Offense swings into baseball season early
Arizona baseball is four months from beginning its season, but it’s not too early for the Wildcats to start getting an idea of where their offense will stand come February.
Arizona lost power hitters Brandon Dixon and Johnny Field when they were selected in the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft and opted not to return as Wildcats for their senior year. Dixon signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Field with the Tampa Bay Rays. Last year, Dixon and Field alone accounted for 11 of the teams’ 13 home runs, 31 percent of its runs, and 32 percent of its total bases.
With all of that production gone, it may seem Arizona has another rough season ahead.
While it may be true that the Wildcats have all but lost their ability to consistently hit home runs, they return key offensive contributors who are expected to step up and lead a more balanced offensive threat.
Tyler Baker / The Daily Wildcat Trent Gilbert prepares to to swing against Alabama State on April 26, 2013. UA Baseball beat Alabama State 8-2.
Juniors Joseph Maggi and Trent Gilbert and sophomore Kevin Newman will be among the leaders of Arizona’s offensive production.
“We have a lot more action guys and a lot more power coming in with the young guys,” Maggi said. “I feel like we are meshing a lot better than last year with power to action guys. I think we will have better balance throughout the lineup this year. We will be working on making the most out of our at-bats and focusing on producing runs offensively, instead of swinging bats and scattering hits.”
After starting in a slump, Maggi lit up and subsequently added 34 hits, leading the team in conference competition with a .388 average. If the upperclassman outfielder starts strong and stays consistent, Maggi can provide good pop in the middle of the lineup.
Newman became the first freshman to ever take home the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League’s batting title after getting 33 hits over 65 at bats in his last 17 games. Last year, Newman enjoyed a breakout season and was one of three freshmen on the Pac-12 All-Conference team. His performance is not expected to falter, and he should provide speed to the lineup, as he stole 11 times in his freshman campaign.
The team’s focus this year is on bouncing back from last year’s troubles and making it to postseason.
“We’ve definitely flushed last year and are looking forward to getting better every day,” Newman said. “We are looking better and swinging better, so watch out.”
Gilbert and Newman represent the only returners who started all 55 games last year. Gilbert went from batting .272 in his freshman year to .344 last year, emerging as an offensive leader. During conference play, he led the team with 40 hits and 9 doubles. He provides consistent hits, speed on the base paths and increased run production for the Wildcats.
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17