Arizona baseball to start season's first road series at Long Beach State
The No. 10 Arizona baseball team (3-0) will have its first road series Tuesday, as the Wildcats head to Long Beach State (1-2). The two-game series will also be the Wildcats’ first weekday series of the season, and will feature two starting pitchers who are still in contention for the Sunday starting role.
“[Nick] Cunningham will pitch Tuesday and Tyler Crawford will go Wednesday,” head coach Andy Lopez said, following Arizona’s 13-9 victory over Coppin State Sunday. “And if Cunningham does well, he might very well be throwing on Sunday.”
Arizona’s starter and middle relief for Sunday’s game is still a question the Wildcats are trying to figure out before conference play. Redshirt junior Stephen Manthei was previously awarded the Sunday spot before the season started. After having trouble with his fastball against a less-than-competitive Coppin State team, his job is now up in the air. Lopez said that Manthei will get another opportunity but he has not secured his spot in the rotation like ace Konner Wade and Saturday starter James Farris. However, Lopez said he isn’t worried as he believes there are more options to fill the spot this year than there were last season.
“We knew coming into the season that Sunday’s spot was a question,” Lopez said. “I would have loved to see Stephen lock it up … but there are candidates and that’s a good thing.”
Lopez said he was also hoping senior relief pitcher Tyler Hale would lock up a middle relief role, but after having similar problems as Manthei on Sunday, Hale’s job of coming out of the bullpen is also in question. Once again, Lopez said he believes that the team is filled with a variety of talented, young players and veteran arms, and Hale will get plenty of opportunities to prove himself.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, many Wildcats will get the opportunity to prove themselves against the Dirtbags. In past history, Long Beach State’s team has been competitive, with four College World Series appearances, but recently, it has struggled. Long Beach State opened its 2013 season on the road in Nashville, Tenn. against No. 2 Vanderbilt.
Naturally, Arizona would like to win every game on its schedule, but is using these early season games to try and assemble the best roster and rotation for a chance to get back to Omaha, Neb. for the College World Series.
“Look what happened last year. We caught fire toward the end and won 11 straight games and took home the title,” Lopez said. “So as long as we are getting better and getting comfortable with our roles, that’s what I’m more worried about here early.”
Arizona will be back in Tucson Friday night to host San Jose State for a three-game series.