Arizona baseball's 2,600th win not yet sinking in
When the ball hit the leather of left fielder Joseph Maggi’s glove for the final out Friday night, the Wildcats’ dominant 24-7 victory over East Tennessee State was complete.
But the Arizona baseball program wasn’t just celebrating a statement victory — it was cementing a place in history.
The win improved the Wildcats’ record to 27-13 on the season and was the 2,600th win in program history, a record few other schools can claim.
“Obviously we have a lot of tradition here, a lot of history,” senior Bobby Brown said. “It’s just great to be an Arizona Wildcat.”
It may seem like a random number, but the new win total puts the Wildcats in elite company, as they are just one of eight teams to reach that milestone, joining fellow Pac-12 members USC, Stanford and ASU in the prestigious club.
Oddly enough, the pitcher who won the 2,600th game for the Wildcats — junior Kurt Heyer — also won No. 2,500 in his first career start as a Wildcat.
Brown, another Wildcat on the roster for both milestones, said he hopes they continue to add to the mark this season.
“Hopefully we just keep at it,” Brown said. “Hopefully we go for 3,000.”
Head coach Andy Lopez said he’s always felt honored to work with such an elite program, but the milestone itself wasn’t exactly earth-shattering.
“I’m sure when I’m old and I’m not coaching it’ll mean something,” Lopez said, “but right now, honestly, it meant that Friday was a win — (now) let’s get Saturday.”
Arizona was the second program to reach the milestone in a week — Florida State joined the club on April 21. Arizona may not be the last team to reach the mark this season either, as Clemson is just eight wins away and could reach the mark as early as May 15.
But the victory still signified that Arizona has earned its place among the other elite programs in baseball, and with the direction this year’s team is headed, it has the potential to add to the legacy.
“If you think of Arizona baseball, you think (of a team) always in the top of the country every year,” Field said. “We’re a top team in the Pac-12 and the milestone is great to accomplish. But we have a lot bigger goals to take care of this year.”
New face in center
It hasn’t been hard to figure out who’s playing in center field for the Arizona baseball team ever since 2010. Joey Rickard has trotted out to the position 155 straight times.
The iron man started all but one game in center his freshman year and remained there through his junior year, until a bruised knee changed all that.
Rickard’s streak ended when he was hurt April 21 against Washington.
Rickard has now missed four straight games, but the player who slid over to cover his spot has made sure the team didn’t miss a beat.
Johnny Field moved over from left field and up to the leadoff spot in the lineup in Rickard’s absence, and so far his relief appearance has impressed Lopez.
In the series against East Tennessee State, Field went 11-for-15 at the plate with two triples, four doubles, seven RBIs and seven runs without making an error in center.
Lopez said he still prefers to have Rickard in center field because of his great speed, but Field still did a great job covering for him this weekend.
“I still would like to see (Rickard) in center field just from a defensive standpoint,” Lopez said. “Not that (Field) does a bad job, but (Rickard) is just really a good defensive outfielder.”
Field said he didn’t view this as an opportunity to earn any of Rickard’s regular duties, he just was filling in until Rickard is healthy.
And while the offense did just fine without one of its offensive leaders against ETSU, it may need more firepower as the Pac-12 leading Oregon Ducks travel to Tucson this weekend.
“We want to get (Rickard) healthy and get him back, and I’m really hoping we can get him back for Friday,” Lopez said. “He thinks he’s ready to go but we’re going day-to-day with him.”