[ {"id":"7711d62f-8c36-5855-a3fa-55e5dfe8548a","type":"article","starttime":"1492925400","starttime_iso8601":"2017-04-22T22:30:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1492926303","priority":42,"sections":[{"baseball":"sports/arizonawildcats/baseball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Utah completes surprising sweep of No. 6 Arizona Wildcats","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/article_7711d62f-8c36-5855-a3fa-55e5dfe8548a.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/utah-completes-surprising-sweep-of-no-arizona-wildcats/article_7711d62f-8c36-5855-a3fa-55e5dfe8548a.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/utah-completes-surprising-sweep-of-no-arizona-wildcats/article_7711d62f-8c36-5855-a3fa-55e5dfe8548a.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Michael Lev\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"The Cats suffer their first home sweep under Jay Johnson, falling 4-2 to the Utes.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#top5sports","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":null,"versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"640","height":"360","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/be/6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054/58e4077637ba0.image.jpg?resize=640%2C360"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/be/6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054/58e4077637ba0.image.jpg?resize=100%2C56"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/be/6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054/58e4077637ba0.image.jpg?resize=300%2C169"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/be/6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054/58e4077637ba0.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":6,"commentID":"7711d62f-8c36-5855-a3fa-55e5dfe8548a","body":"

Is this the first crisis of Jay Johnson\u2019s tenure with the Arizona Wildcats?

That\u2019s probably too severe. This is baseball, after all. The season is long and winding. The 2016 Wildcats endured three three-game losing streaks before finding their form and reaching the College World Series finals.

But what happened at Hi Corbett Field this weekend at least qualifies as a speed bump.

Sixth-ranked Arizona, which had lost only one home game all season, got swept by Utah, which came to Tucson with a sub-.500 record. The Utes completed the sweep with a 4-2 victory Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 3,732.

\u201cThe most disappointing thing is we did not improve throughout the weekend,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cWe\u2019re going to go back to work on that, make some adjustments (and) work on getting better, getting it right and being prepared to play on Tuesday.\u201d

After Utah\u2019s victory in the series opener Thursday night, Johnson said of the Utes: \u201cThere isn\u2019t a better ninth-place team in the country.\u201d They\u2019re no longer in ninth place. Nor is Utah (17-17, 8-10 Pac-12) under .500 overall.

The Utes have won six in a row over the Wildcats under Johnson and eight straight dating to 2015.

\u201cDon\u2019t let their record tell you anything about them,\u201d said reliever Robby Medel, who threw four scoreless innings. \u201cThey\u2019ve had our number for three years.\u201d

Arizona entered this week ranked No. 2 in RPI. The Wildcats were a consensus choice to be a national seed in the NCAA Tournament.

That still might happen, but Arizona now has serious work to do. The sweep dropped the Wildcats to 9-9 in the Pac-12. They\u2019re 26-12 overall.

Arizona had hoped to jump on Utah early Saturday night \u2014 a formula that helped the UA secure a series victory over Oregon one week earlier. But starter Rio Gomez couldn\u2019t get out of the first inning.

Gomez surrendered three runs before getting his first out, on a sacrifice bunt. Johnson pulled him at that point for Michael Flynn, who prevented any further damage with considerable help from right fielder Alfonso Rivas, who threw out a baserunner and made a running catch.

Flynn allowed a run in the second inning but settled into a groove after that. The sophomore right-hander yielded only that one run on three hits in 4\u00ba innings.

The performances of Flynn and Medel were bright spots in an otherwise bleak weekend. Medel has yet to allow a run in Pac-12 play, spanning five appearances and 11\u00aa innings.

Normally, four runs wouldn\u2019t be enough to beat Arizona. The Wildcats entered this week averaging a conference-best nine runs per game.

They scored 10 in three games vs. Utah. Utes lefty Josh Lapiana pitched a complete game, striking out six, mostly on breaking balls in the dirt.

\u201cWe swung at more bad pitches tonight than we have in a month and a half,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cWe\u2019ll address that.\u201d

Arizona also fell victim to spectacular infield defense. Utah shortstop Ellis Kelly thwarted a potential seventh-inning rally by leaping to spear Ryan Haug\u2019s line drive. Rivas, who led off the inning with a double, ended up being stranded at third.

\u201cI don\u2019t want to say d\u00e9j\u00e0 vu, but they did sweep us last year,\u201d Medel said. \u201cWe do a really good job as a team \u2026 of letting it get off of us. Not to say that this one didn\u2019t sting, but it\u2019s off of you and we\u2019re on to New Mexico State on Tuesday.\u201d

Inside pitch

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Katiyana Mauga gripped a Louisville Slugger in each hand as she walked off the Hillenbrand Stadium field late Saturday afternoon.

With those sticks of aluminum, Mauga became Arizona softball\u2019s all-time home-run leader this weekend. Mauga tied the school mark on Friday night before breaking the record on Saturday with a fourth-inning solo blast to right, her 88th career home run.

Mauga\u2019s record-setting day powered No. 3 Arizona (45-3, 15-2) to a 10-7 win over No. 6 Oregon, clinching a big Pac-12 series victory.

\u201cIt\u2019s fabulous to see history made, and I\u2019ve seen a lot of it at Arizona,\u201d head coach Mike Candrea said. \u201cShe\u2019ll definitely be going down with some of the very best who have ever played here.\u201d

Mauga\u2019s homer pushed her past Stacie Chambers\u2019 previous school record. Mauga is now tied for third on the NCAA career home-run record list, eight shy of Oklahoma Sooner Lauren Chamberlain, who set the mark at 95.

With seven games to go in Arizona\u2019s regular season, Mauga could feasibly reach the record in the next few weeks.

\u201cThere\u2019s no words to describe it, but it felt more like an accomplishment,\u201d Mauga said. \u201cIt\u2019s a relief, but people are still going to ask about the NCAA record.\u201d

Of course, Mauga will have the postseason to work with, too.

By winning Saturday, Arizona picked up a r\u00e9sum\u00e9-building series victory that could place the Wildcats among the top national seeds.

The NCAA Selection Committee revealed its first top-10 rankings during the game and Arizona came in at No. 2 in the country, only behind No. 1 Florida.

The Wildcats got out to a rocky start Saturday as Oregon\u2019s Gwen Svekis hit a three-run homer off starter Taylor McQuillin in the top of the first. McQuillin allowed another homer to Svekis in the third, that one a two-run shot.

\u201cI definitely think that girl had my number all day, so that was a bit rough,\u201d McQuillin said. \u201cOther than that, it was a fairly good day.\u201d

McQuillin\u2019s two mistakes on the mound were mostly overshadowed by Arizona\u2019s bats at the plate.

The Wildcats scored one in the first and then tacked on five in the second to give McQuillin an early 6-3 lead.

Back-to-back walks sparked the second inning rally, followed by a Reyna Carranco single to load the bases with no outs.

Ashleigh Hughes tied the game at 3-3 with a two-run single, followed by an RBI fielder\u2019s choice from Mandie Perez and a two-run double by Mauga.

Svekis\u2019 second homer made it 6-5 Arizona in the third, but Arizona answered with Mauga\u2019s record setting homer in the fourth, followed by a fifth inning RBI single from Dejah Mulipola to make the score 8-5.

McQuillin allowed a one-out single in the sixth, leading Candrea to bring in Danielle O\u2019Toole to face the top of the Oregon order.

O\u2019Toole immediately gave up a two-run homer to Danica Mercado, sister of Arizona slugger Mo Mercado.

\u201cI was kind of preparing for that next time around at the top of the order to make a change, because Mercado was seeing (McQuillin) pretty good, too,\u201d Candrea said.

Carranco hit a two-run single in the bottom of the sixth to give O\u2019Toole some insurance runs heading into the seventh.

O\u2019Toole closed out the game with a scoreless frame to earn her first save of the season, while Taylor McQuillin moved to 15-1 with the win.

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An NFL agent is part financial adviser and part mouthpiece, part negotiator and part hurdle-jumper.

But on draft day, there may be no bigger role for an agent than psychologist.

Fortunes are made on this day, lives are changed. Children get to buy their parents houses because of this day. Third cousins get new rides. Generations upon generations can be affected.

Kenny Zuckerman remembers seven years ago, when Cal defensive end Tyson Alualu called him in the morning and told him that his family just had a feeling, a sensation, that something big was going to happen that day. They went out looking for land in his hometown of Honolulu, land on which they\u2019d put a house, maybe even a church.

Not a single mock draft in the land had him going in the first round. But Zuckerman was on the phone with the Jacksonville Jaguars all day, and, he says, \u201cThe conversations were just \u2026 odd.\u201d They told him they were trying to trade down in the draft from pick No. 10, but that they wanted Alualu badly.

