[ {"id":"d361e59e-927c-5fcc-93e7-d167a776e991","type":"article","starttime":"1487911800","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-23T21:50:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1487916209","priority":41,"sections":[{"baseball":"sports/arizonawildcats/baseball"}],"flags":{"editors_pick":"true","top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Calm, cool JC Cloney helps keep Arizona Wildcats unbeaten","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/article_d361e59e-927c-5fcc-93e7-d167a776e991.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/calm-cool-jc-cloney-helps-keep-arizona-wildcats-unbeaten/article_d361e59e-927c-5fcc-93e7-d167a776e991.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/calm-cool-jc-cloney-helps-keep-arizona-wildcats-unbeaten/article_d361e59e-927c-5fcc-93e7-d167a776e991.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 senior left-hander overcomes a bumpy start en route to a 9-3 victory over McNeese State.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{"label":"baseball"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"620","height":"349","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/86/a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085/58ab9264acfe1.image.jpg?resize=620%2C349"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/86/a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085/57128b79485c4.preview-100.jpg"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/86/a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085/58ab9264acfe1.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/a/86/a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085/58ab9264acfe1.image.jpg"}}}],"revision":7,"commentID":"d361e59e-927c-5fcc-93e7-d167a776e991","body":"

Nothing seems to rattle Arizona Wildcats senior starter JC Cloney.

Not a leadoff hit. Not a two-run error. Not an undefeated opponent that scored 32 runs \u2013 yes, 32 \u2013 in its previous game.

Cloney faced all of those challenges Thursday night and met every one. After an uneven first inning, the left-hander cruised to his second straight victory, a 9-3 triumph over McNeese State at Hi Corbett Field.

The Wildcats remained perfect, improving to 5-0. McNeese suffered its first loss, falling to 4-1.

\u201cHe\u2019s got Hall of Fame poise,\u201d UA coach Jay Johnson said of Cloney, who\u2019s 6-1 in eight career home starts. \u201cYou can\u2019t have the success that he\u2019s had in his college career without that.

\u201cIt\u2019s exemplary, and I hope a lot of pitchers on our staff are learning from him. It\u2019s not going to go good every pitch of the game, and he responds in the way legit pitchers do.\u201d

Cloney\u2019s outing had many of the earmarks of his opening-night gem last week. As happened in that game, Cloney allowed a hit to the first batter, in this case a single by the Cowboys\u2019 Robbie Podorsky. Cloney did not surrender another hit until the fifth inning, retiring 11 in a row at one point. Against Eastern Kentucky last week, Cloney allowed just that one hit in seven innings.

One difference this time: McNeese scored twice in the first inning on a hard-hit ball that deflected off third baseman Nick Quintana for an error.

Not to worry. Cloney held the Cowboys right there, enabling the Wildcats to lap them. A five-run fourth inning in which two runs scored on wild pitches provided the difference.

\u201cYou\u2019ve got to have a short memory out there,\u201d Cloney said. \u201cThey always say if you give a bomb and strike the next guy out, that tells people you\u2019re over it. I kind of treat it like that. Once that at-bat\u2019s over, it\u2019s over. You might as well put your focus on the next guy and go after him.\u201d

Cloney exited after 7\u00aa innings having allowed three runs \u2014 all unearned. He has pitched 30\u00aa consecutive innings without yielding an earned run, dating to last year\u2019s College World Series.

Quintana, a freshman, lacks Cloney\u2019s collegiate experience but already has shown a knack for bouncing back from in-game adversity. After the error, the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week registered two hits in four at-bats, including a double to lead off the decisive bottom half of the fourth. He also scored two runs. Quintana is batting .556 (10 of 18).

Another newcomer, transfer Landon Faulkner, relieved Cloney in the eighth with runners on first and second and the Wildcats up 7-3. Faulkner struck out both batters he faced to end the threat.

\u201cHe\u2019s a dude,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cI want him to be a big part of our success. If it means that time of the game or any time of the game, we want to get him on the mound as much as we can.\u201d

Inside pitch

\u2022 Arizona committed two errors Thursday and has 11 errors in its last four games. The Wildcats have scored at least nine runs in each of those games.

