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Monday, December 22, 2014 | Last updated: 6:34pm

Baseball's pitching staff checks out early, Lopez unhappy



Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez expects a lot from his team.

The two time NCAA-champion coach has been slightly upset with the Arizona (7-1) pitching staff’s efficiency during the middle innings this season. Even after a 15-4 victory over San Jose State (2-5) on Saturday, Lopez spent a solid 30 minutes drilling the pitchers on mental toughness.

“You can sometimes hide a coward at other positions but you can’t hide a coward on the mound,” Lopez said about his pitchers. “And I’m only critical about being tough because our guys know that we expect more from them.”

Saturday was the third game this week where the Wildcats jumped to an early lead, but the pitching staff let off the gas in the fourth and fifth innings.

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Early in Sunday’s afternoon game, it seemed Arizona had used up all its offense in Saturday’s 11-run win. San Jose State starting pitcher DJ Slaton shut down the Wildcats’ hitters for most of the game. Slaton held the Wildcats hitless through 6.0 innings, which put a lot of pressure on Arizona’s Stephen Manthei to stay tough long into the game.

Manthei would concede three earned runs to the Spartans throughout his 7.2 innings of work, but the redshirt junior kept his composure and stayed tough.

“I didn’t really notice what [Slaton] was doing,” Manthei said. “But I know we have a really good offense and that we would eventually break through.”

Arizona eventually got to Slaton in the seventh, when catcher Riley Moore led off the inning with a single to right field.

“I knew any rhythm breaker would get to [Slaton],” Moore said. “I got a inside fastball, turned on it and then I knew with this offense and our potential that we would be just fine.”

Just like Moore predicted, his single rattled the Spartans’ pitcher and opened the floodgates. Arizona striked for five runs off four walks and two singles in the inning to take a 5-3 lead. The runs continued to pour in for the Wildcats in the eighth inning, as once again Moore started a four-run rally, by doubling down the left field line to secure a victory.

Sophomore Mathew Troupe came in for relief of Manthei and closed the door on the Spartans.

The closer gave up one un-earned run in 1.1 innings of work and collected the save. But after the game Lopez was pleased with his starter’s poise and competitiveness.

“I was really proud of all our boys,” Lopez said after the game. “But I thought [Manthei] did a great job with locating his pitches.”

Arizona will look to stay tough as they start a mid-week two-game series with Utah Valley (3-4) on Tuesday at Hi Corbett Field. Lopez said he isn’t sure who will start on Tuesday, as senior Nick Cunningham is suffering from a concussion.


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