different roles in 2006. True freshman Preston Guilmet went from being the Saturday starter to the Friday guy. Left-handed junior Brad Mills was also been bumped up a day, from Sunday to Saturday, and fellow southpaw David Coulon went from the bullpen, where had been pitching well for the Wildcats, into the Sunday starting spot. Left-handed transfer Daniel Schlereth went from a match-up/set-up reliever out of the bullpen to the closer.

 

Run of the Mills

Junior Brad Mills emerged as one of the top pitchers on the UA staff. After only accumulating only 23 1/3 innings in his first two years at UA, Mills tossed 82 1/3 innings in 2006. His 4.70 ERA was the best for all starting pitchers, and his six wins on the mound led the team. Mills also played a part in two of UA’s four shut out wins. The left-hander blanked Notre Dame over five innings at the Metrodome in a 2-0 win over the Irish earlier this season, and he went a season-high eight innings in Arizona’s 15-0 whitewashing of Washington on April 29.

 

Schlereth Steps Up

With the loss of all-time saves leader Mark Melancon, fellow Coloradan Daniel Schlereth was called on to fill the closer role. The southpaw did that and a little more. In 23 appearances he went 3-1 with a team-best seven saves. He finished the season with a 4.56 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 47 1/3 innings. Schlereth’s seven converted saves in 2006 were the most by any freshman pitcher in school history. He eclipsed the former freshman-best of four saves set by David Blake in 1987.

 

Melancon Shuts ?'em Down

Before being shut down for the final seven weeks of the season with an ailing elbow, junior Mark Melancon was nearly unhittable. In the first weekend of the season he moved into the top spot on the all-time saves list at UA and he finished the season with four conversions to push his career total to 18. Take away the one start he made in 2006 (5 IP, 6 R) and his bullpen totals finished like this - 3-2, 4 saves, 2.10 ERA, 34 1/3 IP, 45 K, 13 BB.

 

Renovations Replay

The offseason prior to the 2006 campaign 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 scoreboard. 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 scoreboard 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.

 

Into the Record Books

A number of different players made their mark in both the single season and career record books. Here’s a look:

Career Batting
Games Played
7. Brad Boyer  216
At Bats
2. Brad Boyer 857
12. Jason Donald 712
Runs
4. Brad Boyer  218
Hits
7. Brad Boyer  265
Doubles
14. Jason Donald 46
t15. Brad Boyer 45
Triples
t3. Brad Boyer 26
Hit By Pitch
1. Jason Donald 39
3. Colt Sedbrook 26
t4. Brad Boyer 21
t25. Brad Glenn 12
Sac Bunts
t19. Colt Sedbrook 12
Sac Flies
2. Brad Boyer 20
Stolen Bases
4. Brad Boyer 73
Extra Base Hits
14. Brad Boyer  82
Total Bases
t8. Brad Boyer 395
Career Pitching
Games Ptiched 
4. Mark Melancon 77
Saves
1. Mark Melancon 18
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