\u2022 UA outfielder Jared Oliva\u2019s double in the fourth inning was his fourth of the season, matching his total from 2016.

\u2022 Fellow outfielder Cal Stevenson registered his first stolen base as a Wildcat in the sixth.

\u2022 Oliva, Stevenson, Quintana, Mitchell Morimoto and Cesar Salazar each had two hits.

\u2022 Game 2 of the four-game series is slated for 6 p.m. Friday.

"}, {"id":"ca227e6c-f85b-11e6-9a87-0356e64fb994","type":"link","starttime":"1487698320","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-21T10:32:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1487698451","priority":41,"sections":[{"baseball":"sports/arizonawildcats/baseball"}],"flags":{"top_story":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Watch: UA coach Jay Johnson breaks down sweep-clinching victory vs. Eastern Kentucky","permalink":"http://tucson.com/online/video/watch-ua-coach-jay-johnson-breaks-down-sweep-clinching-victory/youtube_b8da3079-0c49-5dcc-b699-c1a81d3c975b.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/online/video/watch-ua-coach-jay-johnson-breaks-down-sweep-clinching-victory/youtube_b8da3079-0c49-5dcc-b699-c1a81d3c975b.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":0,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":1,"gallery":0},"prologue":"Arizona rallied to beat EKU 9-8, securing a four-game sweep to open the 2017 season.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#latest"],"customProperties":{"label":"UA BASEBALL"},"presentation":null,"youtube":[{"id":"b8da3079-0c49-5dcc-b699-c1a81d3c975b","starttime":"1487628984","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-20T15:16:24-07:00","title":"Watch: UA coach Jay Johnson breaks down sweep-clinching victory vs. Eastern Kentucky","description":"Arizona rallied to beat EKU 9-8, securing a four-game sweep to open the 2017 season.","byline":"","video_id":"-se3hvinubQ"}],"revision":2,"url":"http://tucson.com/online/video/watch-ua-coach-jay-johnson-breaks-down-sweep-clinching-victory/youtube_b8da3079-0c49-5dcc-b699-c1a81d3c975b.html"}, {"id":"c23fb1ca-b93f-5188-b544-82dd3fa784a7","type":"article","starttime":"1487632800","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-20T16:20:00-07:00","lastupdated":"1487652004","priority":42,"sections":[{"baseball":"sports/arizonawildcats/baseball"}],"flags":{"top_story":"true","editors_pick":"true"},"application":"editorial","title":"Arizona Wildcats baseball team wobbles at times, but keeps on winning","url":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/article_c23fb1ca-b93f-5188-b544-82dd3fa784a7.html","permalink":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/arizona-wildcats-baseball-team-wobbles-at-times-but-keeps-on/article_c23fb1ca-b93f-5188-b544-82dd3fa784a7.html","canonical":"http://tucson.com/sports/arizonawildcats/baseball/arizona-wildcats-baseball-team-wobbles-at-times-but-keeps-on/article_c23fb1ca-b93f-5188-b544-82dd3fa784a7.html","relatedAssetCounts":{"article":0,"audio":0,"image":1,"link":0,"vmix":0,"youtube":1,"gallery":0},"byline":"By Michael Lev\nArizona Daily Star","prologue":"\u00a0Despite rough patches, Cats complete four-game, season-opening sweep of Eastern Kentucky.","supportsComments":true,"commentCount":0,"keywords":[],"internalKeywords":["#top5sports","#latest","#editorspick"],"customProperties":{"label":"baseball"},"presentation":"","images":[{"id":"a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085","description":"","byline":"","hireswidth":null,"hiresheight":null,"hiresurl":null,"presentation":"","versions":{"full":{"type":"image/jpeg","width":"620","height":"349","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/86/a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085/58ab9264acfe1.image.jpg?resize=620%2C349"},"100": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"100","height":"56","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/86/a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085/57128b79485c4.preview-100.jpg"},"300": {"type":"image/jpeg","width":"300","height":"169","url":"http://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/tucson.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/a/86/a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085/58ab9264acfe1.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/a/86/a86a3037-3841-5b0a-bc47-54062f6bc085/58ab9264acfe1.image.jpg"}}}],"youtube":[{"id":"b8da3079-0c49-5dcc-b699-c1a81d3c975b","starttime":"1487628984","starttime_iso8601":"2017-02-20T15:16:24-07:00","title":"Watch: UA coach Jay Johnson breaks down sweep-clinching victory vs. Eastern Kentucky","description":"Arizona rallied to beat EKU 9-8, securing a four-game sweep to open the 2017 season.","byline":"","video_id":"-se3hvinubQ"}],"revision":11,"commentID":"c23fb1ca-b93f-5188-b544-82dd3fa784a7","body":"

