In sports you’re always looking for people who have it. The “it” that separates good from great, and stars from superstars.

The Arizona Wildcats‘ ace pitcher Kurt Heyer has a healthy dose of It.

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Scroll down for Jerryd Bayless’ strikeout.
Photo by Rob Schumacher/The Arizona Republic

When you’re rebuilding with young players you want to see potential stars. Anybody can develop into a contributor, but you’re not going to win big without big-time players. UA basketball fans have hope that a return to prominence is on the horizon because of the play of freshman Derrick Williams.

BatCat fans should feel just as good about the future of Kurt Wolfgang Heyer.

Friday night’s stat line said it all. Eight-and-two-thirds innings, two earned runs, 14 strikeouts and just one walk. And this wasn’t another game with Northern Colorado. This was the same Washington State team that took two of three from ASU a week ago.

After the game I had to wait my turn as Heyer got his picture taken with the Girl Scout troop in attendance. When you see his youthful energy you’re reminded that, oh yeah, this is a 19-year-old kid who just happens to throw a baseball really fast.

Heyer said he didn’t want to come out of the game but he was happy his roommate, Augey “Big Bird” Bill, was able to come in and get the save.

It was the type of starting performance that easily brought back memories of Preston Guilmet’s 2007 season when he posted a single-game high of 15 strikeouts on the way to being named the Pac-10 Pitcher of the Year.

Guilmet came at you from straight over the top; Heyer has a ¾ arm angle. Guilmet would attack the bottom part of the strike zone and then get hitters to chase his split-finger fastball in the dirt. Catcher Dwight Childs would spend a good portion of his night blocking pitches coming in on a hop. Heyer doesn’t force Jett Bandy to get nearly as dirty but he has just as impressive a command of the strike zone. Did we mention the 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio on Friday?

After the game coach Andy Lopez said Heyer is further along than Guilmet was as a freshman. Heyer has more velocity than Guilmet did as a rookie, and Kurt’s second pitch is more advanced.

Perhaps the best news for the fans in the stands is Heyer is not a pace-around-the-mound kind of guy. He’s always standing on the rubber and ready to go. Who doesn’t love a two-hour-and-15-minute college baseball game?

Heyer said he was aware of his strikeout total and he wanted number 15 to finish the game. He did not have a running mental total of his pitch count but said he felt fine and wanted to go the distance. You have to admire his competitive fire but when it comes to the toil on his arm I’m going to worry for him. 130 pitches is 130 pitches and it’s a well you don’t want to drink from too many times.

I understand it’s hard to pull a guy who’s still hitting 92 on the gun. I know that the Cats don’t exactly have a dominant bullpen. I realize that no one wants to interrupt greatness.

All this is not to say that Heyer needs to strike out 14 every game and land on this year’s All-America lists. I fully expect there to be some speed bumps as young Kurt makes his first pass through the Pac-10. A bunch of ranked teams are still to come so don’t be shocked if Heyer’s ERA doesn’t remain just a hair above 2.

But whatever happens the rest of 2010 shouldn’t keep anyone from dreaming about what the next two years have in store. We’ve already seen enough to know that It is there, and It will be fun to watch.

Get in line behind the Girl Scouts.

– – – – –

It’s Game 1 of the Phoenix/Portland series in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The Blazers are up by three with 12.2 seconds left. Former Wildcat Jerryd Bayless steps to the line to try and seal the victory.



How did it make you feel?

It didn’t bother me at all. If you have a favorite pro team you have to get used to rooting against ex-Cats sometimes. If you can’t stand the Spurs you want Richard Jefferson to have an off night, but normally you don’t feel good about it. This was different.

I’ve been wondering how I would I feel about Bayless as his NBA career progressed. Now I know: I don’t.

It’s not that I have anything against him personally. I wasn’t stomping around and cursing the day he declared for the draft. It’s just that we don’t have any ultra-fond memories of his eight months on the UA campus. He didn’t really do anything. Sure he scored a lot of points but the Cats didn’t win a thing with Bayless leading the way. No marquee victories. No NCAA tournament wins. Not even a single win against ASU.

That’s always been my thing with early-entry players. Go ahead and take the NBA money, just have enough competitive pride to do something at the college level first.

Carmelo Anthony? Enjoy that fat paycheck. Kevin Love? Cha-ching! Mike Bibby? See you at the jersey retirement ceremony.

Jerryd Bayless? Eh.