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Melancon is go-to guy after slow start on mound



Arizona baseball coach Andy Lopez used to dread walking to the mound to make a pitching change, but Mark Melancon has eased his mind greatly.

The Wildcats’ freshman hurler has become the go-to guy from the bullpen, leading the team with 12 appearances and a 3.42 ERA after a sluggish start.

“He is a fantastic security blanket for me,” Lopez said. “He has turned exactly into the type of guy where, if one of your starters happens to fold, then he will go get it and shut it down from there.”

That was not always the case for a coach who is preparing for the start of the Pacific-10 Conference season tonight at 7 when Washington State visits Sancet Stadium.

Melancon had a stellar debut after being a 30th-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers last year. But the right-hander struggled early for UA this season.

The Golden (Colo.) High School star pitched 2 2/3 innings in his debut against California-Riverside on Feb. 6 but faltered in his next outing, allowing two runs and three hits two days later against Riverside.

The middle and long reliever had three innings of shutout ball against Cal State-Fullerton the next week before being rocked against the Titans two days later, giving up four runs and five hits in two-thirds of an inning.

But since then, Melancon has solved his problems. In his past seven appearances, only two runs have been scored off him in 15 innings. He has struck out 13 in that span, allowing 10 hits.

“In high school I was a starter, and I needed a little time to adjust coming out of the bullpen,” he admitted. “It was new to me. I like this job now. It has been good to get out of the pen and back up three starters. It is fun.”

UA men’s swimming

The University of Arizona men’s swimming team is in third place after the first round of the NCAA Championships yesterday in Long Island, N.Y.

UA’s 200-meter freestyle relay team of Lyndon Ferns, Eric LaFleur, Simon Burnett and Byron Jeffers was second in 1 minute, 25.69 seconds.

Sabino High grad Tyler DeBerry was third in the 400 freestyle in 3:45.51. Sabino grad Dave Rollins was 13th in the 200 individual medley (1:59.58).

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