University of Arizona ace pitcher Preston Guilmet is struggling on the mound, partially because of the Wildcats’ problems off the field.
Academic woes and personal problems, resulting in the benching of some starters, and injuries have forced UA baseball coach Andy Lopez to constantly juggle his lineup and pitching rotation.
Arizona’s sixth postseason appearance in the past eight years is hanging in the balance as a result.
“We have a bunch of guys who can’t go to class,” Guilmet said.
The Wildcats (17-19 overall) have lost seven of their last eight Pac-10 games heading into this weekend’s three-game series at Stanford. Guilmet owns a respectable 4.09 ERA in five Pac-10 starts, but he has an 0-3 record to show for it.
Lopez wishes he had more players like Guilmet, a 6-foot-2 right-hander from Citrus Heights, Calif.
“I would sleep better, have better academic meetings. I would have a better record and I would probably be smiling a lot more,” Lopez said. “He is a really special young man. I’m going to miss him a lot.”
Despite a 2-4 overall record, Guilmet has tried to be a stabilizing force and a team leader. “I attribute a lot of that to my parents. They brought me up very well,” he said. “Playing for coach Lopez here, you learn a great deal of how to be a good person, and how to work hard in life. There are so many lessons. If you pay attention there are so many things you can pick up to be successful.”
Guilmet went 12-2 with a 1.87 ERA two years ago and 6-4 with a 4.38 ERA last season. He turned down a professional offer from the Oakland Athletics after his junior season.
“Preston really should be upset,” Lopez said. “He has done a great job of keeping his chin up and going. I think (last Friday at Washington State) was the first time (he thought), ‘Give me a break, come on,’ but he would never say that. I’m sure he will keep a stiff upper lip.”
The Wildcats were one win away from a College World Series appearance last season. But they lost much of their pitching staff – including first-round picks Ryan Perry and Daniel Schlereth – along with their offensive nucleus to the major league draft.
Despite a rebuilding year, Lopez didn’t expect the Cats to start the Pac-10 season 3-12 and be in last place.
“We need to catch fly balls and hit with runners on second base – things like that. We need to catch the ball better and throw strikes more consistently,” Lopez said. “The thing most frustrating to me is the intangible things. We have had guys that find it hard to do the basic things off the field.”
Lopez watched UA drop routine fly balls in three straight losses at Washington State last weekend.
Arizona hopes to regroup on Friday at Stanford with little margin for error.
If a .500-plus Pac-10 record were required to earn an NCAA Tournament appearance, the Cats would need to go 11-1 in their final league games.
“We have not given up,” senior Brad Glenn said. “Just as a man, you can’t give up. None of the coaches are going to give up on us, just for pride alone.”
Team Conf. Overall
Arizona State 13-2 29-8
Oregon State 8-4 23-9
Washington St. 8-4 19-16
USC 9-6 20-17
UCLA 9-6 17-20
Stanford 7-8 16-16
Washington 4-8 15-22
California 5-10 18-19
Oregon 3-9 13-25
ARIZONA 3-12 17-19
UA at Stanford: 5 p.m. Friday; 1 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday. Radio: 1290-AM