UA baseball begins home series against University of San Francisco
Ten games into the 2013 season, No. 10 Arizona (8-2) is off to almost the exact same start as last year’s national championship team.
Friday, the Wildcats will look to keep up with last year’s standards as they begin a three-game home series with the University of San Francisco (4-5).
The Dons were swept by Cal Poly in their season-opening series but have won three out of their last five, including their most recent 2-1 victory over the same San Jose State team that Arizona swept last weekend.
Even though the Wildcats took care of business last weekend, outscoring the Spartans 32-15 in the three-game series, head coach Andy Lopez wasn’t satisfied with his pitching staff’s toughness and overall performance.
The two-time national champion coach said he would like to see his Wildcat pitchers play with more consistency throughout the game, no matter the score. A lack of consistency can be a sign of poor effort, and that would most likely result in a loss against a tougher opponent, according to Lopez.
“Missed location of pitches,” Lopez said about his pitching staff’s performance after last Saturday’s 15-4 win over San Jose State. “We can’t be sloppy when we’re out there on the mound. We shouldn’t be walking guys with six, seven, eight-plus leads.”
Arizona will start juniors Konner Wade (1-0) and James Farris (2-0) tonight and Saturday, respectively. Redshirt junior Stephen Manthei will throw on Sunday after a strong 7.2 innings of work last Sunday in the Wildcats’ 9-4 win over the Spartans.
This weekend, the Arizona pitching staff will face a lackluster Dons team that has a batting average of .252 and has only scored 38 runs in nine games.
Arizona’s bullpen has been up and down so far this season. Reliever Augey Bill and closer Mathew Troupe have been the only two Wildcats to be consistent when called in for duty. Freshman Tyger Talley and sophomore Tyler Crawford have made good appearances, but have also had sloppy ones.
That being said, Lopez will not be afraid to call upon one of his many bullpen pitchers this weekend if necessary.
Arizona’s offense has kept up with last season’s standards. In 65 games last season, the national champions averaged 7.35 runs per game. So far, through 10 games in 2013, the Wildcats have averaged 9.7. As the season progresses and the competition gets tougher, Lopez expects that number to decrease slightly.
But third baseman Brandon Dixon doesn’t think it will dip too much.
“I think with our lineup we can get back into any game. I don’t expect us to have many one-run games,” Dixon said, referring to the Wildcats’ 3-1 loss to Utah Valley this past Tuesday.
Dixon is one of the key reasons the Wildcats have been able to average so many runs early in the season. The first year everyday starter has reached base in every game this season and leads Arizona with a .406 batting average and a .688 slugging percentage.
Dixon hits fourth in the lineup, behind center fielder Johnny Field and ahead of second baseman Trent Gilbert. The three have a combined batting average of .370 and 38 RBI.
In total, the trio is responsible for 42 percent of Arizona’s 97 runs so far.
But Lopez still wants to see his offense hit better and more to Hi Corbett’s large dimensions.
San Francisco brings an average pitching staff to Tucson this weekend, one that may struggle to keep the Wildcats from scoring early. Two of the Dons’ three starting pitchers have earned run averages over 10.00.
This weekend, Arizona looks to keep improving, as there is now less than a month until Pac-12 conference play begins. But in order to have a valiant showing against the Dons, Lopez will need to see more from his pitching staff.