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Baseball Continues Pac-10 Play at UCLA
Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
Release: 03/26/2009
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Courtesy: Arizona Athletics
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March 26, 2009

Arizona (11-10) at UCLA (7-13)
Los Angeles, Calif.
Steele Field at Jackie Robinson Stadium

Friday, March 27 - 6 p.m.
Saturday, March 28 - 2 p.m.
Sunday, March 29 - 1 p.m.
* Due to Arizona's participation in the NCAA Men's Basketball Midwest Region Semi-Finals, all Arizona baseball radio broadcasts have been cancelled for this weekend to allow radio broadcasts for the basketball games.

Arizona Projected Starters
Friday: RHP Preston Guilmet (2-2, 3.58 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Matt Veltmann (1-3, 9.37 ERA)
Sunday: LHP Bryce Bandilla (2-1, 6.23 ERA)

Some Series Themes: Pac-10 play continues for two programs that had visions of better starts to the '09 season ... UCLA enters the week with a 2-1 Conference record after claiming a series victory against cross-town rival USC last weekend ... Arizona looks to bounce back from a series sweep handed out by its intra-state rival, Arizona State ... The Bruins will be happy to host a home game for the first time in seven games while the Wildcats will continue a two-week road swing to start Pac-10 play ... The Wildcats hold a statistical edge offensively, out-hitting the Bruins .307-273, but the UCLA staff gets the nod allowing opposing teams to hit just .268 against UA's .307 opposition batting average.

ASU Series Recap: Arizona dropped three straight games to Arizona State, losing by scores of 4-1 on Friday, 7-3 on Saturday and 23-9 on Sunday ... The Wildcats struggled offensively and defensively, hitting just .220 as a team in the series and posting a team ERA of 11.62 ... Bright spots for the Cats included Bryce Ortega, who hit .600 (6-for-10), and Dillon Baird, who hit .500 (.5-for-10) ... The duo combined for exactly half of UA's 22 hits in the series and they were the only two players to bat better than .250 at the plate ... On the mound, Preston Guilmet turned in another solid start, but his pitch count got the best of him last Friday and he was chased from the game in the sixth, trailing 2-0 ... Matt Veltmann, in search of his second win, battled through the first couple of innings before being roughed up in the fourth, allowing five runs on four hits in 3 2/3 innings on Saturday ... Bryce Bandilla was the first of a handful of pitchers that struggled on Sunday, as UA yielded 23 runs to the Sun Devils.

Arizona vs. UCLA -- The All-Time Series: UCLA holds a slight advantage in the all-time series, posting a 111-109-1 record in 221 all-time meetings ... The Bruins claimed 2-of-3 from the Wildcats in Tucson in 2008 ... The series dates back to 1927.

A Quick Glance at the Bruins:  UCLA hits .273 as a team and scores 6.3 runs per game ... The Bruins boast a 4.61 team ERA and limit opposing hitters to a .267 average ... The Bruins have outscored opponents 126-116 on the season and have five hitters batting over .300 on the season ... UCLA is slated to throw RHP Gerrit Cole (2-2, 3.24) on Friday, LHP Rob Rasmussen (1-1, 6.23) on Saturday, and RHP Charles Bewer (1-2, 4.00) on Sunday.

Stoffel is No. 1: Jason Stoffel continues to close out games for the Wildcats at a record-breaking clip. In fact, each save he earns the rest of the way in his career will break his own career record for saves. On Feb. 20, Stoffel earned his 19th career save to surpass Mark Melancon as the program's all-time leader in the category. Now, the Baseball American pre-season first team All-American stands alone with 23 career saves.

Hammer Time: Junior closer Jason Stoffel seems to be at his best when the pressure is at its highest. In his career, Stoffel has blown only one save and the righty is 5-for-5 in save opportunities this season. While his overall numbers aren't bad, they are still bit a un-Stoff-like. But looking at those "pressure" situations when he has come on to save a game, Stoffel has been nearly untouchable. In his five saves, Stoffel has pitched a total of 10.0 innings and boasts an ERA of just 0.90. In those innings, UA's all-time saves leader has allowing just one run on five hits. He has struck out a staggering 20 batters and walked only three.

Dillon is Delivering: No hitter in the UA lineup has been hotter than Dillon Baird. The junior first baseman has been on an absolute tear at the plate since returning from a suspension that kept him out of the two games against Oklahoma State (March 10-11) and the first game against Michigan (March 13). In the last seven games, Baird is hitting .579 (11-for-19) with six doubles, a triple and a home run. He is slugging 1.158 over the stretch, and has scored eight runs while driving in eight others. He has also walked once and been hit by a pitch to post a .619 on-base percentage in the last seven games.