When the pick came up and they hadn\u2019t budged, Zuckerman\u2019s heart sank a little. He thought to himself, \u201cAh, man, they couldn\u2019t trade out of it.\u201d

The seconds ticked by. Would it be versatile running back Ryan Mathews of Fresno State? Punishing safety Earl Thomas of Texas? Or would it be an impact defensive end like Michigan\u2019s Brandon Graham, or South Florida\u2019s Jason Pierre-Paul, or Georgia Tech\u2019s Derrick Morgan? Maybe they\u2019d shore up the offensive line with Rutgers tackle Anthony Davis or Idaho guard Mike Iupati or Florida center Maurkice Pouncey. Or, hey, Tim Tebow was still around, and Jacksonville is in Florida, and those Gators fans are rabid, and ... well, it didn\u2019t look good as the clock dwindled down.

Then Roger Goodell strolled up onto the stage and announced, \u201cWith the 10th overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft, the Jacksonville Jaguars select \u2026 Tyson Alualu.\u201d

Back in his office in Sherman Oaks, California, Zuckerman was over the moon.

In an almost three-decade career, this was the one that Zuckerman has singled out.

\u201cI just remember how I felt: It was euphoric,\u201d he said. \u201cIt was unbelievable.\u201d

But then there\u2019s the other side of the draft: When dreams don\u2019t come true. At least, not the way they\u2019ve been envisioned.

\u201cIt\u2019s my job
to be honest\u201d

Zuckerman, a former Arizona Wildcats walk-on wide receiver-turned-scholarship player, counts many NFL standouts among his clients. Atlanta Falcons linebacker Brooks Reed, a former Sabino High School and UA standout, is one of them. So is Ka\u2019Deem Carey, the former Canyon del Oro and UA running back now with the Chicago Bears.

Zuckerman is representing five players in this week\u2019s NFL draft.

Invariably, some of his clients will be elated and some will be disappointed. One might slide a pick or two. One might drop a round or two. One might fall out of the draft altogether.

If that happens, Zuckerman will be unflappable.

\u201cThere are players who are constantly coddled; they don\u2019t even know what\u2019s up and down. My job is to manage my client\u2019s expectations,\u201d he said. \u201cA lot of agents don\u2019t tell their players that. They want to always pat them on the back. Everything\u2019s great! Don\u2019t worry! Then it\u2019s constantly one big fairy tale.

\u201cIt\u2019s my job to be honest and give them a realistic snapshot.\u201d

This is not always easy.

You tell a 22-year-old cornerback that he\u2019s not as good as he thinks he is, and sometimes the door hits you on the way out.

That makes it incredibly important to find someone who knows what\u2019s next.

\u201cListen \u2014 the draft is one day that determines how you enter the league,\u201d he said. \u201cIt\u2019s just another day. Can someone\u2019s next four years be determined? Yeah. But your first contract is not going to get you rich. Your first contract is really an interview to get to the second contract. Players can\u2019t base their whole career on draft day.\u201d

That frankness, the brass tacks of it, made an imprint on Isaac Asiata.

Utah\u2019s 6-foot-3-inch, 323-pound offensive guard is just days away from his life changing forever. Originally projected anywhere from the sixth round to undrafted, the 2016 Morris Award winner as the Pac-12\u2019s best offensive lineman has crept up in mock drafts. Some experts say he could go as high as the second round.

\u201cKenny did a good job when I first met him of always being real about everything. He didn\u2019t sugarcoat it,\u201d said Asiata, whose cousin Matt plays running back for the Minnesota Vikings. \u201cI could tell he wasn\u2019t just blowing smoke. A lot of agents were saying we\u2019re going to get you in the first round. I knew, he knew, I wasn\u2019t going in the first round. I have realistic expectations.\u201d

Asiata started 39 straight games for the Utes. This is not a guy with whom you want to trifle. He wasn\u2019t about to fall for some spiel from a guy with diamonds twinkling in his eyes.

\u201cThe person sitting in front of me was the guy he is,\u201d Asiata said of his first meeting with Zuckerman. \u201cEverything he told me was honest, up front, and I could tell he was a dude I could trust. A guy who I felt comfortable with, who I could call, who my wife could call. I talked to so many guys who just hate their agent. Sometimes I just hit him up to chat. We talk about things other than the draft, we\u2019ll talk about my wife. We\u2019ll just shoot the ****. I can talk to that guy about anything.\u201d

Cut teeth as a Cat
Zuckerman started down this path in college.

While at the UA, he roomed with Wildcats fullback Charles Webb. Zuckerman remembers taking phone calls on the home phone from prospective agents.

\u201cRemember, we didn\u2019t have cellphones then, so I\u2019d talk to these guys, and a lot of them didn\u2019t know anything about football,\u201d said Zuckerman, who played for Arizona from 1982-86. \u201cCharles was sort of having me handle the process. Do you think he\u2019s an I-back, a 1-back, a fullback? These guys would come up in limos, suits, jewelry, one of them owned a bar in Tucson and was sort of funneling free drinks to players, which I didn\u2019t realize until end of my career.\u201d

Zuckerman was no NFL prospect himself. That he even landed at Arizona is a surprise, as, he says, he graduated Birmingham High School in Van Nuys, California, at roughly 5-foot-7 and 150 pounds. But he had the heart.

After a year in law school, Zuckerman landed an internship in Chicago for no pay. That turned into $1,000 a month, then $2,000, then $3,000. He learned the ropes and built a reputation.

\u201cI learned the business, and I was just a football junkie,\u201d he said. \u201cI was a walk-on but ended up lettering senior year, played in some games, and football was my life. There was no bigger student of the game than myself. I knew the scouting report for every team, every week. I figured if I can approach business like this, I\u2019ll be successful.\u201d

And he has been, with almost three decades in what is entirely a cutthroat business.

\u201cI wouldn\u2019t change anything I\u2019ve done,\u201d he said, though he acknowledges that his ethics have perhaps resulted in money being left on the table. \u201cThe one thing I had that allowed me to get into the business and get into college football as a 150-pound kid out of high school was passion.\u201d

A testament to his perspective: He\u2019s been with the same partners at Priority Sports & Entertainment for nearly two decades, and, he says, \u201cWe treat our clients like we\u2019re a Fortune 500 company.\u201d

He sees the flash-in-the-pan agents who have become so commonplace in today\u2019s world and he scoffs. He wonders to himself, how can a player risk his livelihood on a non-entity?

\u201cHow do you get advice from a doctor who\u2019s never done surgery?\u201d he asks. \u201cAt least a doctor went to medical school and operated on a cadaver. Here you can hang up a plaque and say I\u2019m an agent. I always cringe when a player says, \u2018I\u2019m going with this guy, and I\u2019ll be his only client.\u2019 You\u2019re his only client for a reason.\u201d

He sounds disappointed.

\u201cThere are a lot of charlatans in this business,\u201d he continues. \u201cThey\u2019ll move on to the next one. They don\u2019t care about careers. If there is one thing I look back at with Charles, it was remembering how important it was to him to have someone. These kids have a problem trusting people. You\u2019re not hiring a friend. You\u2019re hiring a business partner. Find the best business partner for the job. That\u2019s where a lot of kids drop the ball. They\u2019re swayed by inconsequential things.\u201d

\u201cFootball is really an inexact science\u201d

Zuckerman will spend draft weekend in his office, manning the phones, wheeling and dealing and trying to sneak every one of his players up the board.

He has cultivated relationships with the biggest movers and shakers in the NFL.

He spent part of Wednesday on the phone with an NFL general manager who called to inquire about a player. Zuckerman told the GM that the player should go somewhere between picks No. 30 and No. 45, and the GM sneered. They made a dinner bet, and then the GM started prying

\u201cWell, why do you think so?\u201d

Zuckerman starts listing the mechanics of the thing. \u201cThese teams are at 41 and 42, and he\u2019s not gonna get past them,\u201d he said. \u201cThis team said unless something changes, they want him here. \u2026\u201d

\u201cAnd the GM says, \u2018Wow, that really makes a lot of sense.\u2019 I\u2019m having this conversation, and it doesn\u2019t go in one ear and out the other. That team is only talking to themselves and I\u2019m talking to multiple teams, and it\u2019s that experience and relationships that are important to these kids.\u201d

It was to Asiata.

