By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, March 11, 2005
While spring break to many college students means partying in Mexico and sleeping late, it means a full slate of games for the No. 12 Arizona baseball team.
The Wildcats (12-5) play eight games in 10 days, starting with a three-game series against Mississippi State (8-0) tonight through Sunday at Sancet Stadium.
The teams play tonight at 7, tomorrow at 4 p.m. and Sunday at noon.
Arizona also plays UNLV (3-13) Tuesday at 7 p.m. and Wednesday at 3 p.m. at home before venturing off on its toughest road test of the season March 18-20.
In the clear highlight, the Wildcats battle defending national champion No. 3 Cal-State Fullerton (12-2) for a three-game series.
Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said playing a compact schedule should not be tough, adding that he wishes his team could do it more often.
"It will be good for them," he said. "Baseball is meant to be played every day. You get in a good rhythm."
For the second straight week, an undefeated team rolls into Tucson, as the Bulldogs come to town ranked No. 18 in the Collegiate Baseball poll after No. 2 Texas invaded Sancet Stadium last weekend.
With Arizona falling a few clutch hits away from sweeping the Longhorns, settling for one win instead, the team hopes to do a better job executing in key situations.
"To be successful offensively, we need to be more aggressive (and) make more quality, tough outs. That's the biggest thing," said junior catcher Nick Hundley. "We had too many outs where we don't put pressure on the defense. Pitching-wise, we've got to stop walking guys, especially the leadoff guy."
Junior John Meloan (2-0, 3.51 ERA) starts today, followed tomorrow by starter junior Kevin Guyette (2-0, 3.03) and senior Sean Rierson (2-1, 5.00) on Sunday.
By the time classes begin again, senior right fielder Jeff Van Houten could etch his name in the Arizona record books.
With a 23-game hitting streak dating back to last year, Van Houten is within striking distance of the 28-game mark set by both Ernie Durazo (2000-2001) and Jack Daugherty (1981-82).
If Van Houten falters, junior first baseman Jordan Brown is right on his tail, sporting a 17-game hitting streak, all in games this season.
Van Houten said he does not pay attention to his streak and only concentrates on the tough schedule ahead.
"It will help us down the stretch, playing good teams early on, and help us get better," he said.
With school out of session, the Wildcats play the bulk of their toughest non-conference games before Washington comes calling for the start of Pacific 10 Conference play March 24-26.
As a strong believer in a competitive non-conference schedule, Lopez said the more tough games, the better.
"We really get a lot out of it," he said. "Our guys get to compete at the highest level because everything we're trying to do is get ready for Pac-10 play."