The Wildcats will open the Pac-10 season this Thursday-Saturday against USC in Los Angeles ... Arizona has put together a 41-43-1 record on the opening weekend of conference play since joining the Pac-10 in the 1979 season ... The Wildcats swept defending national champions Oregon State in Tucson in the league opening series last year ... Since the Pac-10 North and South merged in 1999 Arizona has opened conference play against the Trojans one other time. The Cats hosted the Trojans and took two of three from them in Tucson in 2003.
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
The Wildcats went to Tempe to take on No. 1 Arizona State in a Grand Canyon State showdown. The Sun Devils downed the Cats 6-5 in the non-conference game at Packard Stadium ... Arizona committed a pair of costly errors that led to two earned runs and couldnˇ?t plate the tying run despite getting a runner on third with less than two outs in both the sixth and ninth innings ... The bottom three hitters in the UA batting order (2B Mike Weldon, SS Bryce Ortega and C Dwight Childs) went a combined 4 for 11 with five RBI and two runs scored.
? The Wildcats took two of three from the visiting Cal State Fullerton, winning the three-game series opener 8-3 and Saturdayˇ?s series-clincher 6-2 ˇ? Sundayˇ?s 10-7 loss snapped UAˇ?s 12-game winning streak and was the Wildcats first defeat since opening day ˇ? The series victory was UAˇ?s fifth in five tries this season ˇ? On Friday Arizona broke a 40-year old record for consecutive shutout innings. The Wildcats, who blanked all three opponents at the Whataburger Classic March 7-9 in Corpus Christi, Texas, rode the arm of ace Preston Guilmet for 7 2/3 shutout frames against the Titans to extend the scoreless streak to 34 2/3 straight innings, breaking the 1968 clubˇ?s previous record of 33 ˇ? Offensive Numbers: The Wildcats batted .314 as a team and hit six doubles, three triples and two home runs in the series ˇ? UA saw its streak of 12 straight games with at least one home run come to an end on Saturday ˇ? Sophomore Mike Weldon made a push for more playing time, going 3-for-3 with two triples, a double, three runs scored and a RBI in two appearances (one start ) ˇ? True frosh Bryce Ortega went 2-for-3 in his lone start before getting scratched due over the final two games to an ankle injury suffered in Fridayˇ?s opener. The first-year Wildcat led UA to come-from-behind victory on Friday, delivering the go-ahead runs on two-run single in the eighth ˇ? T.J. Steele (.250, 3 R, 1 RBI) and Brad Glenn (.222, R, 2 RBI) both hit solo home runs in the series. It was Steeleˇ?s fourth of the year and Glennˇ?s first ˇ? C.J. Ziegler (.333, 2 R, 2 2B) finished with three RBI to push his team lead to 22 for the season ˇ??Pitching Numbers: The Wildcat pitching staff posted a 3.67 ERA in 27 innings of work ˇ? A week after posting 39 Ks against just three walks, the UA arms displayed impressive control again against the Titans with 23 punchouts vs. five walks ˇ? RHP Preston Guilmet (7 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K vs. CSF) extended his walk-free streak to 22 2/3 innings in a 7 2/3 inning, seven-strikeout performance against CSF. Dating back three starts, Guilmet has 30 strikeouts against no walks and has an 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the year (33-to-3) ˇ?. The right-hander did not earn a decision against CSF despite limiting the Titans to two earned runs on four hits on Friday ˇ? Closer Jason Stoffel blew his first career save on Friday (he was 10-for-10 entering Friday), but rallied to pick up his first win of the season ... Left-hander David Coulon (5 1/3 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K) picked up his team-leading fourth win of the season in a solid 5-plus inning outing on Saturday ˇ? Relief ace Daniel Schlereth dominated behind Coulon on Saturday, tying his career-high with seven strikeouts in three innings of work. The left-hander posted his first save of the year to move him two away from tying Mark Melanconˇ?s career record of 18.
The 2008 Wildcats broke the 1968 clubˇ?s 40-year old school record for consecutive shutout innings last Friday against Cal State Fullerton. Seven different pitchers (Preston Guilmet - 16 2/3 IP, David Coulon - 8 IP, Ryan Perry - 7 IP, Daniel Schlereth - 1 IP, Eric Berger - 1 IP, Jason Stoffel - 1 IP and Grayson Adams - 1 IP) combined to help snap the previous mark and catchers Dwight Childs (26 2/3) and Daniel Butler (8) were on the receiving end of all 34 2/3 innings. During the scoreless streak UA pitchers allowed just 14 hits, struck out 46 and walked only three.
