No. 8 Arizona (2-1) hosts Utah Valley (1-2) tonight at Hi Corbett Field. Auburn comes to town for three games starting Friday night at 6 p.m.
Feb. 21, 2012
|2012 Arizona Baseball
Feb. 21, 2012 | Tucson, Ariz. | Hi Corbett Field
Utah Valley Wolverines (1-2, 0-0 Great West) @ Arizona Wildcats (2-1, 0-0 Pac-12)
|Tuesday, Feb. 21 • 5 p.m. (MST) • Hi Corbett Field • Radio: None
RHP Adam Gunn (0-0, 0.00) vs. RHP Tyler Hale (0-0, 0.00)
Live Video (All-Access)
|Some Series Themes
|Two familiar foes square off in a single mid-week tilt with the Wildcats set to return the one-game meeting in Orem, Utah, in April ... It's the fifth time in the last six years that the Wolverines visit Tucson ... A contrast of early season schedules with UA playing 20 of its first 25 games at home while UVU opens the year with 18 straight road games ... The Wolverines hit .308 as a team and had five players over .300 ... The Wildcats hit a lowly .242 as a group in their series, with four players at or above .300 ... Pitching depth gets an early examination for both sides with the usual mid-week scrambling to fill out a rotation on short rest ... UA tries to settle into its new home ballpark following a festive but sometimes distracting opening weekend ... The Wildcats seek their first home run of the year, while UVU launched just one last week ... Solid defensive clubs committed just five combined errors in six games to open season ... The Cats swiped nine stolen bases a week ago, led by Robert Refsnyder's five, while yielding just two. UVU stole one base in two attempts ... Arizona looks to settle into its new home field after a festive opening weekend.
||Game Notes (PDF)
|2012 Media Guide
|Utah Valley vs. Arizona Statistical Comparison
||Arizona Statistical Leaders
|1-2 (0-0 Summit)
||2-1 (0-0 Pac-12)
||Johnny Field (.667)
||Robert Refsnyder (7)
||Rickard, Refsnyder (4)
||Robert Refsnyder (5)
||Johnny Field (3)
||Johnny Field (.769)
||Johnny Field (1.222)
||Robert Refsnyder (5)
||Farris, Crawford (0.00)
||James Farris (9.0)
||Konner Wade (13)
|Arizona Baseball Game Notes:
A Look Back: The Wildcats swept the Wolverines a year ago, but that doesn't describe how closely contested the series was ... In the opener, Kurt Heyer struck out 10, but a high pitch count forced him from the game after just five innings. Against UA's bullpen, UVU scored three runs in the sixth to tie the game at 5-5. Robert Refsnyder hit a one-out double and scored on an RBI single by Josh Garcia to give the Wildcats a 6-5 edge in the seventh, a lead they would preserve as Bryce Bandilla earned the save with 1.2 scoreless innings out of the pen ... On Saturday, UVU kept things close but couldn't break through for a lead. UA led 2-0 after three innings before UVU tied the game in the next inning. In the fifth, UA reasserted itself with two more runs, and the Wolverines cut the deficit to just one run in the top of the eighth. But two more euns in the bottom of the eighth gave the Wildcats a 6-3 edge to set game at its final. Kyle Simon earned the win over 7.1 innings pitched with three runs allowed ... The Wolverines struck first in the finale on Sunday, collected three runs in the top of the first off starter Tyler Hale. But Hale and the Wildcats settled in, shutting down UVU the rest of the way. Joey Rickard, Cole Frenzel and Bryce Ortega each had three hits for the Wildcats, who went on to win 9-3 to sweep the series.
Arizona Head Coach Andy Lopez: The Wildcats are coached by Andy Lopez, who is now in his 11th season with a 357-230-1 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 1,044-648-7 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.
