It turns out playing all your games at home is a good way to pick up a bunch of wins.
The Arizona Wildcats baseball team extended its winning streak to eight with a pair of midweek thrashings of Wichita State. The true shocker was Wednesday when the Cats blasted the previously-ranked Shockers to the tune of 19-0. Any time you can give a team its worst shutout loss in three decades you’ve had a pretty good day.
I’m not sure which number is more impressive. Three touchdowns’ worth of runs (we need a new kicker) are hard to ignore but midweek shutouts are very rare. Heck, any shutout in college baseball is cause for celebration. Kyle Simon and company did a great job.
In last weekend’s sweep of Northern Colorado the middle game was close (a 7-6 UA victory) but the bookends were Wildcat routs.
My one complaint is concerning Friday starting pitcher Kurt Heyer. I’m certainly not talking about his performance as Heyer only gave up one run and one walk while striking out 10. My issue is with the length of his performance. Why leave him out there for the full nine innings with an 8-run cushion? After watching Preston Guilmet burn out after his incredible sophomore season I’m always going to be nervous when I see a guy throwing 123 pitches.
"Are those diamonds on your elbow?"
Photo from Tucson Citizen archive
And to top it off Heyer threw the 9th in Tuesday’s game. Was the bullpen mound broken? I know Andy Lopez has been doing this a long time but the UA went 18 years in between Pac-10 Pitchers of the Year so if Heyer has that kind of potential we need to treat his right arm like it’s encrusted with jewels.
When it comes to the offense you won’t hear me saying anything negative about anybody. Remember when it was exciting that we had five players hitting above .350? There are now five above .380 with three guys looking down on .430. The Jett is soaring with a .493 average and a Ruthian 1.373 OPS.
Even the bottom part of the order is coming around. Bryce Ortega’s average is still only .262 but thanks to a team-leading 12 walks he’s got his on-base percentage up over .400. He’s also playing good defense (no errors) and he’s tied for the team lead with 10 stolen bases (without being caught). I fully expect Bryce to be back on the north side of .300 soon.
(Oh wait, I do have one last complaint. Can we ship the Ivan Brothers back to Norway? The commercial was almost mildly amusing the first time I saw it while watching March Madness On Demand but do we have to get hit over the head with a horned helmet after every break? I’d even settle for more of those “Most of us are going pro in something other than sports” ads.)
From an RPI standpoint the Arizona baseball team isn’t getting a lot of help as both Long Beach State and Cal State Fullerton have losing records, and Wichita State lost two of three to Long Beach. But the Pac-10 is strong once again with UCLA, Stanford, OSU, ASU and WSU all in the RPI top 15, so our guys will have plenty of opportunities to prove themselves against tough competition.
That competition is right around the corner as we enter the final weekend before the start of conference play. Sacramento State is on deck and the Hornets sport a 6-8 record after beating Pacific on Tuesday and losing two of three to UC Irvine. Sac State only gave up 14 total runs in those four games so it’ll be interesting to see how their pitchers fare against the red hot BatCats.
To contrast that the New Mexico Lobos will be bringing their big bats to the Old Pueblo on Tuesday and Wednesday. UNM is averaging 12 runs per game over their last seven contests and they already have series wins over Texas and USC.
Even a Viking would be impressed.