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Friday, August 29, 2014 | Last updated: 3:01am

Baseball blasts Air Force, sweeps series



Arizona baseball picked up a second straight win and got its record back over .500 again.

After demolishing Air Force (4-10) the previous night by 12 runs, Wednesday the Wildcats (10-9) blew it out again 10-2 at Hi Corbett Field. Overall, the UA outscored the Falcons a total of 24-4.

“I told them [the Wildcats] our record is 0-0 right now,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “Here’s the reality: When we play good baseball we usually win, and when you don’t play good baseball it really doesn’t matter. The problem is we’ve had a propensity to play bad baseball coming out the gate.”

Sophomore center fielder Scott Kingery was a nightmare for Air Force’s pitching staff the entire series.

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By Cecilia Alvarez / The Daily Wildcat
Sophomore Zach Gibbonsslides into home plate during Arizona's 10-2 win against Air Force at Hi Corbett Field on Wednesday. The Wildcats are now 10-9.

The Wildcats lead-off man went 3-4 at the plate with two runs scored, a walk and was a home run from hitting for the cycle. In the pair of games he posted a combined four hits with as many walks, five runs and a trio of runs batted in.

Lopez said Kingery reminds him of David Eckstein because of his knack for getting on base, speed and surprising occasional power with the bat. Eckstein, who Lopez coached at Florida in the mid 1990’s, was a former MLB All Star and MVP of the 2006 World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals.

“[Being the lead-off hitter] gives me a chance to start something up, find a way on base, maybe steal a bag,” Kingery said. “I kind of just took notes from watching Brandon Dixon and Johnny Field last year, and I’m just reading the pitchers better.”

Right-handed freshman Austin Schnabel (0-1) started on the mound for Arizona but only lasted a couple innings because of a sore throwing shoulder. He didn’t allow any runs on two hits with a pair of strikeouts, facing just seven hitters and throwing 28 pitches.

Four other Wildcat pitchers were used in the game, including Nathan Bannister (0-0), Cody Moffett (1-0), Xavier Borde (0-0) and Bobby Dalbec (0-1). Righty Bannister was the only hurler in the game for the UA to go longer than two innings, but southpaw Moffett earned the victory.

Also besides one error from Moffett, the rest of the Wildcat fielders were errorless in the game. The infield was sound throughout, and turned three double plays.

Shortstop Kevin Newman said that he and his double play partner, Trent Gilbert, have developed better chemistry in the middle of the infield now in their second year together.

“We know each other, we know our tendencies,” Newman said. “It makes things that much easier when a ball’s coming up the middle; we know who’s going to get to what and we’re gelling.”

Now after opening the season with 19 non-conference games, Arizona is set to commence Pac-12 play with a weekend series against Washington State (4-8). First pitch from HiC will be Friday at 6 p.m.

While Lopez thinks the Wildcats are prepared to begin facing teams from its conference, he believes the team would be more ready if he had been around during the fall. At that time, Lopez was recovering from open heart surgery.

“For a baseball coach, missing the fall has been a big challenge for me personally,” Lopez said. “I felt like a martian who was dropped off on Mars onto a program. … To any coach who reads these articles: Don’t have heart surgery in the fall. Leave it for the summer.”

—Follow Joey Putrelo @JoeyPutrelo


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