Greg Byrne's Wildcat Wednesday
Cats, Cougs Open Pac-12 Play This Weekend
By: Arizona Athletics
Release: March 16, 2012
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March 16, 2012

2012 Arizona Baseball
March 16-18, 2012 | Tucson, Ariz. | Hi Corbett Field
Washington State Cougars (9-6, 0-0 Pac-12) @ No. 6 Arizona Wildcats (14-3, 0-0 Pac-12)
Friday, March 16 •  6 p.m. (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field  •  UA Radio: 1290 AM
RHP J.D. Leckenby (2-2, 3.27) vs. RHP Kurt Heyer (4-0, 0.58)

Audio  •  Webcast

Saturday, March 17 •  6 p.m. (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field  •  UA Radio: 1290 AM
RHP Tanner Chleborad vs. RHP Konner Wade (3-0, 2.70)
Audio  •  Webcast
Sunday, March 18 •  Noon (MST)  •  Hi Corbett Field  •  UA Radio: 1290 AM
TBA vs. RHP James Farris (2-1, 3.55)

Audio  •  Webcast

Some Series Themes Quick Links
Arizona (14-3) and Washington State (9-6) commence the inaugural 30-game Pac-12 Conference slate … Surely an arduous task for whichever school prevails as the eventual champion, with as many as eight schools ranking in the top-25 of the four major collegiate polls entering this week … The Cats and Cougs both split mid-week games on the road at nationally-ranked foes … Two clubs that have played some nail-biters in recent years … No other league teams have turned more double plays than these two in the early season … WSU’s slugging (nine home runs) will get put to the test at cavernous Hi Corbett Field, while the Cats seek their first home run in nine ballgames … Two teams that like to pressure opponents on the base paths (each rank in top-3 in conference for stolen bases) … A very sure-handed Washington State squad (nine errors in 15 games) against a UA team that has been much improved in that category (nine errors in last 11 games) … Spring Break draws to a close on the UA campus this weekend … Baseball America Rank: UA 6th
Game Notes (PDF)
Season Statistics
2012 Media Guide
Pac-12 Standings
Washington State vs. Arizona Statistical Comparison  Arizona Statistical Leaders
Washington State Stat Arizona Stat Player
9-6 (0-0 Pac-12) Record 14-3 (0-0 Pac-12) Avg. Alex Mejia (.403)
.292 Avg. .335 Hits Mejia, Rickard (27)
89 Runs 129 Runs Three players (18)
152 Hits 194 RBI Seth Mejias-Brean (18)
29 2B 36 2B Joey Rickard (7)
8 3B 11 HR Alex Mejia (2)
9 HR 2 OB% Johnny Field (.500)
28-37 SB-ATT 41-54 SLG% Alex Mejia (.597)
.374 OB% .399 SB Refsnyder, Rickard (8)
.431 SLG% .446 ERA Kurt Heyer (0.58)
4.37 ERA 3.08 IP Kurt Heyer (31.0)
107  K's 137 K's  Konner Wade (39)
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 369-232-1 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 1,056-650-7 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.

UA-Rice Recap: Arizona hit the road for its first pair of road games and earned in a split at No. 8 Rice on Tuesday and Wednesday … The Owls took the first game, 5-1, thanks to a four-run first inning and then held off a Wildcat lineup that was unable to capitalize with runners on base, going just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position … The Wildcats evened the series with a come-from-behind, then hold-them-off victory on Wednesday. Rice took an early 3-0 lead, before UA tied the game in the fifth. The Cats then erupted for five runs in the eighth and ninth innings, but their 8-3 lead was trimmed to 8-5 before Mathew Troupe sealed the deal with a game-ending strikeout with the bases loaded … The Cats out-hit Rice 20-13 in the series, with the homestanding Owls collecting just eight hits after the opening inning of the series … The UA bullpen was strong over the two days, combining to allow just two runs on three hits with 10 strikeouts in 10 innings pitched … Wildcat hitters struck out just 12 times, and the two clubs played mostly clean defense with just two combined errors … Seth Mejias-Brean continued to swing a hot stick, collecting five hits, two runs and three RBI, while extending a hitting streak to 10 games … Alex Mejia and Joey Rickard had four hits apiece in the series.