\u201cIt was big for me to see his track record,\u201d he said. \u201cHe did a good job with a lot of guys I knew, and they vouched for him. Other agents I asked about, and they said they were a joke. It was refreshing to hear that what he told me was true \u2014 it wasn\u2019t like he had a script for me. He was being honest, and that set him apart.\u201d

Asiata and his wife, Angel, did extensive research trying to find the best fit .

They know what this one day can mean.

\u201cHe\u2019s sensitive to that,\u201d Asiata said. \u201cI know draft day is going to be emotional. It could be bad emotions, and it could be good emotions. I\u2019ve had guys tell me their agent tells them one thing just to not **** them off. It\u2019s every football player\u2019s dream to get drafted. That\u2019s like the ultimate goal. That\u2019s like an exclamation point on everything I\u2019ve done. That\u2019s how I\u2019ve looked at it. \u201d

Zuckerman will be by his phone, ready to celebrate or soften the blow.

He\u2019s begun to give back to football in other ways, too, starting a 501(c)3 youth football program in Los Angeles five years ago to help usher in the next generation of players.

On Wednesday, he posted an article for parents about the recruiting practices of Kansas State Wildcats coach Bill Snyder.

\u201cThis is one the best articles you can read as a youth football parent,\u201d he wrote in the post on the Los Angeles City Ducks Youth Football page. \u201cDon\u2019t get caught up in the hoopla. Keep your kid grounded and focus on the task at hand. No college can measure what\u2019s in a child\u2019s heart and his head. Those two things are probably the most important aspects of finding solid football players.\u201d

For now, he hopes to help some of his players get into college ball. Maybe some day, he hopes, he\u2019ll be able to represent one who came up through the ranks.

And on draft day, he\u2019ll be there for them.

\u201cFootball is really an inexact science,\u201d he said. \u201cWhere you\u2019re drafted, more than ever, is no precursor to the career you\u2019ll have. The two things you have to measure is what is in the heart and what is in the head, and they haven\u2019t found a tool to measure that yet.\u201d

"}, {"id":"da512c1b-a35e-596d-ad90-b2a78ae87737","type":"article","starttime":"1492907400","starttime_iso8601":"2017-04-22T17:30:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1492926423","priority":41,"sections":[{"football":"sports/arizonawildcats/football"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Arizona Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez would appreciate an indoor practice facility","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/football/article_da512c1b-a35e-596d-ad90-b2a78ae87737.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/football/arizona-wildcats-coach-rich-rodriguez-would-appreciate-an-indoor-practice/article_da512c1b-a35e-596d-ad90-b2a78ae87737.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/football/arizona-wildcats-coach-rich-rodriguez-would-appreciate-an-indoor-practice/article_da512c1b-a35e-596d-ad90-b2a78ae87737.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":2,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Michael Lev\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"Both RichRod and new AD Dave Heeke believe a facility would benefit the UA. Making it happen remains a huge challenge.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#top5sports","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{"arm_id":"75915"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"5a42b4ba-3497-5f7b-a854-cae5a38158cd","description":"University of Arizona offensive linemen Bryson Cain, standing, and Jon Jacobs get inventive to overcome a lack of tables while signing autographs during a meet-the-fans day.","byline":"Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":1690,"hiresheight":1226,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/a4/5a42b4ba-3497-5f7b-a854-cae5a38158cd/58fc097facb0b.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1048","height":"760","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/a4/5a42b4ba-3497-5f7b-a854-cae5a38158cd/58fc097faba95.image.jpg?resize=1048%2C760"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"73","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/a4/5a42b4ba-3497-5f7b-a854-cae5a38158cd/58fc097faba95.image.jpg?resize=100%2C73"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"218","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/a4/5a42b4ba-3497-5f7b-a854-cae5a38158cd/58fc097faba95.image.jpg?resize=300%2C218"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"743","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/5/a4/5a42b4ba-3497-5f7b-a854-cae5a38158cd/58fc097faba95.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C743"}}},{"id":"1f65d070-0068-55a6-b2dd-d1883e44b57b","description":"Arizona quarterbacks Brandon Dawkins, background, and Khalil Tate sign autographs for the few hundred to brave the heat for a meet the fans day at Arizona Stadium, Saturday, April 22, 2017, Tucson, Ariz. Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star","byline":"Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":1869,"hiresheight":1109,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/f6/1f65d070-0068-55a6-b2dd-d1883e44b57b/58fc098019870.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1170","height":"694","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/f6/1f65d070-0068-55a6-b2dd-d1883e44b57b/58fc098018894.image.jpg?resize=1170%2C694"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"59","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/f6/1f65d070-0068-55a6-b2dd-d1883e44b57b/58fc098018894.image.jpg?resize=100%2C59"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"178","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/f6/1f65d070-0068-55a6-b2dd-d1883e44b57b/58fc098018894.image.jpg?resize=300%2C178"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"608","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/1/f6/1f65d070-0068-55a6-b2dd-d1883e44b57b/58fc098018894.image.jpg?resize=1024%2C608"}}}],"revision":5,"commentID":"da512c1b-a35e-596d-ad90-b2a78ae87737","body":"

As Arizona\u2019s \u201cFan Appreciation Day\u201d began on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon, Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez wisely found a shady spot to sign autographs.

With temperatures climbing into the 90s, Rodriguez sat under a tent next to the entrance to the UA locker room at Arizona Stadium. His players were scattered about the field, baking on the artificial turf but happily signing team posters, jerseys, hats and mini-helmets.

The event drew several hundred fans, but it might have attracted more if Arizona had an indoor facility in which to hold it.

Rodriguez reiterated his desire for an enclosed practice facility in an interview with the Star, repeating a familiar line: \u201cIt\u2019s not just a want. It\u2019s a need.\u201d

New athletic director Dave Heeke shares Rodriguez\u2019s view that a multipurpose training facility would benefit all UA student-athletes. But building one falls firmly in the category of easier said than done.

Costs vary widely on such facilities depending on their size and other bells and whistles, but even a minimalist version likely would exceed $10 million. The Arizona Board of Regents recently approved a $100 per-student athletics fee, which won\u2019t come close to covering the costs of the various facility upgrades the UA needs.

As Heeke wrote in a recent \u201cWildcat Wednesday\u201d newsletter: \u201cThe expected revenue produced by the student fee, along with a generous, private $5 million donation, will make it possible for athletics to borrow approximately $75 million to get started on some, but not all, of our various infrastructure projects.\u201d

An indoor training facility would give the football team a place to escape the heat and avoid monsoons during summer workouts and training camp. It also would provide a venue for other student-athletes to train and for fans to gather before football and basketball games.

\u201cIt would be a great place to get out of the heat, to be in an air-conditioned place to tailgate,\u201d Rodriguez said. \u201cOther sports could use it. It would be the only one in Southern Arizona. That thing would be used more than probably any facility on campus.\u201d

\u201cLast year wasn\u2019t
what we want\u201d

Heeke was working at Central Michigan when Arizona endured a 3-9 season last fall, the worst of Rodriguez\u2019s tenure.

Heeke understandably is taking a wait-and-see approach with Rodriguez and all of the Wildcats coaches.

\u201cI\u2019m the new guy,\u201d said Heeke, who has been on the job for three weeks. \u201cI\u2019m trying to listen a lot and learn.\u201d

Regarding Rodriguez and the football program specifically, Heeke said: \u201cIt\u2019s no secret. Rich and I have talked. Last year wasn\u2019t what we want. It wasn\u2019t what they expected, what Rich expects or wants.\u201d

Heeke believes Rodriguez is doing the right thing by recommitting to recruiting, although it remains to be seen when those efforts will pay dividends in the win-loss column.

Walker needed
\u201cfresh start\u201d

Rodriguez said offensive tackle Keenan Walker, who recently announced plans to transfer, \u201cneeds a fresh start somewhere.\u201d

Walker, a former four-star recruit from Scottsdale Chaparral, redshirted last season as a freshman. His time at Arizona was marred by injuries and off-the-field issues.

\u201cI always tell the players: All I do is enforce the decisions that they make, right or wrong,\u201d Rodriguez said. \u201cMore than anything, he\u2019s got to get himself committed academically and to the game of football if he wants to have success anywhere.\u201d

Extra points

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Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star\u00a0","byline":"Kelly Presnell / Arizona Daily Star","hireswidth":1857,"hiresheight":1205,"hiresurl":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/73/a73d97aa-278c-11e7-be3d-23487025899c/58fba630988f7.hires.jpg","presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1170","height":"759","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/73/a73d97aa-278c-11e7-be3d-23487025899c/58fba63097123.image.jpg?resize=1170%2C759"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/73/a73d97aa-278c-11e7-be3d-23487025899c/58fba63097123.image.jpg?crop=1787%2C1005%2C0%2C153&resize=100%2C56&order=crop%2Cresize"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/73/a73d97aa-278c-11e7-be3d-23487025899c/58fba63097123.image.jpg?crop=1787%2C1005%2C0%2C153&resize=300%2C169&order=crop%2Cresize"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/73/a73d97aa-278c-11e7-be3d-23487025899c/58fba63097123.image.jpg?crop=1787%2C1005%2C0%2C153&resize=1024%2C576&order=crop%2Cresize"}}}],"revision":14,"commentID":"b3829a46-27ab-11e7-82e9-73510e701621","body":"

Arizona has a new all-time home runs leader: Katiyana Mauga.

