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Cardinal Sins


Arizona Daily Wildcat

By Ryan Finley
Arizona Daily Wildcat,
March 24, 2000
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This weekend, the Arizona baseball team heads to Palo Alto, Calif., for a three-game series against Stanford, which is ranked first in the country by Baseball America.

The timing couldn't have been worse for the Wildcats - Arizona has lost seven of its last 10 games and is reeling after being stunned by Grand Canyon University, a Division II school.

The Wildcats (16-16) have been hindered by poor defense and inconsistent pitching of late - in last weekend's three-game series against California, UA allowed 51 runs. It was the most runs ever allowed by the Wildcats in a Pacific 10 Conference series.

According to UA third base coach Victor Solis, the team has tried to stay positive despite setbacks.

"We've got to stay positive," he said. "This team has a wealth of talent and have to realize that they're good baseball players."

Solis said the team's defensive miscues have been mostly mental mistakes.

"The team needs to realize that they've done it all before," he said. "The infielders have caught thousands of ground balls, the outfielders have caught thousands of fly balls, and the pitchers have thrown millions of strikes before. They just need to stay positive."

The most consistent UA player lately has been sophomore ace Ben Diggins. In last weekend's series against the Golden Bears, the 6-foot-6 right-hander limited California to just one run, pitching a complete game. Diggins is currently 6-0.

"Ben's been outstanding as a pitcher and hitter," Solis said. "He has a lot of talent and the ability to overpower people."

According to Solis, Diggins' real improvement has to do with consistency.

"What has made him the pitcher that he is has been his ability to pitch," he said. "He's been hitting his spots and throwing strikes."

The Cardinal's (17-6) strengths seem to be pitching, particularly that of sophomore Mike Gosling, and junior right-hander Justin Wayne. Gosling, this week's Pac-10 Player of the Week, struck out 12 batters in just 6.1 innings in last Sunday's game against Southern California.

Wayne, arguably the best pitcher in the Pac-10, is 6-0 on the season with a 1.51 ERA. The Hawaiian-native, named a second-team preseason All-American by Baseball America, Wayne will face off against Diggins this afternoon.

The Wildcats will have their chance for national recognition against the Cardinal, a team that started the season as the nation's top team.

Under head coach Jerry Stitt, the Wildcats are 4-5 against No. 1 ranked teams.

"These are the same players that took us to the regionals (last year)," Solis said. "(Losing has been) incredibly frustrating on both the young and the experienced guy. Even the coaches are getting frustrated."

Solis won't rule out an upset, should Arizona's pitching and defense live up to its preseason accolades, the Wildcats could have a chance to surprise the baseball community.

"The talent is here," he said. "The ability to play the game well is here. It's just a matter of putting it together and executing. We can be one of the best teams around. We just need to play the game right."

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