No. 6 Arizona Faces Road Test at No. 8 Rice
The Arizona baseball team (13-2) opens a two-game mid-week series at Rice (13-4) tonight at 6 p.m. CDT.
March 13, 2012
|2012 Arizona Baseball
March13-14, 2012 | Houston, Texas | Reckling Park
No. 6 Arizona Wildcats (13-2, 0-0 Pac-12) @ No. 8 Rice Owls (13-4, 0-0 CUSA)
|Tuesday, March 13 • 6 p.m. (CDT) • Reckling Park • Live TV: CSS
RHP Lucas Long (2-0, 1.80) vs. RHP Andrew Benak (2-0. 1.04)
|Wednesday, March 14 • 6:30 p.m. (CDT) • Reckling Park • Live TV: CSS (Houston only)
TBA vs. TBA
|Some Series Themes
|Following a 15-game homestand to begin the season, Arizona (13-2) steps away from Hi Corbett Field carrying a current eight-game winning streak into Houston ... Rice (13-4) salvaged a Sunday win at No. 2 Stanford on Sunday after dropping the first two showdowns, but returns home to Reckling Park where the Owls are a comfortable 9-0 this season ... A return trip for the Wildcats, who hosted Rice for two games in the first-ever meetings between the schools last March (teams split the two games) ... A series that is sure to draw some national attention to see how things shake out, even if the mid-week dates take a bit of a damper off the games as front-line pitching rests up for the weekend ... UA's first road games since narrowly missing out on a College Station Regional title last June in the Lone Star State ... The Cats turn around to open Pac-12 play against Washington State in Tucson on Friday ... A stark contrast in offensive styles ... The Cats have just two home runs on the year, but are 40-for-51 in stolen base attempts, while the Owls have belted 13 home runs and are just 9-for-16 in stolen base tries ... A Rice lineup that has drawn 80 walks (4.7 per game) faces a UA staff that has issued only 35 (2.33).
||Baseball America Rank: UA 6th, Rice 8th
|Game Notes (PDF)
|2012 Media Guide
Television: Tuesday's game will be broadcast on the CSS network and the Comcast Network. Matt Stewart will provide the play-by-play commentary and will be joined by analyst Steve Sparks. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. CDT. Wednesday's contest will be shown live at 6:30 p.m. on CSS in the Houston area only and on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic. The game will be replayed across the entire CSS network on Thursday at 7 p.m.
A Look Back: Arizona and Rice met on the diamond for the first time in the respective histories of both programs last March 1-2 in Tucson. The Wildcats entered the series ranked No. 17 by Baseball America while the Owls were tabbed No. 21. The teams split the two games, with the host Wildcats winning the Tuesday tilt, 10-8, and dropping the Wednesday match, 11-7 ... In Game 1, Arizona jumped out to an 8-0 lead, before seeing Rice tie the game in the top of the eighth at 8-8. That did not last long as Robert Refsnyder hit a two-out RBI double and Josh Garcia followed with an RBI triple to give the Cats the decisive 10-8 victory ... In Game 2, the Owls overcame a 3-1 deficit with an eight-run fourth inning to take a commanding 9-3 lead and never looked back ... In the two games, Joey Rickard led Arizona offensively as he went 5-for-10 with three runs scored and an RBI. Josh Garcia led the Wildcats with five RBI over the two games and Cole Frenzel and Seth Mejias-Brean each had three runs scored. Arizona pitching gave up 24 hits, 16 walks and hit two batters, surrendering 19 runs over the two games. Regular weekend UA starters Kurt Heyer and Kyle Simon started both games on limited pitch counts, and combined to throw 5.2 innings with just one run allowed and eight strikeouts.
Arizona Head Coach Andy Lopez: The Wildcats are coached by Andy Lopez, who is now in his 11th season with a 368-231-1 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 1,055-649-7 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.
Coaching Legends: Arizona head coach Andy Lopez and Rice head coach Wayne Graham have combined to win an astounding 1,980 ballgames. Lopez (1,055-649-7 in 30 years) reached the 1,000 career wins benchmark in 2010 and has led three programs to the College World Series, including Arizona in 2004. Graham (925-365 in 21 years) is just 75 victories shy of the historic four-digit wins number, all of which have come/will come at Rice. Amazingly, in over 3,000 combined games coached, the two coaching legends have faced off just twice - the two meetings in Tucson a year. Lopez is coaching his first games ever at Rice this week.
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: Through 15 games, Arizona ranks 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.
Streaks of Note: Arizona's current eight-game winning streak is its longest since a 15-game streak in 2010 (March 7-27) ... Robert Refsnyder has hit safely in all 15 games in 2012, and has an overall 17-game streak dating back to the end of last season ... Seth Mejias-Brean has reached base in 14-straight games and has an eight-game hitting streak ... Joey Rickard has reached base in 10-straight games and also has an eight-game hitting streak ... Trent Gilbert has reached base in 12-straight games ... Alex Mejia is riding a seven-game hitting streak ... Johnny Field has hit safely in the last six games.
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 11-1 and hitting .365 as a team, having raised the overall batting average more than 100 points to the current .343 clip. Nine different players are hitting over .300 during the stretch (min. 20 AB) and none of UA's regulars are below .273. The hottest hitter as been freshman designated hitter Joseph Maggi (.478), but juniors Alex Mejia (.400) and Joey Rickard (.392) are not far behind. Mejia has six extra base hits in the current run of games, including the club's only two home runs, to go with 13 runs scored and 13 RBI. Meanwhile, Rickard has roped six doubles and has a dozen runs scored and a dozen RBI. In fact, seven Wildcats have 12 or more RBI in the last 12 games. Pretty balanced production.