The Wildcats sophomore belted her 88th career home run in the bottom of the fourth inning of Saturday's game against Oregon. The solo shot to right field gave the third-ranked Wildcats a 7-5 lead over the sixth-ranked Ducks.

Mauga tied Stacie Chambers' record with a home run Friday night. Up next: The NCAA career mark of 95, set by Oklahoma's Lauren Chamberlain in 2015.

Check Tucson.com for more later today.

No. 8\u20e38\u20e3 pic.twitter.com/ulmNXDtEof

\u2014 Arizona Softball (@UA_Softball) April 22, 2017

HISTORY. MADE.

Your new Arizona career home run record holder is @katiyana_13, who leads off the bottom of the 4th with her 5th HR in 4 gms pic.twitter.com/4ozP30gVDD

\u2014 Arizona Softball (@UA_Softball) April 22, 2017
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The third-ranked Arizona Wildcats softball team will look to take a key Pac-12 series from No. 6 Oregon on Saturday, when the teams meet at 2 p.m.

The game will be broadcast on ESPN2, after Friday night's game was shown on Pac-12 Arizona.

The Wildcats beat the Ducks 2-0 Friday, a night in which Katiyana Mauga tied the UA's career home run record. She'll try to break the mark Saturday afternoon.\u00a0

Read more on the series with the attached links.

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In conjunction with this year\u2019s \u201cMajor League\u201d theme, Arizona handed out Ricky Vaughn-style glasses to fans entering Hi Corbett Field on Friday.

The UA\u2019s surprise starter against Utah, Cameron Ming, wears goggles during night games. But after the pitching staff\u2019s erratic performance in the series opener, Ming knew he had to be the antithesis of \u201cWild Thing.\u201d

Ming delivered what the Wildcats needed \u2013 an efficient pitching performance heavy on strikes and balls in play.

Unfortunately, Utah right-hander Riley Ottesen was equally effective \u2013 and Arizona\u2019s bullpen couldn\u2019t hold a late lead. The sixth-ranked Wildcats dropped their second in a row to the Utes by a score of 7-3 in front of an announced crowd of 4,104.

The defeat ensured Arizona\u2019s first series loss at home this season. The Wildcats (26-11, 9-8 Pac-12) had been 19-1 at Hi Corbett before hosting the Utes (16-17, 7-10). The series finale is Saturday night.

\u201cWe\u2019ve had bumps in the road all year,\u201d Ming said. \u201cWe\u2019re going to get after it tomorrow, I hope. We better get after it. I\u2019ll make sure the guys are ready to go.

\u201cWe\u2019re going to come back with our hair on fire and get ready to get a piece of Utah. I\u2019m excited for it.\u201d

Despite all their accomplishments in two seasons under Jay Johnson, the Wildcats are 0-5 against the Utes.

\u201cWe can\u2019t focus on the opponent,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cWe can\u2019t focus on the standings. We can\u2019t focus on the circumstance. We have to focus on the play.

\u201cI just want to be a better team tomorrow than we were today. We\u2019re going to really crack rocks for that.\u201d

Arizona led 2-1 entering the top of the eighth, but Utah struck for two runs against relievers Cody Deason and Tylor Megill. Utah star third baseman Dallas Carroll\u2019s one-out single off Megill drove in the go-ahead run.

The Utes added four more runs in the ninth inning, which also featured Johnson getting thrown out of the game by plate umpire Jeff Macias. Johnson argued a balk call against Megill, among other issues.

\u201cI didn\u2019t think it was a balk,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cThere\u2019s a lot happening. I disagreed with the hit by pitch. (Megill nicked the first batter he faced, DaShawn Keirsey Jr., on the elbow.) The ball didn\u2019t change trajectory. The guy didn\u2019t move out of the box like he had gotten hit. I just disagreed with a couple calls.\u201d

Ming, who\u2019s tied for the team lead in saves, made his second start of the season. As of late Thursday night, fellow left-hander JC Cloney was expected to get the call. Johnson went so far as to say, \u201cThat\u2019s the plan.\u201d

Cloney, who leads the Wildcats in wins and ERA, had to leave his start on April 7 at Washington State after just one batter because of tightness in his biceps. Cloney returned a week later, throwing six strong innings against Oregon. He reported feeling \u201cgreat\u201d afterward.

But Johnson has said repeatedly that he wouldn\u2019t use Cloney \u2013 or anyone \u2013 unless he was ready to pitch. Cloney won\u2019t start Saturday either.

\u201cI just didn\u2019t feel like he was ready to do it based on the week,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cHe did a great job in his preparation. I don\u2019t think it\u2019s a long-term thing.

\u201cIt was a tough decision, especially against that offense. In his best interest and probably the long-term interest of the team, it was the only decision to make.\u201d

Ming has been working on his mechanics after a recent bout of wildness that included hitting three batters against Oregon last Friday. The adjustments worked: Ming allowed just six baserunners (four hits, two walks) in six-plus innings.

The sixth came on a walk to lead off the top of the seventh. With the score 1-1, Johnson summoned Deason, who portrayed Vaughn in Arizona\u2019s \u201cMajor League\u201d parody video and entered the game to \u201cWild Thing\u201d by The Troggs.

Deason inherited a runner on first and ended up loading the bases with walks \u2013 one intentional, one not. But he got out of the inning when Utah\u2019s Josh Rose lined out to second baseman Cameron Cannon, who flipped the ball to shortstop Louis Boyd, doubling off Hunter Simmons.

Boyd gave Arizona the lead in the bottom of the seventh with a double. The drive to left-center field knocked in Cesar Salazar, who had led off with a single and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and passed ball.

Up to that point, Ottesen had been just as precise and perplexing as Ming. The Utah sophomore did not allow a three-ball count until Salazar got to 3-2 with one out in the bottom of the fifth. Ottesen limited the best lineup in the Pac-12 to five hits and two runs in 6 2/3 innings.

Inside pitch

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Baseball:

Pueblo 10, Douglas 6

Rio Rico 16, Palo Verde 1

Tucson 3, Salpointe 4

Ironwood Ridge 6, Poston Butte 2

Softball:

Catalina Foothills 0, Canyon del oro 4

Flowing Wells 6, Cholla 8

Pueblo 5, Douglas 1

Rio Rico 16, Palo Verde 0

Ironwood Ridge 5, Poston Butte 6

Seton Catholic 6, Salpointe 10

Boys volleyball:

Ironwood Ridge 0, Buena 3

Pueblo 0, Cienega 3

Salpointe 3, St. Augustine 0

Rincon/University 3, Tucson 0

Flowing Wells 3, Sunnyside 0

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In the fifth inning of Friday\u2019s game, history finally happened.

Katiyana Mauga ripped a ball to left field for a solo home run, her 20th of the season and the 87th of her career. The blast gave No. 3 Arizona the cushion it needed in a 2-0 win over sixth-ranked Oregon at Hillenbrand Stadium. For a moment, its historical significance \u2014 the blast tied Stacie Chambers\u2019 record for the most career homers in UA history \u2014 was replaced by sheer joy.

Mauga started to smile as she rounded third base. By the time the slugger reached home, her entire team was waiting for her. Then Mauga retreated to the dugout, and the moment was over.

How little has Mauga focused on the record this season? Following the game, she asked for a clarification.

\u201cIs it a tie?\u201d Mauga said. \u201cOK, well, I mean, I wasn\u2019t really thinking about it during that time. But I cleared my head, and (now) I\u2019m tied, but there\u2019s lots more games left.\u201d

With another one, Mauga will be Arizona\u2019s all-time leader. She needs nine more to break the NCAA record. She\u2019s the first player in NCAA history to hit at least 20 home runs in four straight seasons.

\u201cShe\u2019s very good at ignoring that,\u201d said outfielder Ashleigh Hughes. \u201cWhen everybody is talking about it all the time, you don\u2019t want to make it seem like you\u2019re trying to do it so her being focused is really cool, and none of us make it a big deal, so it kind of helps her just stay focused and get hits when we need them.\u201d

Arizona (44-3, 14-2 Pac-12) didn\u2019t necessarily need Mauga\u2019s home run, though it certainly helped provide a cushion for starting pitcher Danielle O\u2019Toole.

