The University of Arizona baseball team kicked off the season last Friday with its first practice at Hi Corbett Field. The Wildcats were very motivated coming off a tough end to last season, when they just missed the cut for the 2018 postseason for the first time since coach Jay Johnson took over as the teams' head coach in 2016.
“I haven’t thought a whole lot about it once it was done and over with,” Johnson said about just missing the tournament. “That day we really went to work on this field. We had to lay things out for the draft, a lot of these guys were high profile players in terms of recruits, and six of them were drafted. There was a lot of pain associated with that day, but there is only one way to respond to that, and that is to get moving forward and take some of the lessons that you learned and apply it to make what we feel like is a very good process of development to make the team a little bit better. Our team and coaches have done a really good job of that so far.”
Johnson seemed as motivated as anyone coming into a new season for Arizona baseball.
“It seems like they are all on top of what they need to do to be the best versions of themselves as players and a team,” he said.
This year’s team will be led by a mix of returning players and the largest incoming freshman class the University of Arizona’s baseball team has ever had.
Pitcher Randy Labaut’s sophomore season was cut short last year. After a stellar performance against the Washington Huskies, where he pitched 5 2/3 shutout innings, Labaut started to feel discomfort in his left leg.
Labaut was later told by doctors at the UW Medical Center that he had compartment syndrome, a condition built from excessive pressure in the muscles. After undergoing multiple surgeries during the season last year, Labaut worked long and hard with the Arizona training staff to get back to full health for this season.
“Last year had a huge impact on my career,” Labaut said. “Thankfully, we have one of the best athletic trainers here in Arizona, and he did a great job of really taking care of my body, and we took really good care of therapy. We took it little by little to really get back to the field.”
Labaut was strong in the eight appearances he made last season prior to the injury, putting together a 1.60 ERA over 33.2 innings pitched with twenty-one strikeouts to only four walks. Ultimately able to make his return to the mound this past spring, Labaut was thrilled to get back to pitching for the team.
“It meant everything. That was my goal, my dream to help this team win, and I was so glad I was able to do that,” Labaut said with a smile on his face.
These Wildcats are motivated to get back to the College World Series this season, especially the upperclassmen, like juniors Labaut, Cameron Cannon and Nick Quintana.
“It was definitely tough,” Labaut said when asked what the mood was like at the end of last season when the team learned they did not make the tournament.
The Wildcats' baseball season opens up Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. against UMass Lowell at Hi Corbett Field.
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