Arizona baseball looks to start new winning streak this weekend
Kelsee Becker / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Junior Konner Wade pitches eight strikeouts by the seventh inning. Arizona started the season strong on Friday against Coppin State with a score of 16-0.
Arizona (4-1) returns to the friendly confines of Hi Corbett field Friday night for a three-game weekend series with San Jose State (2-2).
The Wildcats ended their 14-game winning streak this past Tuesday as they lost on the road to Long Beach State. Arizona fought back in the second game of the two-game series to split the series with the Dirtbags. The defending champs will send ace pitcher Konner Wade (1-0) out to the mound Friday in hopes of starting a new winning streak.
The Arizona offense that ranked first in the Pac-12 in 2012 is off to an impressive start this season. Five games into the 2013 season, the Wildcats have a team batting average of .301 and have received contributions from their entire lineup.
“I might be biased, being a former offensive player, but in my mind hitting takes more time to get settled in with throughout a 56-game season than pitching,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “Pitching, you have more control of what goes on.”
Last year’s squad finished its national championship season with a team batting average of .329 and the second-most runs in the country (478).
Lopez has repeatedly stated in the past month that he in no way expects or hopes the team to be playing at its peak this early into the season, but he has been satisfied with how this “small ball” team has started the new season, including the freshmen.
First baseman Ryan Koziol, shortstop Kevin Newman and left fielder Scott Kingery have led the group of young Wildcats. The three have a combined .321 batting average and have contributed for 11 of Arizona’s 50 runs through their first five games. Koziol, who only has 10 at-bats this season, leads all Wildcats with eight runs batted in.
Arizona’s opponent this weekend is off to an average 2-2 start, but lost its most recent game 22-4 to UC Davis.
Also early into their season, the Spartans have been carried by the heart of their lineup. SJSU’s two best hitters, Nick Schulz and Jacob Valdez, have contributed to more than half of the Spartans’ runs and will be expected to overcome Wade.
In his only start and appearance on the season, Wade shut down the less-than-admirable Coppin State offense. The junior struggled to keep his pitch count down but only allowed two Eagles to reach base in the 6.1 innings he pitched last Friday. Wade admitted to being tired after the game but said he’d definitely be ready for his next start.
With regard to games two and three of the series, Arizona will most likely throw fellow junior pitcher James Farris (1-0) on Saturday, but the final game on Sunday is still up in the air. Last Sunday, redshirt junior Stephen Manthei started but couldn’t make it out of the third inning.
Manthei got the opportunity to regain the coach’s trust on Wednesday when Lopez brought in the right-hander in the sixth inning of a 3-1 game in an attempt to secure the lead. Manthei kept the lead and pitched another .2 of an inning.