Arizonaˇ?s loss on Sunday to Cal State Fullerton dropped the Cats from No. 1 to No. 2 in the weekly Baseball America?poll and from No. 2 to No. 4 in the Collegiate Baseball rankings. The Wildcats remained second in both the USA TODAY/ESPN Coaches and NCBWA polls and third in the Rivals.com rankings.
Arizona ?vs. USC - The All-Time Series
The Wildcats and Trojans have met 203 times on the baseball diamond dating back??to the first contest in 1921. USC leads the all-time series 106-96-1.
Cats-Trojans - The Last Time Out
Arizona and USC met up for three Pac-10 games in Tucson last season. The Wildcats won the series opener 5-2 behind a complete-game effort from ace Preston Guilmet, but the Torjans snapped a four-year series losing streak by taking the final two games. USC downed UA, 7-5, to knot the series up and then took the rubber game, 4-2, to win a weekend tilt for the first time since 2002.
A Quick Look at USC
The Trojans enter their first conference series of the season licking the wounds of a four-game losing streak to a pair of very good teams ... USC dropped a midweek contest to No. 13 UC Irvine on March 11 at Dedeaux Field and were swept in a home and away series against No. 9 Long Beach State last weekend ... Offensively USC heads into play against the Wildcats hitting .298 as a team, while averaging 6.5 runs, 10.2 hits and 5.8 RBI per game ... Roberto Lopez has been the Trojans top hitter, batting a team-best .424 with six doubles, 13 RBI and 14 runs scored ... Hector Rabago leads USC with three homers and is tied with Lopez for the team lead with 13 RBI ... On the mound USC will throw LHP Tommy Milone (2-1, 2.13 ERA) on Thursday, RHP Kevin Couture (1-0, 3.24 ERA) on Friday and RHP Ryan Cook (2-1, 5.04 ERA) on Saturday ... The Trojans enter the series with a 4.62 team ERA and 127 strikeouts in 148 innings pitched.
The Wildcats are hitting .329 as a team and are averaging 9.5 runs, 11.4 hits, 2.0 doubles, 0.9 triples, 1.5 home runs and 8.5 RBI per game ... Entering the week of play, UA led the Pac-10 in batting average (.334) and triples (13), while striking out the fewest times of any of the nine league teams (75) ... Individually three different players are batting over .400 for the year, seven different players have scored 13 or more runs and seven already have double digit RBI thus far.
Well Done Weldon
Sophomore Mike Weldon has done nothing but impress thus far. The second-year infielder is batting a team-best .600 (9-for-15) with two doubles, three triples, 11 RBI and seven runs scored despite making only four starts. In his last two starts (vs. No. 20 Cal State Fullerton on March 15 and at No. 1 Arizona State on March 18) Weldon is 5-for-8 (.625) with a double, two triples, three RBI and three runs scored. He got the season kicked off in an impressive fashion with a pinch-hit two-run single to start a come-from-behind victory at Georgia in the third game of the year.
In a Pinch
The Wildcat replacement players have been at the top of their game this season. UAˇ?s pinch hitters are batting a combined .421 (8 for 19) with two triples, 11 RBI and six runs scored. Additionally the Wildcats have used six pinch runners this season and all six have made their way around the bases and eventually scored.
Diallo Dials it up
After not starting UAˇ?s first three games of the season sophomore Diallo Fon has forced his way into the leadoff spot and the starting left field position. The second-year Wildcat entered the week of play leading the Pac-10 in batting average (.450), and was second in slugging percentage (.900) and fifth in on base percentage (.511). Fon has 18 hits on the season, of which 11 are for extra bases (six doubles, three triples and two home runs).
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 13 of their 15 games played thus far and has gone yard multiple times in six contests to amass an impressive 23 for the year. C.J. Ziegler has led the charge with eight fence-busters and is followed by T.J. Steeleˇ?s four, Jon Gastonˇ?s three and Dillon Bairdˇ?s, Colt Sedbrookˇ?s and Diallo Fonˇ?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 23rd homer of the season last year until their 35th game.
Senior C.J. Ziegler has 19 hits, a .328 batting average and leads the team in both homers (8) and RBI (22) this season. Noteworthy numbers in-and-of themselves; however, itˇ?s the type of hits that he has put together that has been most impressive. The second-year Wildcat has seen 15 of his 19 total hits go for extra bases (79%). He has six doubles and a triple to go along with his eight home runs thus far to lead the Pac-10 in slugging percentage (.926)
With all of the pitching and hitting flying around by the top-ranked Wildcats, true freshman Bryce Ortegaˇ?s introduction has gone largely unnoticed. Since taking over the starting shortstop role on March 4 against UNLV, the first-year Wildcat is batting .417 (10 for 24), with two doubles, five RBI and seven runs scored. Ortega hasnˇ?t been hacking away at pitches either, showing a keen eye with six walks against just one strikeout thus far. Defensively, he committed his lone error against the Rebels in his second start, but has been flawless on his last 20 chances.
