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Baseball team hopes to make NCAA Tournament

By Dan Rosen
Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 12, 1999
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1999 record: 31-20 overall, 11-10 Pacific 10 Conference

Games remaining: (3) May 14-16 at Arizona State

The UA baseball program went through a total makeover this season with seven positions being filled by newcomers and one being filled by a reserve from last year.

Three of those seven positions were handed over to freshmen who were basically thrown to the wolves this season. They have put UA in contention for its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1993.

For now, that would probably be enough, but looking into the crystal ball, the team returning next year will have a good shot at accomplishing more.

"That is something that really motivates me. How good we are and how good we are going to be," freshman right fielder Shelly Duncan said. "I get really excited about it. Hopefully we make it to the (College) World Series this year, but we have a really good shot next year."

Duncan led the new freshman class this season with a total of 18 home runs and counting, five away from the school record of 23 and eight more than the old freshman home run record. He also led the team in RBI with 62 and in slugging percentage at .651.

"Everyday I just come out and have fun while playing baseball," he said. "I never really expected much. I haven't really looked at what we've done or even thought about it."

Freshman left fielder Kenny Huff also came out this season with the gun barrels loaded, smacking 13 doubles while hitting .297 with three home runs and 32 RBI.

The other starting freshman, Ben Diggins, was the golden child in this year's recruiting class after being selected No. 32 overall in the 1998 amateur draft.

While he has been in a season-long slump at the plate (.190, 5 HR, 21 RBI), he has been a pleasant surprise on the pitching mound, garnering an 8-4 record to date with 83 strikeouts and holding opponents to a .257 average.

"I don't think it has surprised me," said Bill Kinneberg, UA associate head coach and pitching coach. "It actually has been nice to watch him develop over the year."