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Versatility key to success

CLAIRE C. LAURENCE/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Sophomore Nick Hundley, who has started at catcher and in the outfield for the Wildcats, is one of many UA players to play multiple positions this season. More than half of the team's roster is able to play more than one position for head coach Andy Lopez if needed.
By Charles Renning
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, April 21, 2004
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Wildcats play many positions for Lopez

When UA baseball head coach Andy Lopez looks down his bench, he sees a lot of options.

Thanks to his recruiting style and the ability of his players to move from position to position, he has been able to use those options to his advantage.

The Wildcats (21-15-1, 5-4 Pacific 10 Conference) have the luxury of playing players in different spots to create better matchups.

Lopez said he has looked for versatility throughout his 21 years of coaching college baseball.

"When you're athletic, you have a chance to move some guys around," Lopez said. "We have a lot of pieces we can interchange."

Throughout the team's first two-thirds of the season, Arizona's lineup has featured a constant mixture of players.

"We've got a lot of guys on this team that can play the infield or outfield," said sophomore infielder Brad Boyer. "We have a lot of athletes, and that's what you need for a good team."

Boyer is one of those players who has seen playing time at multiple positions.

He started the season in left field, but struggled.

Boyer then moved to third base to fill in for senior Moises Duran, and has started at the hot corner the last few contests.

Boyer is not alone. Of the 20 position players on Arizona's roster, more than half are either listed at multiple positions or have played more than one spot in the field this year.

Just this past weekend, Lopez used numerous players in their secondary positions. Sophomore catcher Nick Hundley, sophomore pitcher Chris Frey and freshman first baseman Bill Rhinehart all saw time in the outfield.

"They are young guys, but they're athletic," Lopez said. "It's a freshman- and sophomore-dominated team and they can bounce around from position to position."

The Wildcats' versatility also allows Lopez to play the guys who are most effective at the plate.

With two qualified catchers in Hundley and junior Richard Mercado, Lopez had to find a way to get both players on the field and with his team's athleticism, putting a guy in his secondary position poses little, if any, loss on the defensive side.

Lopez also faced this problem at first base.

His first basemen Rhinehart and sophomore Jordan Brown have two of the top three batting averages on the team. The players' abilities to move around made it easy for Lopez to get both guys into the game.

"When you're athletic, you have a chance to move around. We have a lot of pieces we can interchange," Lopez said.

In his third year in Tucson, Lopez's recruiting style has become obvious.

"When he recruits, he recruits athletes and guys that can play lot of different spots," Boyer said.

Lopez said he would rather recruit a versatile, athletic player than a guy who is known as one-dimensional in high school.

"We've always felt that if we have good athletes and they learn how to play hard, it's going to be pretty good in the long run," Lopez said. "We'll take a guy who's going to hit 30 home runs, but we would (rather) take the athlete who's going to be versatile for us."

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