Close With The Cougs: The Cats and Cougs have played their share of close games against each other in recent seasons. Over the course of the last 17 games, UA holds a slim 9-8 advantage in the series. Of those 17 contests, 14 have been decided by two runs or less, including nine one-run ballgames. The three games not decidedly close were UA's 8-1 win in Pullman last May and its 13-6 victory in 2010, and WSU's 9-3 win in 2006. Added up, Arizona holds a slim 99-88 advantage in overall runs score. Interestingly, the host school has swept the series in three of the last four seasons (Arizona in Tucson in 2010 and 2008, and WSU in Pullman in 2009), though the Wildcats took two-of-three in Pullman in 2011.

UA-WSU 2011 Recap: Arizona earned a hard-fought road series win at Washington State last weekend in Pullman, rebounding to win the final two games of the set following a heart-breaking 7-6 loss in 10 innings in the opener ... The Wildcats bounced back with a convincing 8-1 victory in the second game thanks to a sensational complete game effort by Kyle Simon on the mound ... UA captured the series with a 6-4 win in the finale following a five-run rally in the seventh inning to overcome a 4-0 deficit ... The Cats hit just .275 in the three games, but hit .311 with runners in scoring position and picked up six two-out RBI to the Cougars' one in the series ... UA pitching limited WSU to a .245 batting average and a lowly .217 clip with runners in scoring position. The hurlers were particularly strong in two-out situations, yielding three total hits and a .107 average with just one two-out RBI allowed ... UA was aggressive on the bases, stealing eight in nine attempts led by Bryce Ortega's four swipes ... Alex Mejia led the offense with a 6-for-13 combined effort at the plate and three runs scored ... Ortega collected three hits, four walks and five runs scored, while Jett Bandy, despite just one base hit, scored five runs due in large part to being hit by three pitches ... Bryce Bandilla pitched four scoreless innings out of the bullpen in the series and earned the victory in the series-clincher ... Matt Chaffee, who suffered the loss after walking in the winning run in the opener, bounced back with the save to close out the final game.

It’s A Start: Arizona’s 14-3 record to date marks the school’s best start to a season since 1999, when the Wildcats won 14 of their first 16 games. Under Andy Lopez, UA’s best starts have previously been 13-3 records in 2011 and 2008. Lopez’s 2010 club started opened the season 5-4, before enjoying a 15-game winning streak that put its record at 20-4 a few weeks later. Other notable starts in program history included a 16-0 mark under Jerry Stitt in 1998 and a 25-game winning streak to begin the 1956 season under Frank Sancet.

March Madness: We aren’t talking about the NCAA basketball tournament, but rather UA’s busy baseball schedule during the month. Starting on March 2, the Wildcats began a frenzied stretch that includes 18 games in 24 days. Arizona’s only off days will be Monday’s and Thursday’s as the schedule is filled with Tuesday-Wednesday games in each of next three weeks. Fortunately for the Wildcats, only five of the 18 contests are on the road, including two during the mid-week at Rice (3/13-14) and three at Oregon State (3/23-25) to wrap up the stretch of games. By the time the Final Four pairings are set for New Orleans, the UA baseball team will be nearing the half-way point of its schedule at 25 (of 55) games. Three of the six “off days” in the period are scheduled travel days for the Cats, including Monday and Thursday this week.

Ranking the Stats: Entering this week (NCAA stats are updated one per week) Arizona ranked highly in several national statistical categories: The Wildcats, who call the cavernous Hi Corbett Field home, are tied for the national lead with 11 triples … The Cats’ 40 stolen bases are fourth-most in the country … UA’s .343 team batting average ranks No. 6 … The Cats are scoring 8.0 runs per game, a mark that ranks tied for 17th-most in the nation … UA defenders have turned 17 double plays, good enough for 13th-most to date … UA’s pitching staff has surrendered just 2.33 walks per game, a mark that is 15th-best … Konner Wade (36) and Kurt Heyer (33) rank No. 8 and No. 14, respectively, for total strikeouts.

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 10 times in his career. In 2012, Heyer is 4-0 with a 0.58 ERA and 33 strikeouts in 31.0 IP.