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.
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 his total of 33 leads the Pac-12 Conference and ranked tied for most in the nation entering the week. 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 (4-0, 11 career starts), Wade has thrown 65.2 innings with a 2.06 ERA (15 ER), including just five earned runs in his last six starts dating back to the end of last season.
Moore Production: Freshman catcher Riley Moore has adjusted nicely after a slow start at the plate. Moore, who is hitting .295 overall, is 11-for-27 (.407) in the last 10 ballgames. In that span, he has racked up three doubles and a triple, to go with six runs scored and nine 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.
Welcome Home: Freshman catcher Anthony de Jesus has yet to play for the Wildcats, but he will be on the travel squad with the club to his hometown of Houston this week. De Jesus starred at Fort Bend Stephen F. Austin High School, graduating last spring. As a senior, he was named All-District and was a second team All-Houston honoree. A team captain, De Jesus pitched a no hitter last April in an 11-1 victory over Bush. De Jesus also played football and basketball.
Welcome Home Part II: The only other Texan on the Wildcats' roster is junior right-hander Tyler Hale, who travels to play in his home state for the third consecutive season. From Abilene, Texas, Hale has been a key contributor as a starting pitcher and as a reliever in his collegiate career. As a freshman in 2010, Hale started the Wildcats' third game at the Fort Regional against Baylor. In that game, Hale threw a marvelous seven innings and scattered three hits and established a career high with seven strikeouts. He did not factor into the decision. Last June, Hale also started in the postseason at the College Station Regional, but was struck on his throwing arm in the third inning and forced from the game. He has since made a full recovery from the injury that required off-season surgery. On the year, he has a 9.00 ERA in 4.0 innings pitched, but all four runs allowed game in a mid-week start against Utah Valley. Out of the bullpen, he has tossed 1.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen in two appearances.
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.
Rob is Rollin': Junior right fielder Robert Refsnyder ranks third on the club in batting (.407), slugging (.552) and on-base percentage (.486). Refsnyder leads the club with 17 RBI, including the game-winning walk-off single last Sunday against Eastern Michigan. Refsnyder is second on the team with 16 runs scored and is tied for the most stolen bases (8-for-9) with Joey Rickard. The Laguna Hills, Calif., native has a base hit in each of UA's first 15 games to open the season, and has an overall 17-game streak dating back to the end of 2011.
Field Days: Sophomore left fielder Johnny Field is off to a blistering start in 2012. Through 15 games, Field is second on the club in overall hitting (.434), slugging (.566) and has the top on base percentage (.537). He collected two doubles and a triple as part of a four-hit opening day against North Dakota State. He's continued the torrid pace even when opposing pitchers have opted to pitch around him. Field has drawn a team-high 12 walks and has been hit by one pitch in his 66 plate appearances so far. He leads the club with 17 runs scored and is tied for second in hits (23).
SMB Delivers: Junior third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean has settled nicely into the No. 5 spot in the batting order. Through 15 games, Mejias-Brean is hitting .322, sparked by a 8-for-21 (.381) pace over the last five games. The Tucson, Ariz., native is one of two Wildcats (Refsnyder) to collect to have (15) scored and RBI (15) on the young season. Mejias-Brean has four doubles and a pair of triples, to go with five stolen bases (in five attempts) on the season. Against Eastern Michigan on Sunday, Mejias-Brean's eighth-inning RBI single tied the game 8-8 in the bottom of the eighth and set up a walk-off victory an inning later.
Maggi Makin' Noise: Freshman Joseph Maggi has started as the Wildcats designated hitter in six of the last seven games, an opportunity he has taken advantage of. A left-handed hitter, Maggi has collected nine hits in the six starts, hitting at a .429 pace. As the No. 9 hitter in the lineup, Maggi gives some flexibility to turn the lineup over for the top of the lineup. Maggi has benefitted by getting on base and scoring six runs, plus he's driven in four. Maggi has yet to play as a fielder, but is a natural outfielder who can also play first base.
Fearsome Foursome: Juniors Alex Mejia, Seth Mejias-Brean, Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard have combined to make 518 starts in 529 total games played. They have missed a combined three games in their careers, with Rickard playing in all 132 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 669 base hits and 381 runs scored, hitting .329 (669-2034) as a group.
Long Time: Freshman Lucas Long turned in a stellar 6.2 innings of shutout baseball in his first collegiate start on March 6 against UC Davis. Long earned his first win as a starting pitcher, set a career-high with sevens strikeouts and did not walk a batter while scattering six hits. On the season, Long has made four total appearances and has 15 strikeouts against four walks. Opponents are hitting just .218 against him in 15.0 innings. He has a record of 2-0 and an ERA of 1.80 entering this week.
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 .333 career hitter, once on base, Rickard is a threat to steal and has 37 career stolen bases. In 2012, Rickard is hitting .377 with 16 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 .390 with 14 RBI to go with 14 runs scored.
.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.
On Deck: Arizona begins Pac-12 Conference play as it welcomes Washington State to Tucson for a three-game series (March 16-18). The series begins on Friday evening at 6 p.m. (MST) at Hi Corbett Field.