Healing

April 14, 2008

(UA 11, at San Diego State 6)
(UA 5, at SDSU 2)
(at UA 10, Indiana State 2)
(at UA 5, ISU 0)
(at UA 7, ISU 6)


The healing starts now.

The best cure for losing is winning and the UA baseball team did just that five times this past week. The first two were the most impressive as the Cats won midweek games on the road for the first time all season.

C.J. Ziegler was the hero in San Diego, going 6-for-10, with a double, homerun and 5 RBIs. The Wildcats scored 16 runs in the two games which was a sight for sore pitching eyes. The second win against the Aztecs gave us our first winning streak of any kind since the 12-game tear ended in mid-March. Let’s try and keep this one going for a while.

(Speaking of streaks, the Arizona softball team lost to ASU in Tucson for the first time in 17 years. Is nothing sacred?)

The Indiana State series resulted in the expected three wins. T.J. Steele led the way in game one by going 2-for-2 with a homer and 3 RBIs, but the shocking number was his three walks. You have to try really hard to walk T.J. three times. In fact, it took him 24 games to get his first three walks of the year.

By the way, if you’re keeping score at home the Cats are now 20-6 with Steele in the lineup and 0-5 without him. Call it the T.J. Max Factor.

Game two against the Sycamores was our second consecutive 5-0 Saturday game. I think it’s safe to say David Coulon has gotten over the 20-8 UCLA debacle a couple weeks ago.

I was gone most of the afternoon on Sunday but I put the game on just in time to see a tie score in the bottom of the 9th. I guess the Cats didn’t want to win without me.

With two outs and nobody on Diallo Fon hit a sharp grounder up the middle that he stretched into a double. The Indiana State coach must have thought his centerfielder was to blame as he pulled him on the spot. With the potential winning run on the second the outfield crept in to prepare for a throw to home plate. This allowed Colt Sedbrook to hit one over the rightfielder’s head to drive in the game-ending run.

Yeah, it would’ve been nice to blow out the Sycamores, but seven runs is more than we’ve been scoring on Sundays (one against Washington last week, and none against USC three weeks ago) and we got the big hits when we needed them.

The real story from the series finale was the defense (no errors on the day, and only two in the series), and the pitching of Ryan Perry, who threw a relief pitcher's perfect game. Ryan entered the game in the 4th inning with two on and two out and his team down 6-1. He proceeded to induce a lineout to left, then retire the final 15 batters in order. Sixteen total hitters were sent down via 6 strikeouts, 8 groundouts, 3 popouts, the aforementioned lineout, and that’s it. Not too shabby.

The natural reaction to that (and his four innings of shutout ball on Wednesday) is to say, "It's time to get Perry back in the starting rotation!" But we ran into a similar situation last year with Coulon and Colla going back and forth as the Sunday starter. It seemed whoever started struggled while the guy who came in for long relief did well. We still need to lock down that #3 starter spot but there's nothing wrong with having a lights-out middle reliever to bridge the cap to the closers.

Next up for the BatCats is a trip to New Mexico to play two against the Lobos. The good news is this is our final midweek road trip of the season. UNM has won four straight and 11 out of 13. Their RPI is about 50 which is higher than UCLA and San Diego State, and much higher than Indiana State. The Lobos have a guy named Brian Cavazos-Galvez who hit four homeruns on Saturday. We may want to be careful with him.

After that the UA returns to Tucson to take on Washington State. The Cougars lost two of three to ASU this past weekend but scored 23 runs in the final two games of the series so it would be a good idea for our guys to keep hitting.

This weekend’s series becomes crucial because you really don’t want to finish the year with a losing conference record if you want to make the tournament. Just like the basketball team had to sweat it out because of an 8-10 league mark, you give the selection committee a strong case for leaving you out if you can’t finish .500 in your league.

Now’s the time to begin moving up the Pac-10 ladder and beating the team tied with us for last place is a good place to start.

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There’s no truth to the rumor that Arizona is getting a new expansion team. It just may look that way when the ’08-’09 UA basketball roster is released. We lost three seniors, one graduating junior, one midseason transfer, and one NBA draft early entrant. If Chase Budinger likes the feel of the water he’s testing that would make seven players saying goodbye. Didn’t we only play six guys last year? Unless Lute has a couple more Serbian imports waiting in the wings he may want to give KO's recruits a call.

Speaking of hoops, did you experience some déjŕ vu as you watched last Monday’s national championship game? A big lead, the entire basketball world watching, and it all falls apart.

I went back to March 26, 2005 and looked it up (boy, was that painful) but we had the exact same 9-point lead that Memphis held with two minutes left. Yes, we led by more before that, but 9 points in 120 seconds is 9 large points in 120 heartbreaking seconds no matter how you get there.

And, as I've said before Memphis lost the absolute worst game to lose. The difference between the Elite Eight and Final Four is large, but the difference between second place and a championship is monstrous. Now add to it that Memphis doesn't have a championship in either marquee sport. You can't even put a stat on the difference between the ultimate fan experience, and nothing at all.

What we went through three sad years ago was horrible, and those sporting wounds may never heal. But at least it's no longer the worst tournament collapse in recent memory.

I’ve never been so happy to not be #1.


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(Unless something monumental happens I'm going to take next week off. A late spring break if you will.)



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