Heyer Rings ‘Em Up: Kurt Heyer matched his career high set during his freshman season with 14 strikeouts against Harvard on March 2. Coupled with eight more strikeouts in his next start against Eastern Michigan, heyer has moved his career tally to 276, which is believed to be the most in the nation for active pitchers (research courtesy Troy Prendergast at Troy University). Heyer’s 276 strikeouts are the 10th-most in program history and trail Jim Ward’s 292 (1958-60) and Rich Hinton’s 300 (1967-69) for the ninth and eighth spots, respectively. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native boasts a 19-9 record and a 2.52 ERA in his career.

‘K’onner Wade: Sophomore RHP Konner Wade, the club’s Saturday starter, has reached double-digit strikeouts in three of his four starts this season and has a team-high 39 on the season (his 36 entering the week ranked No. 8 nationally). That’s a bit surprising since he racked up just 28 strikeouts in 61.2 innings as a freshman. Wade, whose career high was seven punch-outs entering the season, shattered the previous mark with 13 in his season debut against North Dakota State on Feb. 18. He followed that up with another 10 strikeouts a week later against Auburn on Feb. 25 and 10 more versus Harvard on March 3. The strong start backs up an impressive summer that saw Wade become a Cape Cod League All-Star mostly as a closer. At Arizona, he’ll remain a starter, a spot he’s had success in during his first two years. In his career as a starter (5-0, 12 career starts), Wade has thrown 71.0 innings with a 2.66 ERA (21 ER).

An Unfamiliar, Yet Familiar Role: An unsung hero from Wednesday’s victory at No. 8 Rice was the relief performance by sophomore Konner Wade. The sophomore right-hander made his first appearance out of the bullpen and was masterful, retiring all nine opposing hitters he faced in three innings of work. He not only shut down the Owls, who had jumped out to a 3-0 lead, but he bought some time for the Wildcats’ bats to heat up. While Wade did not earn a win or save, his performance was as strong as any of his weekend starts to date. Working from the bullpen isn’t anything new to Wade, as he began his UA career as a reliever in the first half of last season and he was utilized as a closer by the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League last summer where he was named the West Division MVP of the league’s All-Star game. Wade racked up 12 saves last summer, just one shy of tying for fifth-most in Cape Cod League history.

Heating Up: Arizona hitters got off to a slow start this year, hitting .242 in their opening three games against North Dakota State. Since, the Wildcats are 12-2 and hitting .352 as a team, having raised the overall batting average nearly 100 points to the current .3355 clip. Nine different players are hitting over .300 during the stretch (min. 20 AB) and none of UA’s regulars are below .261. The hottest hitter has been Alex Mejia, who is 24-for-58 (.414) with 14 runs and and 13 RBI in the 14 contests. He has five doubles, two home runs and a triple, for a team-best .638 slugging percentage during the hot streak. Joey Rickard also has 24 base hits, including six doubles, while Seth Mejias-Brean has been a run-producing machine with a .386 average, 16 runs scored and 15 RBI during the 14-game span.

Stacked Pac: Pac-12 Conference play starts this weekend, and if the national polls are any indication, crowing a champion won’t be easy. Consider that eight teams (Stanford, Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State, California and USC) are ranked in the Top 25 by either Baseball America or the USA Today. Stanford appears to be the clear favorite, not only tabbed by the league coaches to win the conference, but also ranking in the top-3 of all four major national polls (see page 5 of this release). Arizona, picked to finish second in the Pac-12 by the coaches, steadily ranks in the top-13 of all four polls, including No. 6 in Baseball America.

Streaks of Note: Arizona carries an eight-game home winning streak into the Pac-12 opener on Friday … Robert Refsnyder has his 17-game hitting streak snapped on Tuesday (included two games from 2011), but Refsnyder has reached base in all 17 games this year plus the final two a year ago for a 19-game reached base streak … Seth Mejias-Brean has a current 10-game hitting streak and has reached base in 16-straight games … Joey Rickard has a 10-game hitting streak and has reached base in each of the last 12 games … Alex Mejia is working on a nine-game hitting streak … Trent Gilbert as a run of 14 straight games reaching base.

