No. 5 Arizona takes on New Mexico State in a pair of mid-week games, beginning on Tuesday at 5 p.m. and wrapping up on Wednesday at 3 p.m. at Hi Corbett Field.
March 20, 2012
|2012 Arizona Baseball
March 20-21, 2012 | Tucson, Ariz. | Hi Corbett Field
New Mexico State Aggies (15-8, 0-0 WAC) @ No. 5 Arizona Wildcats (16-4, 2-0 Pac-12)
|Tuesday, March 20 • 5 p.m. (MST) • Hi Corbett Field
RHP Casey Collins (2-2, 5.27) vs. RHP Tyler Hale (0-0, 5.14)
|Wednesday, March 21 • 3 p.m. (MST) • Hi Corbett Field
LHP Ryan Beck (3-1, 2.00) vs. RHP Lucas Long (2-1, 4.98)
|Some Series Themes
|A regional matchup featuring two programs that have not met on the diamond in a decade ... The Wildcats own a significant historical advantage in the series that dates back to 1917 ... A pair of strong hitting clubs that statistically have found success in different ways ... The Aggies have belted 22 home runs on the season and slug .470, while the Cats have just two homers and are slugging .432 ... A seemingly patient NMSU hitting lineup, evidenced by 142 walks drawn this season, sets its careful eyes on a UA pitching staff that has issued just 53 free passes ... The Cats will swipe some bases (42 steals), while the Aggies take a more cautious approach (11 steals in 13 attempts) ... A combined 12 hitters from the two clubs enter the series with .300 or better batting averages ... The free-swinging Aggies have whiffed 184 times on the year compared to the Cats' 88 strikeouts ... In fact, nine Aggies have struck out 10 or more times this year, while just four Wildcat hitters have hit double digits ... Mid-week games always seem to test the depth of pitching staffs ... The Cats conclude a busy stretch of 18 games in 24 games this week, capped by their first Pac-12 road series at Oregon State over the weekend ... One-dollar hot dog days at historic Hi Corbett Field.
||Baseball America Rank: UA 5th
|Game Notes (PDF)
|2012 Media Guide
|New Mexico State vs. Arizona Statistical Comparison
||Arizona Statistical Leaders
|New Mexico State
|15-8 (0-0 WAC)
||16-4 (2-1 Pac-12)
||Alex Mejia (.400)
||Alex Mejia (32)
||Robert Refsnyder (22)
||Robert Refsnyder (21)
||Joey Rickard (7)
||Alex Mejia (2)
||Johnny Field (.489)
||Alex Mejia (.563)
||Refsnyder, Rickard (8)
||Kurt Heyer (1.23)
||Kurt Heyer (36.2)
||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 371-233-1 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 1,058-651-7 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-WSU Recap: Arizona gritted out a two-games-to-one Pac-12 series victory over Washington State last weekend the hard way ... The Wildcats dropped the Friday night opener, 6-0, then fell behind 5-0 in the top of the first inning in the first game a double-header on Saturday that was forced due to impending weather on Sunday ... UA answered the bell, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first and going on to win 8-7 to even the series ... A few hours later, the Cats captured the series with a 12-9 victory, holding off a relentless WSU offensive lineup ... UA narrowly out-hit WSU (.310-.306), despite the Cougars holding a 22-20 edge in runs scored ... J.D. Leckenby kept the Wildcats off-balance in the opener, combining with two others on a six-hit shutout ... The Wildcats responded in earnest a day later, paced by Robert Refsnyder's 6-for-8 combined effort that included four runs scored and four RBI ... Seth Mejias-Brean chipped in four hits on Saturday and five RBI over the two games to help him earn Pac-12 Player of the Week honors ... UA's pitching staff gave up some hits and some runs, but mostly made the Cougs earn their way on base. Only seven total walks were issued over the three games, including none in Saturday's finale ... That proved critical as WSU's Taylor Ard and Derek Jones went 10-for-18 over the two days, but combined to drive in just six runs ... Despite six errors, the Wildcats turned in some spectacular defensive plays, with Refsnyder's diving catch in the UA bullpen surely a play of the year candidate ... Reliever Stephen Manthei earned the victory out of the pen in both games.
Comeback Cats: A resilient Arizona club has come from behind in each of its last four victories. Here's how they have done it: On March 11 against Eastern Michigan, the Wildcats trailed 8-7 going to the bottom of the eighth. UA answered with a run to tie the game that inning, then won the game on a walk-off RBI single by Robert Refsnyder in the bottom of ninth ... On March 14 at Rice, the Cats trailed 3-2 in the top of the sixth inning before tying the game that inning. They took a 5-3 lead in the eighth and added three more in the ninth, then held on to win 8-5 ... On March 17 against Washington State, UA fell behind 5-0 in the top of the first inning. The Cats tied the game 5-5 in the third, then went down a run in the fifth. Still trailing by a run going to the bottom of the seventh, UA scored three runs to take the lead before holding on to win 8-7 ... Later on March 17, UA again found itself trailing the Cougs, this time 3-2 in the bottom of the fifth. The Cats posted their highest-scoring inning of the season in the fifth with seven runs, and went on to win the game 12-9.