And, really, the home run wasn\u2019t even the best play Mauga made Friday night.

Oregon (37-5, 10-5) loaded the bases in the sixth inning. Danica Mercado doubled off O\u2019Toole (24-2) with one out, Gwen Svekis hit an infield single and Oregon star Nikki Udria walked. After a force out at home, Oregon first baseman Mia Camuso fouled off a ball toward third base.

Mauga, the third baseman, ran around Mercado and avoided UA coach Mike Candrea to make a diving catch, ending the inning.

\u201cI was a little concerned that it could\u2019ve been coach\u2019s interference,\u201d Candrea said. \u201cI know what it\u2019s like at third base, you want to move but you want to move with her. I thought \u2018Oh god. Here\u2019s an out, and something\u2019s gonna happen.\u2019 But she got around it and made the catch so that was big.\u201d

O\u2019Toole added: \u201cIt was great. It obviously saved the game.\u201d

Arizona, the national leader in home runs, scored its first run playing small ball.

In the first inning, leadoff batter Mandie Perez was hit by a pitch, Mauga moved her to second on a single, and Perez scored from second after Oregon\u2019s Jenna Lilley misjudged a groundball hit by shortstop Mo Mercado.

That was all the run support O\u2019Toole needed.

Despite the sixth-inning trouble, O\u2019Toole escaped and pitched a complete game, allowing five hits, striking out three and walking one.

\u201cToolie, you can\u2019t say enough about her,\u201d Candrea said.

The Wildcats were swept in three games last year at Oregon and didn\u2019t score a run. It felt good to win the first game, at Hillenbrand, this time around, they said.

\u201cAbsolutely amazing,\u201d Hughes said. \u201cWe work really hard, and this is a big series for us obviously. It\u2019s a top-10 matchup, and we\u2019re just coming out trying to play our game.\u201d

O\u2019Toole added: \u201cYou know what? It always feels good. But there\u2019s two more, and the third one is always the hardest, for me at least. So now we\u2019ve got two more.\u201d

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The Tucson Roadrunners\u2019 inaugural season gave local hockey fans a combination of star power and promise, but what may best be remembered is what might have been.

A sellout crowd packed Tucson Arena on Oct. 28 to watch the Roadrunners defeat the Stockton Heat 6-5 in their first home game. The win served as the catalyst for the best stretch of hockey the Roadrunners would play all season.

Behind the offensive leadership of Brendan Perlini, the Roadrunners hurried off to an 8-1-2-0 start \u2014 the best record in their division through the first month of the season.

Then the pillars of the team began to fall.

In a stretch of a few weeks, the Roadrunners lost their two most important players, a vital blow to the team\u2019s depth from which they would never fully recover. They finished 29-31-8-0 in their first season in Tucson, and failed to make the playoffs.

Captain Craig Cunningham\u2019s collapse before a matchup with Manitoba on Nov. 19 ended the center\u2019s playing career and shook the team emotionally.

\u201cIt started all going with the Cunningham situation,\u201d coach Mark Lamb said. \u201cIt was very big. We kind of pulled in there for awhile.\u201d

The Roadrunners returned to the ice a weekend later and split a two-game series with Stockton, giving the team a psychological boost .

Not soon after, the Roadrunners lost Perlini, who was called up to the Coyotes in early January.

The 20-year old breezed through minor league competition, scoring 14 goals scattered across just 17 games.

Perlini was the first of a handful of Roadrunners to get called up the big leagues. Anthony Duclair, Laurent Dauphin, Anthony DeAngelo and Christian Fischer all climbed their way up to the Coyotes.

\u201cIt\u2019s gratifying to get those guys called up,\u201d Lamb said. \u201cBut in a sense that\u2019s where you need that real depth in your organization \u2014when guys do leave, you have guys take their spots.\u201d

The Roadrunners\u2019 second tier struggled to replace the production of the higher-end players, and soon the drop-off reflected itself in the team\u2019s performance.

That lack off in depth, mixed with the road-heavy month of January, led to a slide in the standings.

By the NHL\u2019s March 2 trade deadline, the Roadrunners had fallen out of playoff contention. Trades added more commotion to the team\u2019s roster, sending steadfast wing Stefan Fournier to the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.

The Roadrunners relied on a nucleus of Michael Bunting, Chris Mueller, Kyle Wood and Adin Hill through the last games of the season.

Despite falling out of playoff contention by spring, the Roadrunners ended the year playing some of their best hockey. The team ended the season on a three-game win streak.

The organization now turns its head towards next season, where Lamb expects practically a brand-new roster.

\u201cIt\u2019ll be some younger guys hopefully with a good mix of free agents that we can surround our young guys around and make them learn and make them grow a bit quicker,\u201d Lamb said.

Despite the team\u2019s final record, Lamb considers the season \u2014 and the move \u2014 a success.

\u201cYou want to teach them how to win and you want to develop the players the right way,\u201d Lamb said. \u201cI think we did a real good mix of that. This city is unbelievable. The fans are unbelievable. It has the makings to be a great organization.\u201d

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A few days ago, the NCAA published a list of \u201cSeven Softball Stadiums You Need to See,\u201d including Oregon\u2019s $17 million Jane Sanders Stadium and the best-ballparks-money-can buy at LSU, Auburn and Alabama.

It even featured Arizona State\u2019s Farrington Stadium.

Who knew ASU even had a softball team?

A long time ago, Arizona and Hillenbrand Stadium wrote the book on \u201csoftball stadiums you need to see.\u201d But over the last six seasons, none of which found the Wildcats at the Women\u2019s College World Series, the Wildcats shockingly lost 52 home games.

Like all things Nike, the Ducks arrived at Hillenbrand on Friday afternoon as the nouveau riche power in college softball, and especially the Pac-12. The Ducks won the league title in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016, something that the league\u2019s softball pioneers, Arizona and UCLA have never done.

The Ducks opened the season 35-0 and incorporated the nation\u2019s No.\u20091 recruiting class into a momentum-building powerhouse that a year ago humbled Arizona 2-0, 7-0 and 8-0 in what was probably the lowest point of Arizona softball in forever.

Well, nothing lasts forever in softball.

Once again, Mike Candrea\u2019s Wildcats have the resources to match the Ducks or anybody. Arizona is 23-0 at Hillenbrand Stadium, and on Friday night you almost thought it was 1997 again.

After beating the Ducks 2-0 in what he termed \u201csoftball at its finest,\u201d Candrea admitted he has thought back to that zero-zero-zero weekend at Jane Sanders Stadium \u201cevery day.\u201d

\u201cHillenbrand tonight was like I remember it being in the \u201990s,\u201d he said. \u201cI told the kids, \u2018you\u2019ll see it this weekend like you\u2019ve never seen it before.\u2019\u2009\u201d

Every seat was full at Hillenbrand, 2,746, and in a tense and well-played game that required only 1\u2009hour and 55 minutes \u2014 a game that was decided by a ground ball lost in the sun and the impeccable pitching of Danielle O\u2019Toole \u2014 the Wildcats won a game they probably would have lost the last six years.

But the truth is that Arizona hasn\u2019t won anything yet.

\u201cThere are two more games (in this series),\u201d said O\u2019Toole. \u201cAnd the third day is the hardest.\u201d

O\u2019Toole did her version of baseball\u2019s Greg Maddux. She limited the .323-hitting Ducks to five singles, performing some pitching science by hitting the corners with off-speed, mid-speed, and sinking pitches that produced nibblers, excuse-me-bouncers and infield pop-ups.

She only walked one, and that walk probably saved Arizona\u2019s victory.

Trailing 2-0 in the top of the sixth, Oregon put runners at first and third. Ducks shortstop Nikki Udria, a .421 hitter who might be the top player in the Pac-12, or certainly close, stepped to the plate. It was the moment of truth, one of the few in Arizona\u2019s last 6\u00bd seasons.

A year ago in that shutout-sweep over Arizona, Udria hit two home runs, and on Friday, O\u2019Toole was determined not to let Udria hit another.

Udria walked, which at first seemed odd because O\u2019Toole is one of the leading control pitchers in softball. She had walked only 19 batters in 164 innings.

\u201cI didn\u2019t walk her on purpose,\u201d O\u2019Toole said. \u201cBut I walked her on purpose.\u201d

The game changed. Instead of Udria swinging for the fences, .219-hitting Jenna Lilley bounced into a force-out at home. O\u2019Toole then got a pop-up to end the inning. Game over.

