Batter Up: The Arizona Wildcats start the 2011 baseball season at homeby Scott Terrell on Feb. 18, 2011, under Sports
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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