SMB POW: Arizona junior third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week on Monday after leading the Wildcats to three key victories last week. Mejias-Brean collected a base hit in all five games played last week to extend his hitting streak to 13 games. Over five games, Mejias-Brean batted 9-for-20 (.450) at the plate and collected eight RBI. For the week, Mejias-Brean had a team-best .450 batting average, including a blistering .714 clip (5-for-7) with runners in scoring position to go with two key two-out RBI. His eight total RBI on the week improved his season tally to 23, which is tied for second-most in the Pac-12. As a sophomore, Mejias-Brean had just 28 RBI all season long. His current 13-game hitting streak has raised his batting average from .294 to its current .354 mark. The weekly honor was the first for Mejias-Brean in his three seasons at Arizona.
Mejia Mania: Junior shortstop Alex Mejia, an All-Pac-10 player a year ago, is turning in his best season as a Wildcat through the first month of the season. The Sylmar, Calif., native has a team-best .400 batting average and has scored 19 runs to go with 14 RBI. He's an unselfish bat in the lineup that, despite hitting the team's only two home runs, has a team-high five sacrifice bunts on the year to go with a pair of sacrifice flies. Mejia's two homers combine with five doubles and a triple to give him the club's highest slugging percentage (.563). What goes unnoticed on the stat sheets is Mejia's glove-work in the field. He's one of the best in the league and has a knack for making tough plays look rather simple. Mejia was named a second team preseason All-American by the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association.
Rob the Robber: Junior right fielder Robert Refsnyder is known as one of the Pac-12's top all-around hitters. Last Saturday against Washington State, he showed that he can flash the leather, too. Refsnyder made a remarkable diving catch in the UA bullpen to rob WSU's Taylor Ard of an at bat during the seventh inning of a tight ball game. The Cougars had a one-run lead and a runner on base when Ard, the three-hole hitter, stepped to the plate. He launched a high fly ball into the gusty winds down the right field line. Refsnyder, who was playing straight up in right field, quickly raced toward the foul line. The winds pushed the ball towards the grandstands, but Refsnyder kept his eye on it the whole way. As he approached the occupied UA bullpen, Refsnyder made a diving catch, face-planted into the dirt, then slid and crashed face-first into the fencing. He held onto the ball for a critical second out. The Wildcats got out of the inning trailing by a run, and then scored three in the bottom half to a take an 8-6 lead. They held on to win 8-7.
Rob the Hitter: Robert Refsnyder', an All-Pac-10 player a year ago, is off to a fantastic start in his junior campaign. After 20 games, Refsnyder's .397 batting average is second-best on the club, while he is the only player to have at least 20 RBI (21) and 20 runs scored (22). He has nine extra base hits, including six doubles and three triples, while tying for the team lead with eight stolen bases. Refsnyder has been hit by pitch a team-leading nine times and has drawn five walks, to give him the second-best on base percentage (.484) on the team. Refsnyder has been at his best in scoring situations, batting 16-for-30 (.533) with runners in scoring position. He hit safely in the first 15 games of the season, and couple with the final two games of 2012, had a career-best 17-game hitting streak. In his career, Refsnyder is a .341 hitter who has 111 runs scored and 116 RBI.
Joltin' Joey: Joey Rickard does not have a home run in 2012, but neither does anyone outside of Alex Mejia on the Wildcats' roster. Even so, Rickard, the team's leadoff hitter, is UA's active career home run leader with 12. Playing at the spacious Hi Corbett Field, Rickard has still thrived without the long ball being a part of his early-season repertoire. He is hitting .349 and has a team-high seven doubles, plus is tied for the club lead with eight stolen bases. He has scored 20 runs and added 13 RBI, while roaming the cavernous centerfield at Hi Corbett. In his career, Rickard is a .330 hitter and has 190 base hits to go with 116 runs and 101 RBI.
Just One Of Those Days: As Andy Lopez phrased it last weekend, "Kurt Heyer is human." The junior ace of the Wildcats had perhaps his worst outing of his stellar career wearing the cardinal and navy last Friday night in a 6-0 loss to Washington State. Heyer suffered his first loss of the season during his 5.2 innings outing. He allowed just four runs - three earned - but lacked the command that has made him one of the Pac-12's most consistent pitchers. Despite the setback, Heyer still boasts a 4-1 record and a 1.23 ERA to go with 35 strikeouts against six walks in 36.2 innings pitched. Surely, it was just one of those days for Heyer against the Cougars. He'll take the mound again this Friday at Oregon State seeking to get back to his usual ways.
