Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Cats Welcome Tigers to Hi Corbett Field
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: February 23, 2012
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Feb. 23, 2012

2012 Arizona Baseball
Feb. 24-25, 2012 | Tucson, Ariz. | Hi Corbett Field
Auburn Tigers (3-2, 0-0 SEC) @ No. 8 Arizona Wildcats (3-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
Friday, Feb. 24 •  6 p.m. (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field    UA Radio: None
RHP Derek Varnadore (1-0, 1.29) vs. RHP Kurt Heyer (1-0, 1.29)

Live Video (All-Access)

Saturday, Feb. 25 •  2 p.m. (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field    UA Radio: None
RHP Daniel Koger (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Konner Wade (0-0, 2.45)

Live Video (All-Access)

Saturday, Feb. 25 •  6 p.m. (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field    UA Radio: None
LHP Slade Smith (0-1, 9.64) vs. RHP James Farris (1-0, 0.00)

Live Video (All-Access)

Some Series Themes Quick Links
(South) East meets (South) West in a rare meeting between two rather established programs from prestigious conferences ... The lone previous meeting between the schools was won by the Tigers in Stillwater, Okla., in 1993 ... Both clubs get an early season test of pitching depth following mid-week tilts and a scheduled double-header on Saturday ... Aggressive base-running appears to be a constant for each side, if 33 stolen bases in nine combined games is any indication ... A pair of Friday starters - UA's Kurt Heyer and AU's Derek Varnardore - have identical 1-0 marks and 1.29 ERA's following their first starts ... The Cats will look to ignite a fire under some of their younger players who have yet to heat up at the plate ... The Tigers bring with them a balanced lineup that is hitting a collective .350 ... UA has played just nine players all season in its offensive lineup, while AU has 12 players who have started a game and has 15 with an at-bat ... The Tigers have two home runs on the year, while the Wildcats seek their first ... In fact, only North Dakota State has mustered a four-bagger at spacious Hi Corbett Field in four games. Baseball America Rank: UA - 8th
Game Notes (PDF)
Season Statistics
2012 Media Guide
Pac-12 Standings
Auburn vs. Arizona Statistical Comparison  Arizona Statistical Leaders
Auburn Stat Arizona Stat Player
3-2 (0-0 SEC) Record 3-1 (0-0 Pac-12) Avg. Johnny Field (.700)
.350 Avg. .270 Hits Robert Refsnyder (8)
41 Runs 25 Runs Robert Refsnyder (6)
57 Hits 34 RBI Seth Mejias-Brean (6)
18 2B 8 2B Johnny Field (3)
1 3B 1 HR None
2 HR 0 OB% Johnny Field (.833)
20-24 SB-ATT 13-16 SLG% Johnny Field (1.200)
.460 OB% .381 SB Robert Refsnyder (5)
.509 SLG% .349 ERA Farris, Crawford, Troupe (0.00)
2.51 ERA 3.75 IP James Farris (9.0)
32  K's 29 K's  Konner Wade (13)
Arizona Baseball Game Notes:

Arizona Head Coach Andy Lopez: The Wildcats are coached by Andy Lopez, who is now in his 11th season with a 358-230-1 record at the school. He has guided the Wildcats to postseason competition in seven of the last nine years, including two straight NCAA regionals and highlighted by a 2004 College World Series appearance. The Wildcats have won at least 30 games in five straight years and in nine of Lopez's 10 seasons at the school. Overall, Lopez has more than 1,000 career victories, one national championship and four College World Series appearances. Lopez owns a career record of 1,045-648-7 in 30 years as a head coach, including stints at Cal State Dominguez Hills (1983-88), Pepperdine (1989-94), Florida (1995-2001) and Arizona (2002-present). Lopez led Pepperdine, Florida (twice) and Arizona to College World Series appearances. His total victories are 13th-most among active coaches and he is just one of just 45 individuals to reach 1,000 career victories.

May 28, 1993: The only previous meeting between Arizona and Auburn was on May 28, 1993, in Stillwater, Okla., where the Wildcats and Tigers bet in the opening game of the NCAA Midwest Regional. The Tigers thumped the Wildcats, 9-1, that day, behind a complete game by John Powell who scattered seven hits and struck out 14. Arizona starter Rob Ippolito was roughed up for eight runs on eighth hits in 2.2 innings, and the Wildcats couldn't mount a rally except for a single run in the bottom of the ninth inning to avoid a shutout. For the Wildcats, John Tejcek and Jason Thompson collected five of the team's hits. The Wildcats went on to win three straight games before eventually falling in the regional championship game to host Oklahoma State, 11-10.

