Sweet Sweep

April 2, 2007

(UA 6, ASU 5 – Chase Field)
(at UA 5, OSU 4)
(at UA 8, OSU 2)
(at UA 17, OSU 14)

The frustrating times are going…going…gone.

The Wildcat baseball team stumbled into the week facing its toughest stretch of the season to date, and it strutted out of the week with a four-game sweep that will raise eyebrows across the country.

After watching the team struggle with lightweights Morehead State and Northern Colorado I tried to keep expectations realistic. Yeah, it would be great to post a winning record in the four games with #10 Arizona State and #2 Oregon State, but a split would be fine. I spent all my time trying to decide if it would be better to win two of three in the conference series with OSU and lose the ASU game, or get revenge on our rivals but lose the league opening series.

Not only did we get both, but we topped it off with a sweet, sweet sweep.

The week started off with the best possible news: We beat ASU! Wins over Those Guys have been coming more frequently on the diamond but after 22-8 last month it wasn’t exactly expected this time.

Just like last year, the pitching hero was UA reliever Daniel Schlereth. In the two-year history of the Challenge at Chase, Schlereth has now pitched four and a third innings, giving up no runs, no hits, one walk, with seven strikeouts, a win and a save. In case you missed it, here’s the story from Thursday’s paper:

NEW YORK CITY -- In a startling announcement the financial services firm JPMorgan Chase revealed plans to name University of Arizona sophomore Daniel Schlereth its new Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. When asked to comment, exiting CEO Jamie Dimon responded, “What can I say? The kid brings the heat.”

Seriously, can we quick get a trophy made for this game? We haven’t had a lot of luck securing the Territorial Cup in football and it would be a shame not to recognize our dominance of the annual baseball game at Chase Field, a winning streak that extends back to the beginning of time.

Wednesday’s ownage gave us an extra shot of optimism heading into the home series with the defending national champs. I was able to take in the first game live and did not regret it.

It sure was exciting coming up those stadium steps Friday night and seeing a large crowd. Yeah, a good chunk of them were wearing orange and black, but as a non-revenue sport you take what you can get. All told more than 7,000 people attended the three games, which is a really big deal. An even bigger deal is the fact that the home team put on a show worthy of bringing people back. Well, maybe not those people wearing orange and black.

You do have to give credit to Beaver fans for traveling to support their team. I know, that’s what happens when you win a national championship, but it’s great for the conference and it makes you optimistic about the type of atmosphere we can have around here if we get this program all the way rebuilt.

Naturally, when you have two guys on the mound with a combined 11-0 record and ERAs under two and a quarter, you end up with a total of three earned runs in the first inning. UA ace Preston Guilmet gave up a triple to the leadoff hitter and a Scud missile to third batter to fall behind 2-0 before the Beaver fans had time to complain about how cold it is in the desert.

The Cats trailed until the bottom of the fifth when Brad Glenn tripled in the tying runs and freshman catcher Dwight Childs lived every 8-hitter’s dream. After a stolen base put runners on second and third with two outs, the Beavers intentionally walked Jon Gaston to get to the worst hitting guy in the lineup. And, as you would expect, this being a dream and all, Dwight delivered with a single to right center to give Arizona a lead it would not relinquish.

Things got interesting in the top of the eighth when a single sandwiched between two UA errors brought in a run and put runners on first and second with just one out. OSU then shot itself in the foot with a popped up bunt attempt, and blew off its entire leg by calling for their catcher to steal third with a full count. The batter swung and missed for strike three and Dwight “There’s That Man Again” Childs easily threw out his catching counterpart to end the inning.

The Beavers’ biggest mistake however was scoring that fourth run. After Wednesday and Friday’s games Arizona is now a perfect 8-0 on the season in one-run games. What looked like a weakness against the lesser teams is now certainly a strength against quality opponents.

It sure helps to win close games when you have a dominating pitcher at the top of your rotation. Half of the one-run victories have come in Preston Guilmet’s starts, including a 2-1 win at #8 Cal State Fullerton, and Friday’s 5-4 win over #2 Oregon State. With a resume like that it’s not too early to start comparing Guilmet to the very best this league has to offer. Here are the numbers for each Pac-10 team’s #1 starter:

Pitcher, Record, ERA
Preston Guilmet, ARIZ 6-0, 1.89
Josh Satow, ASU 7-2, 2.00
Tyson Ross, Cal 3-4, 2.51
Mike Stutes, OSU 6-1, 2.82
Tyson Brummett, UCLA 4-4, 2.83
Wayne Daman, WSU 2-1, 3.41
Ryan Cook, USC 4-1, 4.02
Nick Haughian, UW 3-2, 4.04
Jeremy Bleich, Stan 1-4, 5.13

So, yeah, Preston has been pretty good this year. Oh, by the way, he was 3-7 last year with a 4.80 ERA. When coaches talk about a player’s biggest improvement coming between his freshman and sophomore seasons, this is what they’re talking about.

The Cats clinched the Oregon State series with a decisive 8-2 victory on Saturday and blocked a last-second field goal to beat the Beavers 17-14 on Sunday afternoon to complete the sweep. There’s starting-the-conference-season-with-a-win good, and then there’s taking-three-straight-from-the-two-time-defending-Pac-10-champs-and-winners-of-the-2006-College-World-Series-oh-man-maybe-this-is-the-start-of-something-special good.

If you were taking a wait-and-see approach to this year’s team, the wait is over. If you are looking for an up-and-coming program to get behind, get your behind to the ballpark. It’s time to support the 2007 Arizona baseball team and see what these guys can do.

Next up for the BatCats, the University of California at Berkeley Golden Bears come to town fresh off a conference series win of their own. Due to a Pac-10 scheduling quirk, if you don’t catch the Cats this weekend it’ll be a full month before you get another chance. Make your plans now! I promise you won’t have to stare at a lot of orange and black this time.

Well, would you look at that. An entire column about Arizona baseball. If you made it this far without strangling yourself with your mouse cord you’re well on your way to appreciating the classic beauty of college ball.

So hop on board. Everyone is welcome. The tickets are cheap, the seats are great, the coach is easy to root for and the players are fun to watch. And if that’s not enough, it’s yet another excuse to wear red and…


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