Give Me K's, Not BB's: Arizona's pitching staff has done a solid job of throwing strikes early in the season. Wildcat pitchers have struck out the second-most batters (150) in the Pac-12, and have issued the second-fewest walks (53). Weekend starters Kurt Heyer (35 to 6) and James Farris (18 to 3) have the best strikeout to walk ratios on the club. Fellow starter Konner Wade has a team-best 43 strikeouts despite a team-high 14 walks. Freshmen Mathew Troupe and Lucas Long have a combined 35 strikeouts against 12 walks, while junior Stephen Manthei has issued just two walks in 15.0 innings of work.
Leading the Pac: Arizona ranks highly in several statistical category in the Pac-12 ... The Cats lead the Pac-12 in batting average (.331), runs scored (149), hits (225), RBI (135), triples (12) and stolen bases (42) ... UA ranks fourth in slugging (.432), third in on-base percentage (.398), fourth in doubles (38) and has struck out the second-fewest times (88) of the 11 teams ... UA pitchers rank second with 150 strikeouts and have issued the second-fewest walks (53) ... UA's 21 fielding double plays ranks second in the conference.
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 12 triples ... The Cats' 42 stolen bases are 11th-most in the country ... UA's .3331 team batting average ranks No. 12 ... The Cats are scoring 7.5 runs per game, a mark that ranks tied for 26th-best in the nation ... UA defenders have turned 21 double plays, good enough for 16th-most to date ... UA's pitching staff has surrendered just 2.66 walks per game, a mark that is 27th-best ... Konner Wade (43) and Kurt Heyer (35) rank No. 9 and No. 39, respectively, for total strikeouts.
Heyer Standards: Junior Kurt Heyer is in 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 4-1 with a 1.23 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 36.2 IP.
Heyer Rings `Em Up: Kurt Heyer matched his career high set during his freshman season with 14 strikeouts against Harvard on March 2 and has 35 on the season. In his career, Heyer has 278 strikeouts, which is believed to be the most in the nation for active pitchers (research courtesy Troy Prendergast at Troy University). Heyer's 278 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 19-10 record and a 2.57 ERA in his career, which includes 41 starts in 42 appearances.
`K'onner Wade: Sophomore RHP Konner Wade, the club's Saturday starter, has reached double-digit strikeouts in three of his foive starts this season and has a team-high 43 on the season, which leads the Pac-12 Conference and ranks No. 9 nationall. 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, 13 career starts), Wade has thrown 77.1 innings with a 2.79 ERA (24 ER).
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 14-3 and hitting .345 as a team, having raised the overall batting average nearly 100 points to the current .331 clip. Eight different players are hitting over .300 during the stretch (min. 60 AB) and none of UA's regulars are below .261 (min 20 AB). The hottest hitter has been Alex Mejia, who is 29-for-71 (.408) with 18 runs and and 13 RBI in the 17 contests. He has five doubles, two home runs and a triple, for a team-best .592 slugging percentage during the hot streak. Joey Rickard (26), Seth Mejias-Brean (26) and Robert Refsnyder (24) have racked up a bunch of hits, with Mejias-Brean driving in a team-best 20 runs over the 17 games. Freshman designated hitter Joseph Maggi has started 11 of the 17 games and has a .378 (14-for-37) batting average hitting in the No. 9 spot.
Hit Me With Your Best Shot: Wildcat hitters have been hit by a pitch 24 times this season. That total ranks only sixth-most in the Pac-12, but what is noteworthy is that 17 of those plunkings have occurred over the last seven games. On March 11 against Eastern Michigan, UA hitters tied a school record by being hit by a pitch six times. Robert Refsnyder, who has been drilled nine times this season, also tied a school record that game by being hit three times with a pitch.
In 2011, UA hitters were plunked 80 times, which was the third-highest single season total in school history.
Noting the Streaks: Seth Mejias-Brean carries a 13-game hitting streak into this week's series ... Mejias-Brean has reached base in 19 straight games ... No other Wildcat has a hitting streak of more than two games currently ... Leadoff man Joey Rickard has reached base in 15-straight games ... First baseman Brandon Dixon has reached base safely in eight consecutive contests.
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 seven teams (Stanford, Arizona, UCLA, Arizona State, Oregon, Oregon State and California) are ranked in the Top 25 in one of the four major collegiate polls. 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-14 of all four polls, including No. 5 in Baseball America.
Fearsome Foursome: Juniors Alex Mejia, Seth Mejias-Brean, Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard have combined to make 540 starts in 549 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 700 base hits and 399 runs scored, hitting .329 (700-2126) 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 276-24-1 (.919) in the last 301 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 14-0 in such games.
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 hits the road for its first away Pac-12 series of the season at No. 19 Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore., this weekend. The series begins Friday evening at 5:35 p.m. PDT, continues on Saturday at 2:05 p.m. and wraps up on Sunday at 1:05 p.m.