March 29, 2010
TUCSON, Ariz. - The Arizona baseball team's 15-game winning streak may have been snapped by Oregon on Sunday, but it was more than enough to gain the respect of national publications that cover collegiate baseball as the Wildcats are now a consensus top-25 team.
A week ago, Collegiate Baseball Newspaper vaulted Arizona (20-5, 2-1 Pac-10) into its top-25, tabbing the Wildcats No. 19 in the nation. After going 4-1 last week, including winning a conference series against Oregon, the Wildcats are ranked No. 18 in the latest poll.
The Wildcats sustained success attracted the attention of two other major polls, including Baseball America's Top 25 and the USA Today/ESPN Top 25 coaches' poll. Arizona was slotted No. 22 by Baseball America, which highlighted the Wildcats late last week as a surging team. The USA Today/ESPN Top 25 coaches' poll places the Wildcats No. 20 in its poll released on Monday.
Arizona's hot start to the 2010 season can be traced to several key factors, most notably the Pac-10's leading offense and a much-improved pitching staff from a season ago.
At the conclusion of the weekend's action, Arizona leads the conference in batting average (.372), runs scored (242), hits (341), total bases (473) and stolen bases (61). The Wildcats' on-base average of .451 is second-best in the league, while its .516 slugging percentange checks in third-best. UA has the second-most walks (105), while it has struck out the second-fewest number of times (118).
Individually, three Wildcats rank in the league's top-10 in batting average, including the top overall hitter Jett Bandy (.470), Steve Selsky (.450) and Robert Refsnyder (.435). Freshman Joey Rickard leads the conference with 34 RBI and is fifth with 27 runs scored, while Rafael Valenzuela is third in runs scored with 32.
On the mound, UA boasts a team earned run average of 3.96, much improved over last season's 5.46 mark. UA's staff is fourth in the league with 202 strikeouts, while it has walked just 89 batters. Individually, Kurt Heyer ranks third in the league with 48 strike outs, including a league-best 24 looking. Kyle Simon, who like Kurt Heyer is tied for 10th in the league with four wins, has pitched the second-most innings (44.1) of any pitcher in the conference.
Arizona will hit the road for the first time this season as it battles California (12-10, 0-3 Pac-10) April 1-3. The Thursday-Saturday series will begin on Thursday at 2:30 p.m. at Evans Diamond in Berkeley, Calif.