Maggi fights on through underwhelming Arizona baseball season
For a team trying to look toward the future, not bask in past achievements, the large red and white letters printed on the navy outfield wall in honor of Arizona’s Omaha triumph in 2012 doesn’t make things any easier.
Some players have managed to shrug off the burden. Others, such as right fielder Joseph Maggi, have not.
“No matter what anybody says, that big [banner] hanging out there that says ‘National Champions 2012,’” head coach Andy Lopez said. “That can ride on you a little bit.”
He’s seen it before.
After winning the College World Series with Pepperdine in 1992, Lopez said players who were “loose as a goose” in the championship season suddenly “looked like they were carrying the world on their shoulders.”
Maggi was part of the Wildcats’ magical season. His .326 batting average was the highest of any freshman on the team, and he scored the opening run in Arizona’s title-clinching victory over South Carolina. The start of his sophomore campaign has failed to live up to that precedent, and the high standard of excellence at Arizona is a major reason why.
“It’s just the standard here that is sort of expected at a place like this,” Maggi said. “For a little bit I wasn’t meeting the standard, and I knew that. That was hard for me.”
He started off the season batting 11-for-59 (.186), even with a majority of the games coming in a hitter-friendly ballpark. As one of just five players returning to the batting order from 2012, Maggi was expected to bring some offensive firepower along with his experience. That hasn’t happened.
“He’s been struggling,” Lopez said. “Facts are facts and truth is truth, he’s been struggling.”
The biggest thing he needs to do is relax, Lopez said.
It looks like that’s finally starting to happen.
“I think as the season goes on he’s going to get a little bit more relaxed and understand that he’s playing baseball again,” Lopez said. “He’s not try[ing] to hang another red and white [banner] … He has the ability; I hope last weekend was a start for him.”
In Arizona’s last series against Utah, a three-game sweep took the Wildcats out of the Pac-12 basement and snapped their six-game losing streak, Maggi finally delivered at the plate, going 4-for-7 with two RBI and three runs scored.
“I was getting under the ball and trying to do too much,” Maggi said. “And in baseball, [if you’re] trying to do too much, you’re not going to be too successful. So I just got really down to the small things and it started working for me.”
Including the final two games against Oregon, Maggi has gone 7-for-13 with four runs, four RBI and four walks. The hot streak has helped his batting average, but it’s still stuck near the bottom of the Arizona roster at an even .250.
With Arizona struggling to find offense at times, adding consistency in the final portion of the lineup is a must.
Lopez said he feels confident in his first five or six batters, as the top six hitters on Arizona are hitting a combined .349 average, including third baseman Brandon Dixon, who is hitting a team-high .413 on the season.
The rest of the team, though, is hitting a paltry .226, and Maggi has the worst average of any Wildcat starting more than 20 games this season. A little added punch from the bottom of the order could go a long way.
“It’d be nice to get a balanced attack and not feel like you can go and get a hot dog after the six hole,” Lopez said.
“We want people to sit in the stands and say, ‘Hey, you got to watch this guy Maggi. You got to watch this guy [Ryan] Koziol. You got to watch this guy hit.’”