College softball in late April and May isn\u2019t the same game it was in February and March when the Wildcats and Ducks combined to open the season 70-1. There are no more Abilene Christians and Stephen F. Austins on the schedule. Those once-meaty batting averages that neared .500 are shrinking closer and closer to .350 against Pac-12 pitching.

A week ago in Salt Lake City, Arizona lost twice to Utah. The Utes celebrated their walk-off victory in Game 3 as if they\u2019d won Game 7 of the World Series. Much like the old days, Arizona is again a target for all opponents.

\u201cGames are a little different on the road now than they were many years ago,\u201d said Candrea, meaning that Oregon and Utah in addition to longtime contenders Washington and UCLA have built new ballparks and fill the seats when a team like Arizona shows up.

Hillenbrand Stadium has seen better days; it needs $2 million (or $3 million) in touch-up work and fan amenities \u2014 Candrea long ago said he has his own architect\u2019s drawing of a proposed makeover \u2014 but the Wildcats are still challenging to lead the NCAA in attendance.

At 2,138 per game, they trail only Alabama (2,351). In the Saturday-Sunday finish to the Oregon series, even in middle-of-the-day heat with ESPN2 broadcasting both games, it\u2019s likely the Wildcats will draw another 5,000.

After 47 games, it\u2019s as if the season begins now.

\u201cOregon\u2019s not going to go away,\u201d said Candrea. \u201cThis is as close to a College World Series game as it gets at this stage of the season.\u201d

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As the 2018 recruiting cycle picks up, more football players in Tucson are getting major-college attention than at any time in the past few years.

Amphitheater offensive lineman David Watson and Cienega quarterback Jamarye Joiner have already committed to Arizona, and Salpointe Catholic offensive lineman Matteo Mele has offers from Arizona, Oregon, UCLA and others.

Mountain View defensive lineman Kai Golden holds offers from Virginia and New Mexico State.

One of the most highly recruited players in the area, though, isn\u2019t even technically from The Old Pueblo.

Pima College linebacker Bryant Pirtle recently received a scholarship offer from Arizona. Pirtle originally hails from Louisville, Kentucky. He committed to Western Kentucky out of high school but wound up starting off his career in junior college.

Pirtle began at a community college in Mississippi, but flipped to Pima before last season.

\u201cI didn\u2019t really like it\u201d in Mississippi, Pirtle said, \u201cand my dad found the coach, and that got me to Pima.\u201d

UA assistant Calvin Magee recently offered Pirtle his first Pac-12 scholarship. The linebacker said it was \u201cpretty cool\u201d to get that offer, \u201cespecially with it being down the road from the school I\u2019m at now.\u201d

Pima struggled in 2016, finishing 3-6. Pirtle ended the season with 29 tackles and 4\u0192 sacks.

Beyond making his college decision, Pirtle said the focus in his last season in junior college is getting Pima back to winning games.

\u201cI really just want to improve our play as a team,\u201d he said. \u201cWe have to perform better than we did last year.\u201d

It\u2019s no secret that Arizona needs depth at the linebacker position. Pirtle, listed at 6 feet 3 inches and 225 pounds, would help in that regard, though it won\u2019t be easy for the Wildcats to keep Pirtle in Tucson.

Earlier this month, Louisville offered Pirtle a scholarship.

\u201cIt was pretty cool,\u201d said Pirtle, a former star at DeSales High School in Louisville. \u201cI didn\u2019t really expect it when they did, but it was awesome to get an offer from back home.\u201d

That doesn\u2019t necessarily make Louisville a lock, though Pirtle said the idea of playing close to home sounds appealing.

\u201cI mean yeah it does,\u201d he said, \u201cbut I haven\u2019t really been thinking about that. I\u2019ve just been focusing on class and making sure I graduate on time.\u201d

Wildcats loading up on Defensive linemen

Arizona\u2019s defensive line has been a problem area for much of the Rich Rodriguez era at Arizona. The UA staff is trying to rectify that problem.

Arizona will welcome defensive ends My-King Johnson and Jalen Harris in the fall; defensive tackles Sione Taufahema and Kurtis Brown will join them.

UA received its first 2018 defensive line commitment Wednesday, when Adam Plant of Las Vegas Bishop Gorman High School verbally committed. Plant is 6-4, 240-pounder who Scout.com rates as a three-star recruit. He held offers from Penn State and USC at the time he committed to the UA.

\u201cThe coaches told me that I will have a chance to be a pass rusher for them right away as long as I am willing to work hard,\u201d Plant told Scout.com.

Arizona isn\u2019t done. Coaches have 15 scholarship offers out to defensive linemen for 2018, with more coming. Some of the top targets include Tyler Manoa (Mountain View, California), Jonathan Lolohea (Copiah-Lincoln CC in Wesson, Mississippi) and Paul Maile (Salt Lake City).

Manoa recently listed Arizona as one of his top five schools, along with California, Colorado, Utah and BYU.

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Approximately 10 people die from drowning every day, and 1 in 5 who drown are children under 14. Dolphins of the Desert Swimming Academy aims to teach at-risk Tucsonans to be safe in the water and, eventually, change those numbers.

Saturday, the local club will host a learn-to-swim clinic with Imago Dei Middle School at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center. Olympic triathlete Ben Kanute will speak to the more than 50 children who have signed up, and members of the UA swim team will teach them the basics of water safety.

Kanute has been training with the Dolphins of the Desert since winter, before he took part in the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.

\u201cWe wanted him to talk to the kids about competitive swimming and his passion for the sport,\u201d said Jeff Commings, a co-founder of Dolphins of the Desert.

The clinic runs from 10 a.m. to noon, and while it\u2019s not open to the public, Kanute\u2019s speech is. He\u2019ll speak before the event about how he got to the Olympics and the importance of learning how to swim at a young age.

\u201cLearning to swim,\u201d he said, \u201cis just as important as learning to walk.\u201d

Anne Sawyer, Imago Dei Middle School principal, is grateful for the opportunity the Dolphins of the Desert is providing. Commings\u2019 club has been giving private lessons to students of all ages since 2007. Swim lessons can be pricey, leaving at-risk children exposed to serious injury and drowning.

Commings said the club wants \u201cto give the opportunity to people who can\u2019t, and in turn give back to the community.\u201d

\u201cWe want to fulfill our mission of every child learning how to swim safely,\u201d he said.

The families at Imago Dei have embraced the event, and students have signed up for swim lessons at the YMCA in order to further develop their skills.

\u201cWe think it is really important to teach our scholars about the safety of swimming, while also giving them a chance to see how much fun it can be,\u201d said Sawyer.

The event is free. TYR, a swimming equipment company, is providing gear to the children at no cost.

\u201cAll they have to do is show up with a smile on their face,\u201d Commings said, \u201cand we will take care of the rest.\u201d

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The team of Sam Manley and Hailey Devlin lead Arizona\u2019s beach volleyball team with 16-5 record. The two are poised to compete in \u2014 and win \u2014 the Pac-12 sand volleyball tournament, held at Bear Down Beach next week.

First, the Wildcats will host a pair of Pac-12 opponents. The UA will take on Stanford on Friday night, and Cal Saturday afternoon.

\u201cWe have nothing to lose,\u201d Manley said.

Manley and Devlin are both products of San Diego, a hot spot for beach volleyball. Manley prepped at San Pasqual High School and competed in 2013 AAU Best of the Beach; she was also selected for the USA Junior National Beach team.

Devlin attended nearby Scripps Ranch High School, where she finished with the best record in school history her senior year. She also was selected for the USA Junior National Beach team.

Volleyball is their main focus, but their work in the classroom is also a huge priority.

\u201cWe both come from families that pushed that education comes first,\u201d said Devlin. \u201cWe think that is a big reason why we are so motivated in the classroom.\u201d

Both use the UA\u2019s academic services extensively.

\u201cIt helps us make sure we complete all of our homework and study for exams,\u201d Manley said.

The pair not only want to compete in next week\u2019s tournament, but win and add to an already successful season.

To win the Pac-12 \u201cwould be amazing,\u201d Manley said. \u201cNot only would it be winning a major title,\u201d she added. \u201cIt would also allow us to play in the national tournament.\u201d

The pair believes it can compete with the best pairs in the country, starting with this weekend.

\u201cIt was really exciting because they are a three-time national championship team,\u201d said Manley. \u201cI grew up playing against the girls we competed against, so it was very exciting to beat them.\u201d

Before the postseason starts, however, the duo has some work to do. Manley said the pair is hoping to improve on its serving and defense.

Devlin agreed.