National Leaders: Arizona is turning double plays at a record pace entering this weekend's series and the Wildcats lead the nation with 34 doubles plays turned. A season ago, the Wildcats turned only 47 on the entire season. This season's tally of 34 (1.62 per game) projects to nearly 90 on the season, which would break the school record of 81 in a season set by the 1979 club. In fact, the highest total in the Lopez era is the 60 turned by the 2003 team. The current season mark leads the Pacific-10, well ahead of Cal's second-place total of 21.

Feeling the Burns: Senior RHP Cory Burns has been one of the club's top options out of the bullpen early in 2009, having pitched in 16 of UA's first 21 games ... Burns, who has yet to earn a decision on the season, has pitched 19.0 innings and struck out 25 batters ... At his current pace (appeared in 76 percent of UA's games), he would break the UA record for appearances in a single season, which is currently held by Tod Brown, who pitched in 35 games in 1993 (Top-10 can be found on page 63 of UA media guide). Burns has been one of UA's most reliable relievers in recent years and he is quickly moving up the UA career chart for career appearances. To date, Burns has appeared in 70 career games, which ranks No. 7 all-time at UA (Top-10 can be found on page 61 of UA media guide).

Shutting `Em Out: The Arizona pitching staff has combined to throw three shutouts in the last nine games. The Wildcats shutout UMass in the series finale (9-0) and completed bookend shutouts of Michigan last weekend (2-0, 14-0). The 2008 club, which set a school record with 34.2 scoreless innings at one point, threw seven shutouts on the season.

Setting the Pace: One of the pleasant surprises early in 2009 has been the steady play of senior Hunter Pace. The veteran outfielder, who was relegated to a reserve role primarily as a pinch runner early in his career, has started 11 games to date in center field. Pace, who is hitting .378, is second on the club behind Dillon Baird for the top hitting mark on the club and has hit three doubles and a pair of triples. The speedster has stolen 8-of-9 bases and scored 13 runs. Defensively, Pace has played flawless in the field, committing zero errors and recording two assists.

Stacking Up the Pac: Despite the struggles at the plate last weekend at ASU, the Wildcats still rank favorably in the Pac-10 in several offensive categories. Entering the weekend, UA is near the top of the league in almost every offensive category. Here's a look at the numbers:

Category          Stat                  Rank
Batting Ave.       .307                  3
Slugging %        .483                  3
On Base %       .377                  5
Runs Scored     168                   2
Hits                  231                   1
RBI                   147                   2
Doubles            59                     1
Triples               13                     2
Homeruns         16                     5

Taking Form: After a couple of un-Preston-like performance to open 2009, senior RHP Preston Guilmet has begun to take to his old form that has made him one of the top pitchers in Arizona history. In his last three starts, Guilmet has lasted into the sixth or seventh innings and posted a 2-1 record. His ERA has lowered to 3.58 and he has struck out 31 batters in 27.2 innings on the season. Guilmet currently ranks No. 3 in UA history with 357 strikeouts and needs 65 strikeouts to surpass Carl Thomas as the top strikeout pitcher in Wildcat history. He has pitched 353.0 innings in his three seasons at UA, and has a chance to become UA's all-time leader in the category (Ed Vosberg, 405.1). He stands at No. 6 in program history in fewest walks per nine innings at 2.46. Additionally, his 23 career wins are five shy of breaking into the Top 10 at UA. Here's a look at Guilmet's career numbers:

ERA         W-L         App.        GS           CG           IP             H              R              ER            BB           SO
3.47         23-15       58            52            6              353.0       351          165          136          103          357       

They Can Hit, Too: Most know that Arizona junior catchers Dwight Childs and Daniel Butler are among the top defensive players at their positions, but the duo has also shown much improved numbers at the plate. Childs, who hit below .200 a season ago, currently stands at .308 and has a pair of triples to go with two doubles and a home run on the season. His classmate, Butler, is hitting .333 and has driven in 14 runs on the season, which ranks fifth most on the club. Butler also has smacked three home runs, which ties for the team lead. Overall, the duo has combined for a .347 average, to go with 17 runs scored, 19 RBI, four home runs, four doubles and two triples at the catcher position.

Mix and Match: Due to a handful of nagging injuries, head coach Andy Lopez has been forced to shuffle his lineup on nearly a daily basis. In fact, no player has started all 21 games this season. In all, 14 different position players have started a game and all 14 have made at least five starts. Additionally, UA has not used the same batting order (with players hitting in same spot and playing in same defensive position) more than once on the entire season. On the mound, Arizona has used 12 different pitchers, with 11 making at least three appearances.

Swipin' Bags: The Wildcats were second in the Pac-10 in stolen bases with 91 in 2008, and this 2009 version may be in line to challenge that mark. Through 21 games, Arizona has stolen a conference-leading 38 bases and been caught only six times (85 percent). Bryce Ortega (9-for-9) and Hunter Pace (both 8-for-9) lead Arizona in the category, but 11 different players have stolen at least one base.

