By Charles Renning
JOSH FIELDS / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Freshman pitcher Mike Koons launches a pitch against the Sidewinders during their exhibition game April 5. Arizona is coming off back-to-back conference wins against UCLA and Washington State.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, April 14, 2005
Heading into this weekend's home series with Pacific 10 Conference runner-up Oregon State, the No. 6 Arizona baseball team is coming off a program first.
The Wildcats swept consecutive Pac-10 road series for the first time in school history, and it was only the second time Arizona has swept two road series in a year.
Head coach Andy Lopez said sweeps in the Pac-10 are a bit of a rarity because of the conference's competitive nature.
"There are a lot of good athletes in this conference," Lopez said. "There are too many variables to be able to win three games (consistently)."
Lopez said he couldn't remember a time any of his teams, at either Pepperdine or Florida, swept back to back conference road series.
Clutch hitting putting 'Cats on top
A big reason for the Wildcats' success this season has been their ability to score runs with two outs.
Lopez said Arizona's maturity and experience have played into the team plating 124 runs this season with two batters gone.
"They understand what they need to do to be successful," said Lopez of his veteran lineup, which features seven upperclassmen who see significant playing time.
Junior catcher Nick Hundley said his approach at the plate doesn't change much with two outs because Lopez reminds the team to treat every at-bat as important.
"He really stressed every single at-bat, no matter the situation," Hundley said. "If you don't take every one seriously, he'll get you out of there."
Both Hundley and Lopez agreed that two-out RBIs are directly related to winning games.
"(They're) the biggest thing in baseball," said Hundley, who cited opponents' frustration when runs suddenly pour on to the scoreboard.
As a team with two outs, the Wildcats are batting .356 and have scored 41 percent of their runs.
Hundley succeeding in everyday duties
In his first two seasons at Arizona, Hundley had been splitting catching duties with Richard Mercado, who was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks last year.
This season Hundley is alone behind the dish - and producing.
The El Paso, Texas, native is batting .375 in starting 33 out of the Wildcats' 34 games behind the plate.
Prior to this season, Hundley had never started four consecutive games.
"I love it," Hundley said.
He said that catching everyday can be physically demanding, but that's when being in good shape comes in play.
Lopez said Hundley has done well taking over the job full-time and as he progresses through baseball, the number of games he'll be expected to catch will continue to climb.
"For him, to catch 56 games isn't that far of a stretch," Lopez said, adding that minor league catches catch about 100 games and major league catchers are behind the plate for about 150.