A year after struggling to find pitching, Arizona baseball should be in good hands
The University of Arizona baseball team lost eight players from last season’s team to either graduation or the MLB draft. This team will see a mix of returning players from last year’s sensational freshman class and new faces from another highly anticipated freshman class this year.
With the Wildcats’ fall schedule kicking off this Saturday, Oct. 26, against Team USA, coach Jay Johnson likes what he has seen from the team so far.
“I like how they have worked in terms of the weight room through the first month,” Johnson said. “I think it is clear that a lot of the returning players are stronger and more physical and used their experience in the summer time well.”
It’s no secret that pitching was what hurt the Wildcats most last season.
The offense ranked No. 1 in batting average, hits and runs scored in the Pac-12 conference.
The pitching, on the other hand, ranked second to last in team ERA, third to last in strikeouts recorded and second to last in walks allowed.
Johnson is determined to turn around the pitching staff this season, beginning with the addition of pitching coach Nate Yeskie. Yeskie comes to Tucson from Oregon State after spending the last 11 seasons in Corvallis, where he won an NCAA National Championship in 2018 and was named the D1 Baseball Assistant Coach of the Year in 2017, according to Arizona Athletics.
“I think [Yeskie] is one of the best pitching coaches in the country,” Johnson said. “I think he’ll have a large impact on developing that side of the ball for us, which frankly needed some improvement. I think he is a solid person.”
Several exciting young arms will get to work with Yeskie this year, including Dawson Netz, a freshman right-hander out of California who posted a 0.43 ERA with 99 strikeouts over 65.2 innings at Maranatha High School last season.
Arizona also recently added three other players to the team late this summer, two of which are pitchers — freshman right-hander Wesley Scott and right-hander graduate transfer Davis Vainer.
Scott, who is coming to the UA from Woodcrest Christian High School in California, went 6-1 in his senior year with a 0.98 ERA and 85 strikeouts in 50 innings.
Vainer, who will be finishing out his collegiate career with the Wildcats after playing the last three seasons with the University of Alabama, “limited opposing hitters to a team-low .173 batting average,” according to an Arizona Athletics article.
The Wildcats pitching staff will also look to rely on sophomore left-hander Randy Abshier, who was recently named as the Wildcats’ Summer Pitcher of the Year.
“He’s got plenty of talent,” Johnson said. “It’s just his ability to consistently fill up the strike zone, and his first outing last week was very good - a sign that I think the best has yet to come for him.”
Abshier was prominent this summer, pitching for the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaska Baseball League, working a 3-1 record across 10 appearances to the tune of a 1.52 ERA with 42 strikeouts across 47.1 innings pitched. He showed flashes last year throughout his freshman season and will look to take a step forward for what is expected to be a new-look Wildcats pitching staff this season under Yeskie.
Arizona will be looking to find their way back into the NCAA Tournament this year after a two-year absence.
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