Jay Johnson has two overarching goals in his role as Arizona\u2019s baseball coach.

One is to develop players. The other is to win every game the Wildcats play.

Is it possible to do both simultaneously?

Johnson firmly believes that it is, and he can point to Arizona\u2019s opening series against Eastern Kentucky as proof.

The Wildcats were sloppy at times, especially on defense, but they overcame it to secure a four-game sweep. Arizona\u2019s 9-8, comeback win over EKU on Monday at Hi Corbett Field gave the Wildcats their third 4-0 start since 2007.

\u201cThere\u2019s two kinds of experience,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cThere\u2019s inexpensive experience and expensive experience. Losing that game, it becomes expensive experience.

\u201cWe\u2019re trying to figure things out. Some guys are still trying to get \u2026 their sea legs in college baseball and work through it.

\u201cThey\u2019re all here because they\u2019re not perfect. It\u2019s our job to keep developing them.

\u201cIf you develop players first and focus on the play, I\u2019m a big believer the results will follow.\u201d

The end-of-the-game heroes Monday exemplify that principle.

Alfonso Rivas III and Cesar Salazar experienced all the ups and downs you\u2019d expect as freshmen last year. They ended up being significant contributors to a team that finished as the national runner-up.

\u201cThe biggest thing I got from last year was maturity for sure,\u201d said Rivas, whose two-RBI single in the ninth inning tied the score at eight runs apiece.

\u201cI\u2019ve been in this setting before. The nerves don\u2019t kick in anymore. You don\u2019t get those butterflies anymore. All that playing time I got last year really helped me mature as a baseball player and as a hitter.\u201d

Rivas\u2019 bases-loaded single put runners on first and third with no outs. After pinch hitter Casey Bowman grounded into a fielder\u2019s choice and Ryan Haug walked, Salazar came to the plate with the bases loaded and a chance to win the game.

Rivas and Salazar had tag-teamed a comeback victory before. In the clinching Game 2 of the Super Regional last year at Mississippi State, Rivas\u2019 RBI single tied the game; Salazar\u2019s RBI single won it.

This time, Salazar didn\u2019t have to swing the bat. Brian Mroz\u2019s 1-1 pitch hit Salazar\u2019s elbow pad, just below his right shoulder. Salazar trotted to first, and Louis Boyd jogged home with the winning run.

A year ago, Salazar might not have known how to handle that situation. But over the course of his freshman year, he said, he learned \u201chow to stay relaxed, how to slow the game down.\u201d

\u201cThe first half of the season, I was putting too much pressure on myself,\u201d Salazar said. \u201cI learned how to relax, how to breathe. I learned that it\u2019s just baseball. You\u2019ve got to play it and have fun. Don\u2019t put additional pressure (on yourself). Don\u2019t think any other way.\u201d

Salazar has tried to impart that wisdom on this year\u2019s freshmen. It\u2019s easier said than done.

Cameron Cannon\u2019s error at shortstop contributed to Eastern Kentucky\u2019s six-run second inning. (Arizona made two errors in the inning, and all six runs were unearned.) After he moved to second base, Cannon got a glove on two other balls (one a soft line drive, the other a high throw) that he probably should have handled but didn\u2019t.

It\u2019s all part of the learning process for Cannon and the other freshmen, such as Nick Quintana and Matt Fraizer, who are expected to play big roles this season. But don\u2019t call them growing pains. That\u2019s a concept Johnson doesn\u2019t endorse.