Hitting in the Clutch: While the season is young, the Wildcats have proven clutch at the plate with runners in scoring position. Arizona is hitting .343 on the season with runners in scoring position, .374 with runners in scoring position and two outs, and .657 with runners on third and less than two outs, which includes scoring 46 runs in 70 chances. On the season, the Cats have driven in 62 runners with two outs in an inning.

Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week: Junior Jason Stoffel was named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Week on March 17 following his dominating work out of the bullpen a week earlier against Oklahoma State and Michigan. Against the Wolverines, Stoffel earned a pair of saves, including a three-inning appearance in the Friday game to help UA to a 2-0 victory, and a five-up, five-down via strikeout affair in the Saturday game to give the Cats a 9-7 win. The right hander pitched 6.1 innings in three appearances on the week, allowing no runs on only hit. He struck out 10 batters and walked none. The weekly honor was the first of his career and the 40th all-time for a UA pitcher.

Young, But Talented: A total of 12 players with no prior Arizona experience have already played key roles for the Wildcats this season either as starters or key reserves. Offensively, Steve Selsky and Jett Bandy have found every day roles in the lineup, while newcomers are in the regular pitching rotation. That does not include Matt Chaffee or Joe Allison, each who are in their second year in the program but making their most significant contributions. Ryan Doyle also made his season debut against Oklahoma State, marking his second career appearance.

Flying Under the Radar: Since Andy Lopez took over the Arizona baseball program the Wildcats have made a return to the national scene. After disappearing nationally nearly all together from 1994-2001, Arizona has made five postseason appearances (2003-05, 2007-08) in the last six seasons, has played for four regional championships (2004-05, 2007-08) - winning two of them (2004 and 2008), won a super regional title (2004), and made its 15th trip to Omaha (2004). Impressive feats on that very basic level, but when you factor in that UA still hasn't hosted a postseason game at home since 1992, the simple fact that Lopez and Wildcats have been able to achieve so much on the road makes it just that more impressive.

Head Coach Andy Lopez: Arizona head coach Andy Lopez enters his eighth season as the Wildcats' skipper with a 259-168-1 record at UA. Now in his 27th season as a collegiate head coach, Lopez has compiled a career record of 948-586-7. Last season, Lopez notched his 900th career victory against Sacramento State and guided the Wildcats to consecutive 40+ win seasons -- a feat the UA program had not accomplished since 1985-86.

24 No More: With the addition of Oregon to mix of Pacific-10 baseball, the Conference season has been extended to a 27-game schedule from its previous 24-game slate. All league teams will play each other three times during the season. Like football, the home-away split will be unbalanced with nine opponents, meaning half the league will have five conference home series, while the other half will only play four at home.

Pitching Has Been Pretty Special: Under head coach Andy Lopez, the Wildcat pitching staff has re-written the record books. Here's a look at some of the notable tidbits:

- Two Pitchers Selected in the First Round of the MLB Draft in 2008
- Four 10-Game Winners Since 2004      
- Nine Different Pitchers Selected in the First 10 Rounds of the MLB Draft Since 2003
- Top Three Strikeout Staffs in School History in Three of the Last Four Years
 - Broke School Record For Lowest Opponent Batting Average in 2007 and 2008
- Four times under Lopez UA has recorded the second-most saves in a season
- Preston Guilmet One of Four UA Pitchers With 300+ Strikeouts
- Top 5 Nationally in Strikeouts Per Nine Innings Last Two Seasons

More Pitching Props: Here's a look at some more pitching marks set by the 2007 and 2008 pitching staffs:

2008 - Set School Record with 572 Strikeouts
2008 - School Record Seven Shutouts Most Since 1976
2008 - Three Pitchers Named All-Pac-10
2007 - Lowest Team ERA in 30 Years (3.90)
2007 - Fewest Home Runs Allowed in 34 Years (20)
2007 - Fewest Hits (516) Allowed in 30 Years
2007 - Fewest Runs (273) Allowed in 30 Years
2007 - Fewest Earned Runs (228) Allowed in 30 Years
2007 - Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year Preston Guilmet
2007 - 386 out of 527 Innings Pitched Were Shutout Innings (73%)

Early Recognition: Several Wildcats have received some notable pre-season media attention and are on watch lists for some of the nation's top honors. Here is the list:

Pre-Season Honors

Jason Stoffel ('09 Junior) - Baseball America Preseason First Team All-American;  BaseballInsider.com Pre-Season Second Team All-American; Louisville Slugger Pre-Season All-American (Third Team), Preseason NCBWA All-American (Third Team), 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List; Rivals.com Pre-Season All-Conference

Preston Guilmet ('09 Senior) - Rivals.com Preseason Top 10 Returning Senior, 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List

Bryce Ortega ('09 Sophomore) - 2009 Brooks Wallace Player of the Year Watch List

 

On Deck: Arizona will return to Tucson and continue Pac-10 action with a three-game series against USC April 3-5.

 

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