\u201cWe need to keep on reminding each other to stay aggressive,\u201d she said. \u201cSometimes we go back into our comfort zone and that is when we play down to other teams\u2019 levels.\u201d

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The last few days, Stacie Chambers has been feeling sick. So sick, in fact, that she canceled a trip to Hillenbrand Stadium to watch Arizona\u2019s marquee matchup against Oregon.

Chambers wanted to go, even if it meant she was surrendering her claim to UA softball fame.

See, Arizona\u2019s Katiyana Mauga is on the verge of tying, and breaking, Chambers\u2019 career home run record of 87. Chambers has been watching Mauga\u2019s record-setting pace from afar \u2014 well, New Mexico \u2014 while she plans a move to Phoenix.

\u201cI haven\u2019t been able to watch too many games, but I see it,\u201d Chambers said. \u201cI think it\u2019s awesome that she\u2019s doing that well. If I get passed by anyone, I\u2019d rather it was a Wildcat than anyone else. I\u2019m rooting for her because I know that feeling when you\u2019re doing that well, it\u2019s a great feeling.\u201d

Chambers played five years at Arizona, missing her first year dealing with a concussion, and Mauga should accomplish the feat in four. Once Mauga passes Chambers on Arizona\u2019s career list, she\u2019ll set her sights on the NCAA record of 95, set by Oklahoma\u2019s Lauren Chamberlain in 2015.

Mauga\u2019s chase for power-hitting supremacy has been discussed all season long, but the San Diego native has never been one for self-adulation.

On Wednesday, Mauga was asked about the home run chase for the umpteenth time.

She smiled but shrugged it off. Like she always does. Mauga\u2019s teammates are excited, the fans are in a state of suspense and the media won\u2019t stop asking. Saturday and Sunday\u2019s games will broadcast nationally on ESPN2, too.

All the same, Mauga just wants to win. Arizona needs the wins too \u2014 the Wildcats (43-3, 13-2 Pac-12) are battling with the Ducks for Pac-12 supremacy.

\u201cI mean, it\u2019s there. It\u2019s always going to be there,\u201d Mauga said of the chase. \u201cI\u2019m trying not to think about it and just going out there and trying to get on base for the team and produce, either getting base hits or walks, not so much home runs. If it does go over, it goes over.\u201d

It tends to go over quite a bit, and with a consistency that college softball has never witnessed before. With Mauga\u2019s next home run, she\u2019ll be the first player to ever hit 20 or more home runs in all four seasons of her career.

\u201cThat stat in itself, I think, puts her in the discussion of who is the best home run hitter of all time?\u201d said Pac-12 analyst Kenzie Fowler, a former Canyon del Oro High School and UA standout. \u201cShe\u2019s in that discussion.\u201d

Mauga hit 20 long balls as a freshman, 26 as a sophomore, 21 as a junior and currently has 19 with nine regular-season games remaining. She is not the typical all-or-nothing power hitter, either \u2014 Mauga has struck out only 12 times in 111 at-bats this season after only striking out 22 times in 167 at-bats last season.

Seemingly each \u201cMauga bomb\u201d has meant something \u2014 32 of her home runs either tied the game or gave the Wildcats a lead. She has five career walk-off home runs.

All of that together, and Mauga\u2019s power-hitting prowess has made her something of a cult hero at Hillenbrand Stadium.

When she steps up to the plate, the crowd shouts \u201cMAUUUUGA\u201d in unison.

Mo Mercado, Arizona\u2019s senior shortstop, has played with Mauga since they were both 13 years old.

\u201cShe\u2019s always been the same slugger,\u201d Mercado said. \u201cI used to get mad at her because I\u2019d be like, \u2018I practiced five times this week what\u2019d you do?\u2019 And she\u2019d be like \u201cOh, uh, I\u2019m here, ready to go.\u2019 \u2026 And then (she\u2019d) go and hit like four bombs.\u201d

Fowler pitched in the games when Chambers, a catcher, hit both the record-tying and record-breaking home runs in May 2011. Fowler was also a redshirt senior at Arizona in 2014 when Mauga was a true freshman.

Fowler still remembers what she thought the first time she met Mauga.

\u201cWhen that (2014) class was coming in we were hearing about her and Mo (Mercado) and we heard some things about how, you know, this Kati girl, she could really hit it,\u201d Fowler recalled. \u201cSo she comes in and if you look at Kati, she\u2019s not tall at all.

\u201cWhen she came on campus, she\u2019s small in stature so you look at her and it\u2019s like \u2018this is the home run hitter?\u2019 Then you see her in BP and you say, \u2018Wow! She hits it.\u2019 She uses every inch of her body.\u201d

Consider: Chamberlain hit 95 home runs at 5-9; UCLA\u2019s Stacey Nuveman, 6 feet tall, hit 90. Chambers is 5-11, and Arizona\u2019s Laura Espinoza hit 85 at 6 feet tall.

Mauga is listed at 5-2.

\u201cShe\u2019s not even 5-5,\u201d Fowler said, \u201cand she hits the furthest balls I\u2019ve ever seen.\u201d

This weekend, and every game until the season is over, there will be a lot of eyes on Mauga, tracking her every at-bat. The added pressure that comes with that hasn\u2019t seemed to bother her so far, and UA coach Mike Candrea doesn\u2019t think it\u2019ll start any time soon.

\u201cI\u2019m happy for her,\u201d Candrea said. \u201cShe\u2019s done a good job so far of not letting it overwhelm her. I don\u2019t want another Roger Maris thing to happen, so I check her hair every week to make sure it\u2019s intact. \u2026

\u201cShe\u2019s a special kid.\u201d

Chambers certainly knows that feeling.

All the questions, the attention, over this one statistic.

\u201cHonestly, when I was playing, all I tried to do was go out and play my best. It\u2019s not something you really think about,\u201d Chambers said. \u201cIt\u2019s there, we know it\u2019s there. It\u2019s a great honor to even be on that great list, especially with all the names that are on there. \u2026You can tell she has her head on straight.\u201d

Chambers doesn\u2019t remember much of anything about her record-breaking home run, which came in an NCAA Regional game against Harvard at Hillenbrand. She hit No. 87 the next day against New Mexico State.

Even though it was the postseason, Arizona was expected to win those games, and the Wildcats did. For Mauga, it won\u2019t be easy. Oregon\u2019s pitching staff is stellar, and it\u2019s possible the Ducks will prevent Mauga from breaking the record for at least one more week.

But Chambers thinks it\u2019ll happen soon. She won\u2019t be there to watch the UA-Oregon series but wants to attend Arizona\u2019s games against Arizona State next weekend.

Whenever her record is broken, Chambers will be just fine with it.

\u201cKati, you can\u2019t really question it \u2026 she\u2019s kicked butt,\u201d Chambers said. \u201cIt\u2019s just a matter of her being focused. She\u2019s on a roll, and I think she\u2019s going to keep going. She\u2019ll be on track to not only pass me up, and I have no issues with that whatsoever.\u201d

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As an opposing player and coach, Lorenzo Romar has been walking in and out of McKale Center since 1979.

He\u2019s known Allonzo Trier since UA\u2019s leading scorer was about 8 years old. And he\u2019s plotted against the Wildcats for years as Washington\u2019s head coach.

But there were still things about the Arizona program Romar couldn\u2019t see until he slipped on the inside, starting work as UA\u2019s new associate head coach this week. He picked up some UA gear, including a \u201cWildcat basketball never stops\u201d T-shirt he called \u201cpretty sweet,\u201d worked some guys out and dug into film study.

\u201cWe had to scout them (at UW), so I had an idea of what they do, but it was why. Why are you doing that? How you gonna teach it and all that stuff?\u201d Romar said Thursday at his introductory news conference in McKale Center. \u201cI\u2019ve been watching film, asking questions, trying to get acclimated in that regard.\u201d

Romar has already had a chance to work in one of the two-hour small group drills allowed in the offseason, working with Trier and other UA guards and saying the Wildcats\u2019 fundamentals jumped out at him.

\u201cIt\u2019s just how sound Arizona is,\u201d Romar said. \u201cYou watch film, and you watch them defensively, you watch what they do offensively, they\u2019re just very fundamentally sound without making a whole lot of mistakes.\u201d

During his 20-minute media appearance Thursday, Romar said repeatedly that he is around to absorb that framework and help within it, not impose unsolicited beliefs.

Even if he is 10 years older than UA coach Sean Miller and has been a head coach for 21 years, the last 15 at Washington.

