The Arizona Wildcats baseball team has had a rough seven days. Coach Andy Lopez’s team blew a late lead in the first game against Long Beach State and then got knocked around in the second game before rain cancelled the Sunday content.
The first midweek series saw UNLV come in and score five runs before making their first out. When the score book says, “Grand slams: 1, Outs 0” you’re officially off to a bad start. The Cats rallied to tie the game at 7-7 and again at 10-10 but the bullpen couldn’t slow the Rebel bats and the final rally came up short.
Wednesday’s game featured more bullpen issues for the home team leading to more rallying but this time Arizona pulled it out. After 22 combined runs on Tuesday the second UNLV game featured a 2-1 score going into the 8th. The Rebels pushed across the tying run and then took the lead in the 12th inning only to have the Cats tie it in the 12th and win it in the 13th.
So we’re back above .500 as perennial power Cal State Fullerton comes to town. The Titans (if you remember them) are ranked #14, #18, #17, #18 and not ranked (you gotta love college baseball). CSF is 3-4 on the young season with wins against Long Beach and San Diego, losses to Oregon and Pepperdine, and a 2-1 series loss to TCU. This is Fullerton’s first road trip.
UA freshman starting pitcher Kurt Heyer took a step backwards last Friday giving up four earned runs in 5 2/3 innings of work. His control was still there (seven strikeouts and no walks) but he got tagged for 11 hits. All a part of a young pitcher adjusting to the college level.
The Wildcats’ young bats are definitely ahead of the young arms. Sophomores Jett Bandy and Steve Selsky are leading the way as expected but freshmen Robert Refsnyder and Joey Rickard are off to great starts. The frosh infielders are struggling at the plate however with Alex Mejia and Seth Mejias-Brean both sporting batting averages below .200.
The one hitter off to a surprisingly slow start is junior infielder Bryce Ortega. After hitting above .320 (with .400+ on-base percentages) in each of his first two seasons Ortega is slumping with just four hits in 28 at-bats (.143). The low point was an 0-for-6 in the first UNLV game, which is more rare than a 4-for-4 in college ball. Maybe playing second base instead of shortstop has Bryce’s brain turned around. Whatever the reason it might be best to drop Ortega in the lineup to take some pressure off and let someone like Rafael Valenzuela (.484 OBP) or Rickard (.406 OBP, 4 stolen bases) take a shot at leading off.
Game times for the Fullerton series are 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 12 noon on Sunday.