Hale Gets The Nod: Junior RHP Tyler Hale gets the start in Tuesday's game against Utah Valley. Hale is no stranger to starting pitching, having been the club's No. 3 starter for much of the 2011 season and made a start in the College Station Regional last June. In that start against Texas A&M in the first regional championship game, Hale was struck by a line drive near the elbow that broke a bone and forced him to leave the game. Fully recovered from the injury, Hale is primed for a strong junior season. He has 12 career starts under his belt and has 83 strikeouts in 96.2 innings pitched in his career.
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.
Settling in: As each game goes by, Hi Corbett Field will begin to feel more and more like home for the Arizona baseball team. But for opening weekend, it sometimes felt like a neutral site. Consider that North Dakota State has played as many games at Hi Corbett Field as the Wildcats, and there were plenty of distractions for the Wildcats with various pregame ceremonies, special guests and even a post-game fireworks show on Friday. It was a great spectacle and the fans came out and droves. But from a baseball standpoint, the Wildcats know they'll feel more comfortable in their new home digs with each passing game. Starting Tuesday, they no longer have to worry about an opponent having played as many games on their home field.
Turnstiles Turning: The turnstiles were turning all 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).
Adjustments to be Made: A .242 batting average isn't much to brag about after three games, so look for the Wildcats to change their approach at the plate going forward. Because of its spacious dimensions, Hi Corbett Field is a place where fly balls go to die. Thus, a premium will be placed on hard ground balls and line drives. In three games against North Dakota State, the Wildcats were put out 36 times by fly balls and 22 times by ground outs. That 1.6 flyball to groundball ratio is an increase over the 1.0 ratio from all of last season when the club a nearly perfectly even split of 580 fly ball outs and 581 ground outs.
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.
Strong Starts: Perhaps the most encouraging results from opening weekend were produced by Arizona's 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.
Starting Fast: After taking two of three games from North Dakota State weekend, the Wildcats have won 18-straight opening weekend series dating back to 1995 and have gone 45-10 on the first weekend of the year during this span ... Dating back 1994, Arizona is 17-2 on Opening Day with the lone losses coming to BYU in 2003 and at Georgia in 2008 ... Under 11th-year head coach Andy Lopez, UA is 28-5 all-time on opening weekend and has won nine-of-11 season-opening games.
Veteran Presence: Junior Robert Refsnyder and sophomore Johnny Field had little trouble adjusting to a new ballpark and the NDSU pitching last weekend as the two combined to collect 13 of the team's 22 base hits. Field rapped out a career-high four hits in the season-opener, including a triple and two doubles, while Refsnyder posted a four-hit day of his own in the finale on Sunday. The only other Wildcats to post a .300 average on opening weekend were juniors Alex Mejia (3-for-9) and Joey Rickard (.300).
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.
Freshmen Arms: The Wildcats have a handful of freshmen arms that give Andy Lopez and his staff depth entering the season, but a pair of rookies in that class stand out: Mathew Troupe and Lucas Long. Both pitchers figure to vie for time out of the bullpen and will contend for starting spots on Sundays and in mid-week games. Two years ago Kurt Heyer emerged as the ace of the staff as a freshman, and a season ago Konner Wade settled into the No. 3 spot in the second half of the year. Interestingly, the only freshman arm to see action in the opening three arms was lefty Tyler Crawford, who turned in a solid 1.1 innings without allowing a run to stop the bleeding in the six-run eighth inning last Saturday. Crawford allowed two hits, but did not issue a walk, which was notable because a pair of juniors ahead of him combined to walk four opponents earlier in the inning.
New to the Nine: Freshmen Riley Moore and Trent Gilbert started each of the three games on opening weekend at catcher and second base, respectively. Offensively they combined for just one hit, which can be attributed to some early jitters. But 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.
.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 three games, UA hitters struck out 13 times (4.33 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.
Up Next: Arizona hosts Auburn for three games this weekend. On Friday, the Wildcats and Tigers are set for a 6 p.m. start at Hi Corbett Field. On Saturday, the two clubs will conclude the series with a double-header set to begin at 2 p.m.