The offense for the Arizona baseball team continues to roll, currently boasting the top-4 leaders in the Pac-12 conference in runs batted in. Freshman Jacob Berry leads the way with 40 RBIs, followed by 38 RBIs from Ryan Holgate, 36 RBIs from Daniel Susac and 33 RBI’s from Branden Boissiere. This is an offense that is never out of any game and can make up for a poor performance from the pitching staff on the mound any given night.
“I think at any time, our offense can really explode,” Susac said. “I think the biggest part about that is unselfish at-bats. Taking that role that you’re in, either moving the runner over or getting them in, not taking at-bats for yourself but taking them for the team. I think that’s been a huge part of our offense this year.”
Susac has been on a tear at the plate, especially as of late. He has hit 7-for-15 at the plate over his last three games with nine RBIs, seven runs scored and two home runs. Susac said he believes his maturity and confidence has grown quite a bit since first stepping foot on campus with the team earlier this year.
“I’d say it has grown a bit,” Susac said. “I think I’ve started to mature a little bit as a hitter … . Kind of like simplifying my approach, not trying to do too much, just letting my mind take over and not trying to do too much in a situation. I think that has really evolved my game.”
It has not just been at the plate, but also defensively behind the plate where Susac has truly emerged as a leader on this Wildcat baseball team this year. Head coach Jay Johnson said that there are sometimes where he even forgets Susac is behind the plate, which is a positive sign of thinking in his mind.
“The best thing I’ll say about [Susac] is for call it 90 percent of the time, 90 percent of the season you don’t even know he is back there,” Johnson said. “That’s a good thing. If you’re not noticing the catcher, it is almost like a good umpire. I think he has done a good job with that. The receiving part has been really good. I feel like in the games we’ve been successful, we’ve kept the count in our favor. I think the catcher has a lot to do with that with framing pitches. He has caught the majority of the innings, but especially recently, we haven’t had any massive wild pitch or passed ball issues and he throws as good and as accurately as anyone in the country.”
Johnson went on to compare Susac to the rich history of successful catchers this Arizona program has had, most notably in recent years.
“I mean relative to catching, we’ve had a nice six-year run of catching with Cesar [Salazar] and Austin [Wells] and Matt [Dyer] and now [Susac],” Johnson said. “I love all of those guys and I’m very thankful they’ve all been Wildcats.”
The bullpen this year, a unit Susac works very closely with every day, has shown its depth at times this year. This includes Tuesday’s win over New Mexico State that saw a plethora of different relief pitchers used after starter T.J. Nichols only lasted 0.2 innings. Quinn Flanagan is only a sophomore, but has been with the program for a few years now and likes the current state of the bullpen with each individual reliever playing their role.
“I think from the bullpen’s standpoint, we’ve really stepped up,” Flanagan said. “I think there was a couple of key losses throughout the year. We had Vince [Vannelle] out for a while and Preston [Price] now, but I think going into the year we all knew we had really good stuff and it was just a matter of when we were going to step up and when some of these guys were going to get into the game. You know guys like Randy [Abshier] and Gil [Luna] have really been big for us and I expect them to continue to do well just knowing them personally and I’m excited for them.”
Flanagan showed praise for the job Susac has done behind the plate all season, which includes helping handle all of the different pitchers on Arizona’s staff.
“I think he has done a tremendous job,” Flanagan said. “It is crazy that he is only a freshman. I think as a catcher, you have to be one of the most mature guys on the field just because you have to handle all these different pitchers you have to build a relationship and get to know their style of pitching. On top of that, you have to remain locked in on both sides of the ball with every pitch on defense and offensively as well, and I think he has handled that really well. I think that kid has a tremendous future ahead of him and I’m really excited to see what he turns out to do.”
Arizona will look to remain locked in on both sides of the ball as USC comes to Hi Corbett Field this weekend. The Wildcats will look to win their fifth consecutive Pac-12 series against the Trojans in a three-game series. First pitch of game one on Friday, April 23 is currently scheduled for 6 p.m. MST.
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