Boosted by the school record shutout streak the Wildcats enter the weekend of play with a 3.45 team ERA in 133 innings pitched ... The Cats have punched out 147 hitters this season and walked only 42 for a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3-to-1 ... Opponents are hitting just .239 against the UA arms this season.
Arizona ace Preston Guilmet has been doing just that. The junior right-hander has a disgusting 11-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (33-to-3) this season and has not issued a single free pass in his last three starts - a span of 22 2/3 innings pitched.
Now Thatˇ?s More Like It
Friday (Thursday) ace Preston Guilmet was roughed up for eight runs - four earned - on seven hits and three walks in just four innings in the season-opener at Georgia on Feb. 22. Since then the right-hander has reverted back to the form that earned him numerous postseason accolades in 2007 and even more preseason recognition heading into the 2008 campaign. In his last three starts Guilmet is 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA, 30 strikeouts, zero walks and a .175 opponent batting average. He was named the national pitcher of the week by both USA Baseball and Collegiate Baseball?after his March 7 start vs. South Alabama in which he tossed eight shutout innings, struck out a season-high 12 with no walks and did not give up a hit over his final 5 1/3 innings pitched.
Guilmetˇ?s Starts This Season
Feb. 22 at Georgia????????????????????????????????L, 4.0 IP, 7 H, 8 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 3 K
Feb. 29 vs. Sac State????????????????????????????W, 7.0 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 11 K
March 7 vs. South Alabama???????????????W, 8.0 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 12 K
March 14 vs. CS Fullerton??????????????????ND, 7.2 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 7 K
Saturday (Friday) arm David Coulon has been the Wildcats most consistent starter three weeks into the season. The southpaw enters his fourth start of the year 4-0 with a starter-best 2.28 ERA in 23 2/3 innings pitched, is second on the team in strikeouts with 30, has walked only six hitters and is allowing the opposition to hit just .186 off of him. He was named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week and the Proline National Pitcher of the Week by the NCBWA after dealing against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on March 8. Coulon was perfect through the first four innings, allowed just one hit over eight shutout innings and tied his career-high with 11 punchouts against just one walk in his third win of the year.
Coulonˇ?s Starts This Season
Feb. 23 at Georgia????????????????????????????????W, 5.1 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 8 K
March 1 vs. Sac State??????????????????????????W, 5.0 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 7 K
March 8 at TAMU-CC????????????????????????W, 8.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 11 K
March 15 vs. CS Fullerton??????????????????W, 5.1 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 4 K
Arizona relief ace Daniel Schlereth has been mowing down the opposition this season. In a team-high nine appearances the left-hander is 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA and a .167 opponent batting average. Schlereth tied his career-high with seven strikeouts in three innings of work last weekend against Cal State Fullerton and has recorded 26 total punchouts this season to account for 63% of the outs recorded in his 13 2/3 innings pitched.
Arizona closer Jason Stoffel has been the man coming on late in games for the Wildcats during his one-plus seasons at UA. The sophomore right-hander is 10-for-11 in save tries dating back to last season and has tallied a flawless 6-0 record during his Wildcat career. This season Stoffel has a Pac-10 best five saves in seven appearances, a 1.00 ERA and 11 Ks in nine innings of work. Last year as a freshman Stoffel allowed just one earned run in 12 Pac-10 appearances, went 5-0 and posted five saves in five tries. In the Wichita Regional in the postseason he struck out 11 of the 16 hitters he faced in three appearances.
The crowd of 3,398 on opening day against Sac State on Feb. 29 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 crowd of 4,250 against Cal State Fullerton on March 14 was the largest at Kindall Field since the Cats hosted top-ranked Texas on March 4, 2005 (4,644).
Itˇ?s On Like Donkey Kong
Last weekendˇ?s three-game series against Cal State Fullerton began what might be the busiest stretch of baseball in UAˇ?s 100-plus years of play. The Cats hosted the Titans for three games March 14-16, took Monday off before traveling to Arizona State on Tuesday for a single non-conference game. UA has packed its bags for the 2008 Pac-10 opener against USC in Los Angeles this Thursday-Saturday. The Wildcats then get Easter Sunday off before heading back out on the road on Monday, March 24, to Stillwater, Okla., for a midweek two-game set against Oklahoma State on Tuesday and Wednesday before returning home for a home conference three-game set against UCLA March 28-30. Total tally for the final 18 days of March - 12 games, three travel days, three days off and zero days of practice. Once the month of March comes to an end, all Arizona has to then face is an April slate of 20 games in 30 days.