by Jessie Butler, UA Communication Services
When it comes to Arizona Baseball, one quote from head coach Andy Lopez stands out: “As the pitching staff goes, the program goes.”
Being a pitcher for Arizona requires leadership, talent and above all, toughness.
During the fall season, the team has seen numerous pitchers step up in hopes of making the final roster for the spring, which will consist of a staff close to 15.
“So far they are understanding the concept of attacking the hitters, throwing a ton of strikes,” said pitching coach Shaun Cole. “They’re doing a good job of that. Recently, we have to tighten up a few areas with two outs, two strikes and finishing those at bats, finishing those innings.”
Being able to consistently improve is one of the goals for the fall season.
“Like I’ve explained to the pitching staff, if they can handle those two areas, then that translates to me that they are starting to get tougher on the mound and doing the things that we want,” Cole said.
Back again to lead the pitching staff is senior James Farris, who made the decision to finish off his career with Arizona after having been drafted by the Houston Astros.
“It’s great,” said junior pitcher Mathew Troupe. “He’s been here longer than anyone else. He’s the only senior pitcher that we have on the team. It’s big. He’s someone that we all look up to. He knows everything that all of the coaches want.”
Cole adds that Farris makes an impact for the entire pitching staff by his decisions on and off the field with experience.
“Having James come back sets that tone for the younger guys that are maybe considering signing in the draft, that aren’t top 5 round guys, that you should maybe come back and finish your education and get your degree,” Cole said.
On the field, Farris brings to the program three years of active pitching, which will ultimately add depth and leadership to the staff.
“Plus, from an experience standpoint, he played in the College World Series. He has definitely come along as a leader. He has taken it to another level, and he’s leading our guys. He anchors our pitching staff very well,” Cole added.
Besides having valuable players returning, the newcomers are beginning to understand the mechanics of Arizona Baseball as the fall season comes to an end.
“Every fall you have a lot of stuff that you need to work on – the old guys and new guys, of course,” Troupe said. “The best thing about it is how quickly the older guys on the team have gotten the young guys to understand what we’re doing here as a program and not just as a pitching staff.”
As the fall season concludes, understanding what sets Arizona pitchers apart from others is simple: toughness.
“Our pitchers have to be tougher than everyone else on the field,” Cole said. “Everyone is looking at them. It’s one guy on a hill in the middle of the field. Across the board, we are getting guys that are talented and throwing strikes, but do they have that toughness that we’re looking for at Arizona. That’s usually the deciding factor.”
Being tough, in the words of Cole, is not just the physical aspect, but also the mental part of it.
Junior pitcher Tyler Crawford understands the very meaning of being a pitcher for a team striving for yet another World Series title.
“You have to be tough,” Crawford said. “Coach Cole, Coach Lopez--they talk about it a lot. We have to be the toughest ones on the field, because you have the ball every pitch. You need to bet the toughest one out there in high-pressure situations.”
The standards of Arizona pitching remain high leading into the spring season. With intersquad competition at its highest, the toughness of those awaiting an opportunity to make the team can be tested and ultimately decide their future.
“You have to be tough,” Troupe said. “These coaches are riding us every day. We have standards here, and we’re supposed to live up to it. All of the coaches have been here for a while, and they know exactly what they want. It takes a special type of person and baseball player to be in this program.”