Andy Lopez prepares for his 10th season at Arizona.
Tucson Citizen photo

We interrupt the basketball euphoria and football intrigue to remind the Wildcat Universe that Arizona Baseball throws the first pitch of the 2011 season tonight at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium.

The BatCats take on North Dakota State at 6 p.m. Friday, 1 p.m. Saturday and 12 noon on Sunday.

At first glance this looks like a “year away” team. Arizona returns six hitters who started at least 50 games last year but four of them are sophomores. Two of the three opening-weekend starting pitchers are second-year players, as are most of the arms in the bullpen.

But if right fielder Steve Selsky can return quickly from his hand injury, catcher Jett Bandy can have a huge year and pitcher Kyle Simon can build on his Cap Cod League success, this team could show significant improvement on last year’s 12-15 Pac-10 record.

The problem is the conference was historically good in 2010 with a record eight teams making the NCAA tournament, and there doesn’t appear to be a big drop-off on the horizon. UCLA is the clear favorite with two future 1st-round picks in their starting rotation on a team that made the finals of the College World Series last year. The Pac-10 coaches picked Arizona to finish 5th in the league.

Last year’s schedule was definitely freshman-friendly with 25 straight home games to start the season. The result was a 15-game winning streak and a 20-5 start that allowed the Cats to sneak into the postseason after struggling down the stretch. The UA will face a stiffer challenge in 2011 with seven non-conference road games. Five of the nine Pac-10 series will also be played away from home.

For football games I buy season tickets in the Red Zone. With basketball I go to a couple games a year but mainly watch on TV. Baseball is different. With baseball I get to sit in the press box and pretend I’m one of the pros. (They don’t let me wear the hat though.) I don’t get to as many games as I’d like (curse you, real life) but I love going out to the ballpark to watch athletes from my school play the game of my youth.

Yes, I’m ecstatic about the hoops team. I am giddy about Tom Savage filling the gap at quarterback.

But there’s always room for baseball.

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Scott Terrell is trying to shake off the rust on his curveball. Step up to the plate on Twitter and Facebook.