Diamond Notes: Three Wildcats - Robert Refsnyder, Joey Rickard and Johnny Field - have reached base in all four games ... Of those, Refsnyder and Field have a base hit in all four games ... Seth Mejias-Brean leads the club with two multi-RBI games and has six on the season despite his .267 batting average ... UA is hitting .255 with runners in scoring position early, but is also limiting opponents to a .208 average with RISP ... Two-out hitting has been mostly non-existent for the Cats, who are hitting .250 in such situations and have been outscored by foes 6-4 in two-out RBI ... Tuesday's game last 3:35 minutes after an opening weekend that saw all three games played under three hours ... UA has yet to use a bench player at bat or defensively this season, playing the same starting nine in every inning ... Opposing pinch-hitters are 1-for-4 against the Cats ... UA totaled 11 base hits combined in their first two games of the year, but have 23 total in their last two tilts ... UA hitters have drawn 20 walks and struck out 20 times, while UA pitchers have registered 39 strikeouts and issued only 10 walks ... The Cats have stolen 13 bases in 16 attempts, with Robert Refsnyder (5-for-5), Joey Rickard (3-for-3) and Brandon Dixon (3-for-3) leading the way without getting caught ... UA has turned four double plays in its four games to open the year.

Heyer Standards: Junior Kurt Heyer enters his third season as the Friday starter for the Wildcats. He is a two-time All-Pac-10 honoree and has been tabbed as preseason third-team All-American by Collegiate Baseball and is on the preseason watch list for the Golden Spikes Award. As a sophomore, Heyer tied for the most starts in the nation (20) and ranked fourth nationally with 134 strikeouts. The 6-foot-2 right-hander tallied double-digit strikeouts six times in 2011, and has done so nine times in career.

An Even 250: Kurt Heyer made his 2012 debut last Friday night and registered seven strikeouts over seven innings against North Dakota State. The seven punch-outs moved his career tally to 250, which is believed to be the second-most in the nation for active pitchers (research courtesy Troy Prendergast at Troy University). Heyer's 250 strikeouts in two-plus seasons are 33 shy of breaking into the school's career top-10 list in the category. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native boasts a 16-9 record and a 2.73 ERA in his career.

Fearsome Foursome: Juniors Alex Mejia, Seth Mejias-Brean, Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard have combined to make 476 starts in 485 total games played. They have missed a combined three games in their careers, with Rickard playing in all 122 games and missing only one start. It's been a very consistent a productive group that has helped guide the Wildcats to consecutive NCAA Regional appearances. Together they have accumulated 602 base hits and 334 runs scored, hitting .324 (602-1856) as a group.

Strong Starts: Perhaps the most encouraging results from opening weekend were produced by Arizona's weekend starting pitchers: Kurt Heyer, Konner Wade and James Farris. Heyer turned in seven complete innings with seven strikeouts on Friday, while Konner Wade set a new career high with 13 strikeouts in 7.1 innings on Saturday and James Farris tossed a complete game shutout in his first career start on Sunday. Added together, the starting rotation accumulated a 1.16 ERA in 23.1 innings. The trio registered 26 strikeouts against four walks and scattered 12 hits.

Fantastic Debut: Sophomore RHP James Farris was brilliant in his first career start and guided the Wildcats to a key series-clinching 8-0 victory on Sunday afternoon. After throwing just one-plus innings in two appearances as a freshman, Farris took to the mound as a starter for the first time in his career and hurled a complete game shutout. In nine innings, Farris allowed just five base runners - all on singles. Farris struck out a career-high six opposing batters and did not walk or hit a batter. UA needed every bit of his control through much of the game as the Wildcats mustered just one run in the first five innings, taking a 1-0 lead into the seventh before eventually breaking through for seven more runs.

`K'onner Wade: Sophomore RHP Konner Wade turned in a sensational outing in his first start of the season. Wade shattered his previous career high of seven strikeouts with 13 in the no-decision effort last Saturday. The 13 punch-outs were nearly half of the 28 he tallied in 61.2 innings pitched as a freshmen. Despite not factoring in the decision, Wade gave up just two runs on two hits and a pair of walks. In his career as a starter (9 career starts), Wade has impressive overall numbers. In 51.1 innings, Wade has a 2.45 ERA, including just four earned runs in his last four starts dating back to the end of last season.

Freshmen Arms: The Wildcats have trotted out three freshmen pitchers from the bullpen this season and each has done one thing very well: throw strikes. Lucas Long, Mathew Troupe and Tyler Crawford have combined to throw 8.0 innings without issuing a walk. The three classmates have scattered seven hits and fanned eight hitters, while allowing a combined two runs. It's impressive early work for the youngsters, who could quickly move ahead of some upperclassmen if the early-season trends continue.

Field Days: Sophomore leftfielder Johnny Field is off to a blistering start in 2012. Through four games, he leads the Cats in batting (.700), slugging (1.200) and on-base percentage (.833). He collected two doubles and a triple as part of a four-hit opening day last Friday night against North Dakota State. Since, opposing pitchers have pitched around the clean-up hitter. Field has drawn a team-high seven walks and has been hit by one pitch in his 18 plate appearances so far. He's second on the team with five runs scored.

Long Relief: Facing a 4-1 deficit and in a jam with runners on the corners and just one out, freshman RHP Lucas Long was called in from the bullpen to make his collegiate debut against Utah Valley on Tuesday night. The result was a momentum-changing double-play that ended the threat and kept the Wildcats in the game. Long went on to pitch 5.0 innings in which he surrendered just two runs, scattered four hits, struck out six and, most importantly, walked none. His effort gave the Wildcat hitters a chance to heat up at the plate as UA eventually rallied and prevailed 12-6. It was Long's first career pitching victory.

