This year’s University of Arizona baseball team is just a handful of games into the new season. These early games are designed to get a look at who’s ready to play and what adjustments the coaches will need to make as the season progresses.
But one thing is becoming apparent: This squad should be able to put runs on the board this year. Lots of them.
After just eight games, the Wildcats have piled up 90 runs – more than double the number they’ve allowed.
They scored 49 of those runs against Eastern Kentucky in the opening four-game home stand last week. Yesterday, they completed another sweep, this time rolling over McNeese State, outscoring the Cowboys, 41-14, over four games.
OK, the competition pales in comparison to what Arizona will be facing when they get to the meat of the non-conference portion of the schedule, beginning next weekend when they are scheduled to take on Arkansas, Oklahoma State, and Nebraska in the Frisco College Baseball Classic in Texas.
Eight games against mid-major programs should provide a warm-up of sorts for a season that shows a lot of promise. Arizona, under a first-year coach last season, ended a 49-win season with a berth in the College World Series Finals. The 49-24 campaign last season provided head coach Jay Johnson with the most wins by a first-year coach in program history.
The Wildcats began this season ranked third in the Pac-12 preseason polls and seventh nationally in the Collegiate Baseball Preseason Poll. All of the preseason polls had them ranked in the top 25, with Baseball America giving them their lowest beginning ranking at No. 22.
Polls just released have the Wildcats sitting anywhere from a No. 12 ranking from the baseball writers to No. 19 by Baseball America.
Needless to say, the Arizona hitters have been especially hard on pitchers so far this season. Opposing pitchers have a combined 11.23 ERA.
Yesterday, for example, McNeese State went through three pitchers in the bottom half of the seventh inning trying to stop a seven-run rally that led to the 12-5 Arizona victory.
During the 8-0 start to the season, Arizona batters have piled up 40 extra-base hits. Junior outfielder Jared Oliva leads the team with 10 extra-base hits that he has used to build a .457 batting average.
Three players – Mitchell Morimoto, JJ Matijevic, and Cesar Salazar – are all batting better than .423.
But the award for consistency goes to Nick Quintana, the freshman infielder from Las Vegas. Quintana has collected at least one hit in each of the first eight games and is hitting .500 overall (15-for-30). After the first three games against Eastern Kentucky, he was named the Pac-12 Player of the Week after going 7-for-11 in his college debut. He had five runs scored, hit four doubles, and collected six RBIs.
Matijevic and Oliva are two of the five seniors returning from last year’s squad; Louis Boyd, Rio Gomez, pitcher JC Cloney round out the fivesome. Cloney was the starting pitcher for opening day last year and again this season.
After warming up with a couple of lower-level opponents, the Wildcats will face an entirely different challenge tomorrow afternoon when they host the Korean professional team, NC Dinos, in an exhibition game at Hi Corbett Field.
The game is open to the public, with first pitch at 3 p.m.