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Baseball: Cats face Lobos in non-conference tilt

JOSH FIELDS/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior pitcher Sean Rierson takes the mound in Albuquerque tonight against New Mexico. In his last outing on March 26, Rierson gave up three earned runs in 3 2/3 innings.
By Michael Schwartz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
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The No. 6 Wildcats take a break from conference play this week by playing four non-conference games against three different teams, starting tonight at New Mexico.

Arizona (26-11, 10-2 Pacific 10 Conference) plays the Lobos tonight at 5 at Isotopes Park.

The Wildcats have won eight of their past nine games, including two of three from No. 9 Oregon State, while New Mexico (19-18) was victorious in seven of 10 after sweeping Air Force last weekend.

Senior Sean Rierson (2-2, 7.66 ERA) goes to the hill for Arizona for the first time in 3 1/2 weeks.

Rierson last pitched in March 26's 16-8 loss to Washington when he gave up eight runs, three earned, on six hits in 3 2/3 innings. That game also marked the last time the Wildcats had lost before losing Saturday to the Beavers 17-1.

In the meantime, Rierson threw three innings and allowed one earned run in an exhibition game he started April 5 against the Tucson Sidewinders.

"Anytime it's good to get a start," Rierson said. "I wish I would have been able to get in and help the team out this weekend, so be patient, get another 'W,' that's all we need."

After pitching in the Friday night spot in 2003, Rierson has not pitched very much as he works his arm back from the Tommy John surgery that sidelined him last season.

"It's feeling good," he said. "The past two weeks it's really coming on. I'm feeling really confident with how strong my arm's feeling."

If Rierson falters early, freshman Eric Berger (3-0, 4.78) will likely be ready in the bullpen after pitching only one Friday inning, allowing one run, in the Oregon State series.

Both teams will have the advantage of having already faced the other team this season, which head coach Andy Lopez said should help both teams.

Arizona swept New Mexico in both teams' season-opening series Feb. 4-6 at Sancet Stadium. The Wildcats won all three games by nine runs, winning 9-0 Feb. 4, 14-5 Feb. 5 and 15-6 Feb. 6.

Rierson dominated in his season-opening appearance, pitching 2 1/3 perfect innings of relief while striking out six of seven batters in the Feb. 5 win.

"It's an advantage because we've seen them and know what they've done," Rierson said. "We have charts on them and stuff like that, versus maybe you go against another team you don't have charts on, so it's an advantage."

Arizona shined offensively averaging 12.7 runs per game in the first three games against the Lobos.

Senior right fielder Jeff Van Houten hit 8-for-12 (.667) with five RBIs and five runs. Junior first baseman Jordan Brown went 7-for-14 (.500) with eight RBIs and five runs. Sophomore shortstop Jason Donald started the season 6-for-13 (.462) with six RBIs and four runs.

While junior John Meloan will not pitch in tonight's game, he combined with junior Sean Jarrett to one-hit the Lobos Feb. 4.

Infielder Jordan Pacheco (.414, eight home runs, 30 RBIs) leads the Lobos along with first baseman David Stovall (.385, six home runs, 43 RBIs).

Stovall hit 3-for-10 (.300) with three runs and two RBIs in the season-opening series, while Pacheco went 1-for-6 (.167) with an RBI.

New Mexico has continued to struggle on the mound since the first series against the Wildcats as the Lobos enter tonight's contest with a 7.46 ERA. No Lobo pitcher with more than two appearances has an ERA below five, while Arizona has seven below that mark.

Arizona plays at the University of California Irvine Friday and Sunday and Sacramento State Saturday on this road trip.

"We've got non-conference this week, and that'll be a challenge because we're the Harlem Globetrotters this week, going everywhere in the country in one week," Lopez said.

Rierson said he needs to set the tone to earn a non-conference victory tonight.

"It always starts with pitching, so if I can go out there and put zeroes up in the beginning, give a chance for our offense to roll, we'll be in it," Rierson said. "It starts right from the beginning."

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