Switch-Hitting Mejia: Junior shortstop Alex Mejia made his debut as a switch-hitter over opening weekend, but hopefully it is a short-lived development. Mejia sprained his left (non-throwing) wrist a couple weeks before the season opener, and swinging right-handed causes more pain for him than doing so from the left side. So he picked up a bat in batting practice last week and starting swinging left-handed to give his wrist more time to heal. He hit mostly from the left side during opening weekend, but did switch to the right-side for more critical at-bats during the series. He tallied a base hit from the left side in his first game last Friday, and then collected one from each side of the plate in Sunday's game. For the weekend, Mejia went 3-for-9 with a run and an RBI. On Tuesday, Mejia again hit from both sides of the plate. His decision to hit from either side is predicated more on situation of the game rather than righty-lefty matchups.

Turnstiles Turning: The turnstiles were turning all Opening Weekend at Hi Corbett Field. Friday night's opener drew 3,997 fans to mark UA's largest home crowd in four seasons. Over the three games, a total of 8,870 fans passed through the gates. The figure is nearly 25 percent of the 36,412 that attended 33 home games a season ago. On the national scale, UA's opening weekend figures ranked No. 15 for total attendance and No. 17 for per-game attendance (2,956). The Wildcats drew 1,694 to their Tuesday mid-week contest with Utah Valley.

Veteran Presence: Juniors Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard and sophomore Johnny Field are off to strong starts in the 2012 campaign. The three outfielders have combined for 22 of the team's 34 hits to date, and have scored 16 of the club's 25 runs. Field leads the club in average (.700), slugging (1.200) and on-base percentage (.833), Refsnyder leads in runs scored (6) and stolen bases (5), and Rickard leads in walks (4) and is second in on-base percentage (.579). Junior third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean, despite a .267 average, leads the club with six RBI.

Table-Setter: Joey Rickard has been the team's leadoff batter and starting centerfielder since he arrived on campus. He's been a speed-guy at the top of the lineup that also can provide some power and run-producing abilities, evidence by 38 extra base hits and 90 RBI in his career. A .331 career hitter, Rickard has shown a bit more patience at the plate early this season, drawing four walks to go with his seven hits. That's currently an increase from the 22 free passes he drew in 60 games as a sophomore. Once on base, Rickard is a threat to steal and has 32 career stolen bases.

Career Benchmarks: Joey Rickard, with five runs scored on the season, ha surpassed 100 career runs scored and currently stands at 101. Rickard has 90 career RBI ... Robert Refsnyder, with five RBI this season, has reached 100 RBI for his career ... Refsnyder, who leads the club with five steals this season, has also pushed his career tally to 20 in that category .... Four Wildcats have over 100 career hits, including Refsnyder (160), Rickard (168), Alex Mejia (146) and Seth Mejias-Brean (128).

Buckle Up: Arizona opens the season with 25 games in a span of 39 days. Of those, 23 contests will be at Hi Corbett Field, with a mid-week trip to No. 6 Rice (March 13-14) the only scheduled road games. The Wildcats, who opened the 2010 season with 25-straight home games, play 35 of their 55 regular season games at home in 2012.

.300 Club: Arizona led the Pac-10 and ranked No. 3 in the nation in 2011 with a .320 team batting average, which extended the program's streak to nine consecutive seasons with an overall batting average of .300 or better. In 2011, UA hit .321 as a team which was the best clip for a Wildcat team since 2005, when a veteran squad turned in a blistering .328 average. The 2003 club - Andy Lopez's second year - also hit .328, while the 2009 club hit .314. Other marks include .306 in 2007, .305 in 2006 and in the 2004 College World Series season, and .301 in 2008.

Tough to Strikeout: One thing the Wildcat hitters hope to continue in 2012 is be a tough team strike out. In the first four games, UA hitters have struck out 20 times (5.0 per game). In 2011, Arizona struck out the fewest times per game of any conference team (4.9 per game). Interestingly, Arizona has seen its total number of strikeouts drop in each of the last four seasons. UA dropped its strikeouts from a high of 413 in 2007 to 405 in 2008, then down to 388 in 2009, 337 in 2010 and ultimately last year's 294 mark. In total, the Wildcats have seen their strikeouts decrease by more than 100 per season over the last several years.

New to the Nine: Freshmen Riley Moore and Trent Gilbert have started each of the four games at catcher and second base, respectively. Offensively they combined for just four, which can be attributed to some early jitters, but three have come in each of the last two contests. Both have clean left-hand hitting strokes that will surely heat up as they gain more and more experience. Both looked more comfortable each day defensively, which is perhaps most important to the club in their early development. Moore is a talented player that turned down the Phillies who drafted in the 21st round last summer. A switch-hitter, Moore is a natural left-handed hitter that will balance out the Wildcats' batting order. Gilbert is a left-handed hitter too that played shortstop in high school. He, too, turned down pro waters, after the marlins drafted him in the 40th round last summer.

Up Next: Arizona will settle into a week of practices before hosting Harvard for a three-game series at Hi Corbett Field beginning next Friday night, March 2, at 6 p.m.

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