TUCSON, Ariz. - With the first week of classes upon them, the Arizona baseball team has returned to Tucson to begin another run at Omaha and the College World Series. Unlike last season, when Arizona lost a couple of players right before the start of school, all of the players that were expected to attend the first days of classes this year did so.
The Wildcats return nearly all of the position players that made UA’s first trip to Omaha in 18 years last season. Among the returning players are junior catcher Nick Hundley, junior first baseman Jordan Brown, sophomore shortstop Jason Donald, junior third baseman Brad Boyer, junior outfielders Trevor Crowe and Derek Decater, as well as senior right fielder Jeff Van Houten. Other returning position players include Chris Frey and Bill Rhinehart
On the mound, juniors John Meloan and Kevin Guyette and sophomore Mark Melancon return to anchor what will be a very young group of arms. Meloan is coming off a sophomore season that saw him go 10-0 to become just the third pitcher in school history to go undefeated with 10 or more decisions during a season and the first to do so since Don Lee went 15-0 in 1956.
A total of 23 newcomers dot the fall roster, including much-needed pitching help in Matt Baugh, Eric Berger, David Coulon and Mike Koons. With the graduation of senior Moises Duran, a spot in the infield has opened with Bryan Kervin and Jason Seefeld among the incoming players that will contend for it. Freshman Kenny Williams is one of three new outfielders on the roster that will look to make an impact this year.
Highlighting the summer accolades was Crowe’s gold medal with Team USA at the FISU II World University Baseball Championship in Tainin, Taiwan. The junior, who played in 24 of Team USA’s 25 games, batted .295 with eight doubles, three triples, 11 RBI, 11 runs scored and a team-high-tying five stolen bases.
In collegiate summer league action Brown was named all-league in the Cape Cod League. Arizona’s team leader in home runs last season with 13, he batted .319 with five home runs and 28 RBI this summer for the Orleans Cardinals. He also started at first base for the East Division All-Stars.
Other Wildcats playing in the Cape were Donald (.206, 10 R, 4 2Bs, 2 HR) and Boyer (.282, 21 R, 3 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 17 RBI), who both played from the Cotuit Kettleers. Junior’s Guyette and Meloan were scheduled to play in the Cape this summer, but decided to rest their arms after Arizona’s run to the College World Series in June.
Returning Wildcats Frey, Rhinehart and Melancon all took the field this summer for former volunteer assistant coach Jeff Casper in the Northwoods League in Minnesota. Playing for the Duluth Huskies, the trio of Wildcats helped lead the team to the championship game of the league. Arizona teammate Hundley played for the Alexandria Beetles and batted .293 with 12 doubles and four home runs.
Along with professional signees Koley Kolberg, John Hardy and Richard Mercado, Arizona will be without the services of a pair of players from the 2003 roster who have decided to transfer. Senior Pat Reilly has moved on to Nevada-Reno and senior reliever Derek Rodriguez will play against the Wildcats this year as a member of the UNLV pitching staff.
Casper Moves On
Four-time UA letterwinner and three-year volunteer assistant coach Jeff Casper has accepted a full time position as the pitching coach on the staff at Yavapai Junior College in Prescott, Ariz.
New Volunteer Assistant Coach
Casper’s departure has paved the way for new volunteer assistant Andy Diver (rhyems with Shiver) to join the coaching staff. Diver joins the Wildcat coaching staff after spending the last two seasons as the head coach at LA Harbor Community College. Diver was named the South Coast Conference Coach of the Year in 2003.
Fall Ball Schedule
The Wildcats are scheduled to play three weeks of what will be a very competitive fall season beginning on Oct. 1. Arizona will have intra squad games at least four times a week during the fall season, which will be open to the public and media.