Wake up, weíre not dead yet.
During the basketball season we talked about how your feelings about a road trip often depend on the order in which you look at the games. This weekendís baseball series is the perfect example. If Preston Guilmet had won the Friday game as usual and we then proceeded to stink up the joint and lose two straight games and the series (just like last week) we would have been disappointed, frustrated and annoyed (just like last week).
But this week we got the two stink jobs out of the way early. UCLA traded in their aluminum bats for kryptonite ones and our Superman-In-Cleats lost for the first time all season. Saturday saw two Wildcat relievers combine to give up five runs while only getting four men out. At that point our team looked about as stable as an Oakland interchange.
Sometimes all you need to do to make things better is play another game.
We interrupt this column to marvel at the fact that Arizonaís Chris Henry and his 581 rushing yards were drafted in the second round of the NFL draft. Look at that again. He only rushed for 581 yards last year in college. And not for some 1-11 team in the Sun Belt Conference. We went 6-6 and beat two ranked teams!
Mike Bell, Henryís tailback predecessor at Arizona, caught on with the Denver Broncos after going undrafted, but he rushed for 900 yards in a season three consecutive times. Henry didnít break 900 yards in his entire college career.
I donít know how Iím supposed to feel about this guy. On the one hand you want him to do well because heís a Wildcat and heís representing our school and football program. But do we really want Henry living up to his billing as the fourth best running back (and 50th best overall player) in the 2007 NFL draft? Do we really want to be known as the college team not smart and/or good enough to get NFL stud Chris Henry to average more than three and a half yards per carry?
I wish you well in your pro career, Chris. Just not that well.
The worst part about the baseball teamís recent three-run-maximum streak is we haven't exactly been facing guys like Young Randy Johnson and Bloody Curt Schilling. Among the starting pitchers who have bested us during this seven-game power outage are Jeffrey Inman of Stanford and his 5.75 ERA, Nick Ison of Washington State who gives up 5.37 earned runs a game, and UCLAís Tim Murphy who is lugging around an ERA of 6.45. This is probably how Oregon felt when our anemic football offense torched them for 37 points.
The five runs scored on Sunday arenít exactly the stuff of legend but itís a start. When things are going badly sometimes itís good to turn to your dad. Arizona followed that advice by turning to seldom-used Oliver Padre to drive in the second run of the game with a pinch-hit sacrifice fly. Actually, to call Padre seldom-used would be an exaggeration. Oliverís very first appearance of the year was Saturday night and the freshman has now stepped to the plate exactly two times in his career. Padre has one official at-bat and one official RBI. Officially welcome to the team!
The big hit was C.J. Zieglerís two-out, three-run homer in the eighth inning, and Andy Lopez now has exactly 200 wins at the UA. Only three other Arizona baseball coaches have won more games:
Jerry Kindall 860
Frank Sancet 831
Pop McKale 302
That means Coach Lopez just has to win 102 more games and weíll name something after him.
At the end of the day Saturday our team looked lost and our Pac-10 hopes looked dead to rights. We were four games behind UCLA in the loss column and a full two games behind ASU for second place. Now with our sweep-avoiding victory over UCLA and Calís series-clinching win against ASU weíre just a game behind the Devils and will take a break from Pac play as UCLA has to face a suddenly-confident Cal team. Even if the Bears can only beat the Bruins once weíll be two games out of first with nine games left. Plus ASU and UCLA still have to play each other. Plus both teams have to take on Oregon State. Isnít it funny how much one game can change things?
Of course none of this means anything if we donít start hitting and winning more frequently. But Ė this just in - the University of Arizona baseball team is allowed to play games in Tucson! The arduous three-week road trip has now given way to a glorious three-week home stand. The next nine contests will be played on Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium starting with a three-game set against Liberty University Friday night.
Just because this next series doesnít count in the Pac-10 standings doesnít mean it doesnít count. Liberty means freedom and, as we all know, wins against freedom arenít free.
The Flames are 28-18 and tied for third in the Big South Conference. They just got done playing on the road against Coastal Carolina, the best (and only ranked) team in their league, and LU lost two out of three by a combined score of 33-32. Theyíve put up a lot of football-like offensive totals lately so our pitchers need to take them seriously, and our hitters needed to get comfortable at home really quick.
The Wildcat baseballers have survived the road with a lot of lofty goals still intact. We donít have to leave the state of Arizona again in the regular season and if we can take care of business at home we could be looking at a very interesting series May 23-25 in Tempe.
Time to come alive.
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