After suffering its worst season in 20 years, Arizona baseball is searching for ways to rebuild and recuperate its program. The Wildcats finished the year with a 22-33 record and were 10th in the Pac-12 standings.
What went right?
Sophomore outfielder Zach Gibbons showed notable offensive improvement in his sophomore season. Gibbons started all but one game, was the only Wildcat to record a batting average above .300 in Pac-12 play (.327) and ranked second on the team with a .338 batting average over the 55-game season. As a result, Gibbons earned an honorable mention to the All-Conference team.
Sophomore shortstop Kevin Newman collected All-Conference honors for the second consecutive year and was second on the team in runs scored (39) and RBIs (34). He finished the year with a .304 batting average and committed only two errors in 55 starts this year, earning his spot on the 10-man All-Defensive team.
Sophomore outfielder Scott Kingery also received All-Conference honors after experiencing a breakout season, leading the Wildcats’ offense with a .354 batting average and 41 runs scored. Kingery ranked second in the Pac-12 with a .456 on-base percentage and was tied for the conference lead with 19 stolen bases.
What went wrong?
When asked what he felt went wrong this past season, Gibbons said that there was an absence of leadership, not only from the junior class, but from his sophomore class as well.
“We had a lot of key guys in the sophomore class and we didn’t necessarily lead the team the way we should have,” Gibbons said. “We really needed to teach the freshmen and lead by example, especially with Lopez’s absence. There was a lack of leadership on the players’ part and not necessarily on the coaches’ part.”
Gibbons continued, saying that he talked to Kingery and Newman and they all agreed that before the next season begins, they will sit down last year’s freshmen and next year’s incoming class and explain to them what they plan on doing to make sure last season won’t repeat itself.
“I don’t think the freshmen really understood what the program was about,” Gibbons said. “That’s not [Lopez’s] fault, that’s definitely our fault. Coach Lopez has shown us the way and even though he wasn’t there in the fall, we should have stepped up and shown the freshmen how we play baseball at Arizona.”
Lopez’s strategy for recovery:
Head coach Andy Lopez said that the program’s top priority for the offseason is to scout the junior college ranks in search of a third baseman and two pitchers. Lopez added that the team got a junior college center fielder with above average speed.
“There were a lot of things I saw this year that were completely foreign to me,” Lopez said, “[but] I’ve kind of built my whole career around fixing programs: I had to fix Dominguez, Florida, Pepperdine and now I have to fix this one, too. It’s not like I’m going into a ‘what do I do now’ situation.”
— Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17