Mejia’s Make Up: Junior shortstop Alex Mejia doesn’t have a physical skill set that wows professional scouts like some other top middle-infielders around the country, but one would be hard pressed to find many players with the tough-minded make up that Mejia possesses. The Sylmar, Calif., native is one of the club’s vocal leaders on the field, but he’s also leading on the stat sheet early this season. His .403 batting average and .597 slugging percentage are the best marks on the team, while he’s also scored 15 runs and has 14 RBI. Mejia has been Arizona’s top hitter in conference games in recent seasons, evidenced by his .365 (70-192) average in 53 league games. That’s a nice jump over his .337 career batting average.

Moore Production: Freshman catcher Riley Moore has adjusted nicely after a slow start at the plate. Moore, who is hitting .288 overall, is 13-for-35 (.371) in the last 12 ballgames. In that span, he has racked up three doubles and a triple, to go with six runs scored and 11 RBI. Moore is a switch-hitter that gives the Wildcats lineup good flexibility in the bottom third of the order where he has been hitting seventh in recent games.

SMB Delivers: Junior third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean has settled nicely into the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Through 17 games, Mejias-Brean is hitting .358, sparked by a 13-for-29 (.448) pace over the last fseven games, which has extending his hitting streak to 10 consecutive games. The Tucson, Ariz., native is one of two Wildcats (Refsnyder) to collect to have at least 15 runs scored and 15 RBI on the season. Mejias-Brean’s 18 RBI are tops on the team, including three at Rice this week. Mejias-Brean has five doubles and a pair of triples, to go with five stolen bases (in five attempts) on the season.

Fearsome Foursome: Juniors Alex Mejia, Seth Mejias-Brean, Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard have combined to make 528 starts in 537 total games played. They have missed a combined three games in their careers, with Rickard playing in all 135 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 683 base hits and 388 runs scored, hitting .329 (683-2077) as a group.

Closing the Deal: Under Andy Lopez, the Wildcats have been dominant in games when they have had a lead late in games. In fact, the Wildcats are 275-24-1 (.919) in the last 300 games when they have a lead after the sixth inning. That covers the last nine full seasons of Lopez's teams that have won at a 92-percent clip in such games. Certainly it has helped having Major League arms in the bullpen. Consider that three players - Mark Melancon, Daniel Schlereth and Ryan Perry - have reached the big leagues in recent years, and another – Cory Burns – may get a chance this season with the San Diego Padres. In 2011, Arizona was 31-4 when leading after six innings. So far in 2012, the Wildcats are 13-0 in such games.

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 43 extra base hits and 100 RBI in his career. A .334 career hitter, once on base, Rickard is a threat to steal and has 37 career stolen bases. In 2012, Rickard is hitting .380 with 18 runs scored and 12 RBI to go with eight stolen bases.

Mejia Muscles Up: Arizona’s first home runs – yes plural – at Hi Corbett Field came off the bat of junior shortstop Alex Mejia, who went 371 at-bats between home runs. Mejia homered just once in his first two seasons – a grand slam against New Mexico on March 24, 2010. His second career homer was a two-run shot that capped a five-run inning for the Cats, who went on to down Auburn, 8-1, on Feb. 24. Mejia’s third career round-tripper came less than 24 hours when he hit another two-run home run against Auburn in a 15-4 victory. The two home runs for Mejia are the club’s only gopher balls of the season to date. On the year, Mejia is hitting .403 with 14 RBI to go with 15 runs scored. His eight extra base hits lead the club.

.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.

Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week: Junior Kurt Heyer was named the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Week on March 6 after he tossed a complete game and equaled his career high with 14 strikeouts in a 7-1 victory over Harvard on March 2. The victory pushed his record to 3-0 with an earned run average of 0.78 in 23.0 innings pitched to open the season. The nine-inning effort was the fourth complete game in Heyer's career and moved him atop the conference with 23.0 innings pitched this season. The 14 strikeouts matched a total he racked up against Washington State on April 16, 2010, during his freshman season. The strikeout tally improved his season total to 25, among the top-five in the conference and he now has 268 punch-outs in his career, which ranks as second-most in the nation for active pitchers. Heyer has won the weekly honor four times in his career.

On Deck: Arizona continues its busy stretch of baseball with five more games next week. The Wildcats host New Mexico State for a pair of mid-week games March 20-21, before playing their first Pac-12 road games at Oregon State (March 23-25).

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