\u201cI\u2019m not here to run things,\u201d Romar said. \u201cThere\u2019s someone here who does a fantastic job of running them here in Sean Miller. So I\u2019m here to help. On the bench, I\u2019m sure there will be times I want to jump up but I know my role. I know my place.\u201d

UA center Dusan Ristic, having faced Romar four times in Arizona-Washington matchups, was glad to see him jump aboard.

\u201cI\u2019ve heard all the best things about Coach Romar,\u201d Ristic said Wednesday night at UA\u2019s awards ceremony. \u201cI met him two days ago and he\u2019s one of the nicest guys I\u2019ve ever met in my life. He\u2019s going to help not only me, but the rest of the team. He was head coach at Washington, but he accepted this role and I think it\u2019s a great thing for us.\u201d

Romar, 58, said he was interested in being a head coach in the future but wasn\u2019t focused on that now. He said he has seen many assistants, especially those who haven\u2019t been head coaches, get so anxious to take a head coaching job that they\u2019ll grab one that may not be a great situation.

\u201cI am not coming here thinking, \u2018OK, I\u2019ll put up with this for a few months so that I can ... No. That\u2019s not my train of thought. I\u2019m here and locked in and we\u2019ll just go and see what happens. I\u2019m not in a hurry to get away from this situation.\u201d

Romar declined to detail how his role will break down, or if Miller might absorb any of his coaching philosophies. He said he\u2019s the one who plans to absorb the most, that \u201cthere\u2019s no doubt\u201d he will learn from Miller and his other staffers.

While Romar is expected to play a heavy role in UA\u2019s West Coast recruiting efforts, he wouldn\u2019t go that far, either. Especially when it came to his old backyard.

\u201cIt was never communicated to me by Coach Miller that, \u2018we\u2019re bringing you in because we want you to get the Seattle kids,\u2019\u201d Romar said.

Eventually, he may anyway. Romar said it will be a \u201cdifferent experience\u201d if he is recruiting top Seattle-area players for Arizona \u2014 potentially against his old employer \u2014 but that \u201canybody would understand we\u2019re all trying to be the best we can be.\u201d

Romar has already experienced some difficulty in recruiting \u2014 that is, each time he called the members of his heralded 2017 recruiting class \u2014 most of which dissipated after his firing last month.

\u201cNone of those were fun conversations,\u201d Romar said. \u201cI talked to all of them. I tried to encourage them that they had something special going. I would try to get a feel for what they were thinking at the time.\u201d

Romar will begin recruiting on the road this weekend for Arizona and, of course, that process will never stop.

In between, he\u2019ll likely spend much of the spring and summer working with the returning and incoming Wildcats, learning more of the secrets behind the UA program and why McKale Center can be a pretty tough place to play.

From the outside, Romar knows that maybe better than anyone. When playing his first game in McKale, for UCLA back in January of 1979, Romar was on the losing end. He also lost in 11 of the 14 games he coached the Huskies in Tucson.

Now, he\u2019s hoping to help inflict that sort of trouble on somebody else.

\u201cWhen you get of the bus, and you see all the red and blue, just kind of the buzz among people that are going to the game, you know right then \u2014 the tone is set and you\u2019re about to go on a big stage here,\u201d Romar said of McKale Center. \u201cThere\u2019s just a feel and a sense that this is a pretty special place to play. So now to be on this side and understand what the other side is going through should be a lot of fun.\u201d

"}, {"id":"7d87eb70-96d5-563c-a550-21c3e06eb0a3","type":"article","starttime":"1492752600","starttime_iso8601":"2017-04-20T22:30:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1492758423","priority":43,"sections":[{"baseball":"sports/arizonawildcats/baseball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Arizona Wildcats pitchers lose control in series-opening defeat to Utah","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/article_7d87eb70-96d5-563c-a550-21c3e06eb0a3.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/arizona-wildcats-pitchers-lose-control-in-series-opening-defeat-to/article_7d87eb70-96d5-563c-a550-21c3e06eb0a3.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/arizona-wildcats-pitchers-lose-control-in-series-opening-defeat-to/article_7d87eb70-96d5-563c-a550-21c3e06eb0a3.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":0,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Michael Lev\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"The sixth-ranked Cats walk a season-high nine batters in a 12-5 home loss to the Utes.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#top5sports","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":null,"versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"640","height":"360","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/be/6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054/58e4077637ba0.image.jpg?resize=640%2C360"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/be/6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054/58e4077637ba0.image.jpg?resize=100%2C56"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/be/6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054/58e4077637ba0.image.jpg?resize=300%2C169"},"1024":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"1024","height":"576","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/6/be/6bef689d-2016-5f37-87d2-ed7964ccf054/58e4077637ba0.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":6,"commentID":"7d87eb70-96d5-563c-a550-21c3e06eb0a3","body":"

Arizona pitching coach Dave Lawn was discussing the Wildcats\u2019 staff the other day when he pointed out one of its strengths.

\u201cThe one thing we don\u2019t do is, we don\u2019t walk people,\u201d Lawn said. \u201cNow, who knows \u2013 we might walk a million this weekend against Utah.\u201d

Lawn\u2019s hyperbole proved prescient. Arizona\u2019s pitchers couldn\u2019t find the plate in the series opener against the Utes on Thursday. As a result, the Wildcats couldn\u2019t find the win column.

No. 6 Arizona dropped Game 1 of a home series for the second week in a row, falling to Utah 12-5 in front of an announced crowd of 2,749 at Hi Corbett Field. It was the Wildcats\u2019 fourth loss in a row to the Utes under Jay Johnson after a sweep last year in Salt Lake City.

The defeat was just the second of the season at home for Arizona, which responded to last Thursday\u2019s loss against Oregon by winning the next two games to take the series. The Wildcats (26-10, 9-7 Pac-12) will be hoping for a similar bounce-back in Game 2 of this series Friday, when JC Cloney \u2013 a noted control artist \u2013 is expected to start.

Fellow left-hander Randy Labaut got the starting assignment Thursday and worked out of trouble in the first inning. His control abandoned him in the second, setting the tone for a long, untidy evening.

Four Arizona pitchers combined for eight walks (three intentional) through 5 2/3 innings \u2013 uncharacteristic for a staff that had averaged 3.2 per nine innings entering Thursday. By the time Juan Aguilera entered the game and ended the top of the sixth with a strikeout, the Wildcats trailed 8-4. In all, Arizona walked a season-high nine batters.

\"You\u2019re going to start and end on the mound,\" Johnson said. \"We didn\u2019t get a very good pitching performance tonight by probably anybody. That\u2019s what tonight was. I wouldn\u2019t say it was a bad game. I would say we didn\u2019t pitch great, and it was a good enough team to take advantage of it.\"

The Wildcats didn\u2019t have a midweek game this week, and this contest quickly devolved into one, with Johnson desperately searching for someone who could throw strikes and get outs. After their scoreless first inning, the Utes scored in each of the next seven frames.

The Wildcats entered the second half of Pac-12 play with some lingering questions about their pitching staff. Those questions remained unanswered through Thursday.

Johnson had insisted earlier in the week that Utah (15-17, 6-10) was better than its record suggested.

\u201cThey are one of the best offenses we\u2019ve played for sure,\u201d Johnson said.

The Utes also have been the victims of some bad late-inning luck.

Like Arizona, Utah suffered two walk-off losses in the course of being swept at No. 1 Oregon State. The Utes, who won the Pac-12 regular-season title last year, also have suffered come-from-ahead, late-inning defeats against Washington, Stanford and Cal.

Thursday\u2019s game started promisingly for Arizona. Alfonso Rivas clubbed a solo home run to right in the bottom of the first. It was the Wildcats\u2019 first first-inning home run of the season at Hi Corbett and the seventh straight time Rivas had reached base.

By the time Cal Stevenson followed with a solo homer to right of his own in the bottom of the third, Utah had five walks in the books and three runs on the board.

Inside pitch

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Baseball:

Walden Grove 3, Canyon del Oro 13

Flowing Wells 5, Marana 4

Desert View 1, Poston Butte 9

Douglas 3, Rio Rico 8

Mountain View 3, Cienega 9

Palo Verde 0, Amphitheater 10

Tucson 2, Sunnyside 3

Softball:

Empire 6, Cholla 5

Flowing Wells 1, Marana 11

Douglas 0, Rio Rico 11

Catalina Foothills 2, Salpointe 3

Mountain View 0, Cienega 10

Tucson 5, Sunnyside 2

Desert View 8, Poston Butte 2

Boys volleyball:

Mountain View 1, Rincon/University 3

Amphitheater 0, Sabino 3

Tucson 3, Sunnyside 0

Marana 0, Salpointe 3

Ironwood Ridge 2, Williams Field 3

"} ]