\u201cWhen I start accepting anything but the best level of play,\u201d he said, \u201cit\u2019ll be time to do something else.\u201d

Inside pitch

\u2022 Junior JJ Matijevic sparked the ninth-inning rally with a two-strike single. He went 3 for 4 and is batting .474 with a team-high nine RBIs in 19 at-bats.

\u2022 Quintana is batting .571 (8 of 14) with six RBIs and six walks.

\u2022 Junior Cameron Ming allowed one hit in three innings of relief to earn his first win of 2017.

\u2022 Arizona\u2019s 49 runs are its most in the first four games of a season since 2005 (51 vs. New Mexico and Northern Colorado).

\u2022 In the final two games of the series, Arizona drew 19 walks and struck out only four times.

\u2022\u00a0Arizona opens a four-game series against McNeese State at 6 p.m. Thursday at Hi Corbett Field.

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The Arizona Wildcats\u2019 18-4 victory over Eastern Kentucky on Sunday gave them 34 runs in their past two games. It\u2019s the most the UA has scored in back-to-back contests since March 2008.

Afterward, Arizona coach Jay Johnson wasn\u2019t focused so much on how many runs the Wildcats had scored but how they scored them.

Take the first inning, for example. Three of the first five batters walked. JJ Matijevic and Cesar Salazar drove in runs with opposite-field hits. Jared Oliva plated another with a bunt. Arizona scored five runs in all.

\u201cThat first inning today is how you draw it up,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cA lot of patient at-bats, good two-strike at-bats, guys using the whole field, hitting with runners in scoring position, executing. We just haven\u2019t thrown away that many at-bats, which is nice to see.\u201d

The offense is clicking early, a good sign for a team that\u2019s still trying to figure out its pitching staff.

Undefeated Arizona is batting .381 through three games, albeit against an overmatched EKU squad. Even more impressive, the Wildcats have a .471 on-base percentage. They have walked 17 times and struck out only nine. On Sunday, they drew 10 walks and fanned just once against five Colonels pitchers.

\u201cThat\u2019s kind of who we are as an offense,\u201d said Oliva, the junior center fielder, who went 2 for 5 with two RBIs. \u201cIt doesn\u2019t matter if we\u2019re up 10, down 10. We\u2019re focusing on that one pitch. Once you get out of your plan and approach, you\u2019re not the best you. That\u2019s been the biggest thing. We don\u2019t let up.\u201d

Already this season, Arizona has experience being up big and down big. The UA trailed Eastern Kentucky 9-0 entering the bottom of the third inning Saturday. Since then, the Wildcats have outscored the Colonels 34-8.

\u201cIt\u2019s exciting,\u201d Oliva said. \u201cWe really established a good identity yesterday, coming back. Last year we could fight back. So it\u2019s like, \u2018Can we do it again?\u2019 \u201d

UA didn\u2019t need to rally Sunday \u2013 in part because its offense was sizzling on a chilly, rainy day at Hi Corbett Field, and in part because starting pitcher Rio Gomez delivered five workmanlike innings.

Gomez allowed three runs, two of which were earned, on three hits, walking one and striking out six. The junior left-hander is one of several candidates to snare weekend starting spots behind ace JC Cloney, the only current sure thing in the rotation.

\u201cEverybody wants to be a starter,\u201d said Gomez, who made his third career start after working primarily out of the bullpen the past two seasons. \u201cI\u2019d love to seize that opportunity.\u201d

It took Johnson a while to sort out the pitching staff last season, and he said this year\u2019s group is \u201cprobably even a little farther away.\u201d But Sunday was a major upgrade over Saturday, and that\u2019s all he can ask for in mid-February.

\u201cToday was about improvement,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cThat was really the theme word. We wanted to be a better team today. We were a lot better team in every phase of the game.\u201d

Inside pitch

\u2022 Junior transfer Mitchell Morimoto hit his first home run as a Wildcat, a two-run blast to left in the fourth inning.

\u2022 Matijevic hit his first homer of the season, also a two-run shot, and leads the Wildcats with eight RBIs.

\u2022 DH Alfonso Rivas III reached base in all five plate appearances Sunday, finishing 3 for 3 with four RBIs, three runs scored and two walks.

\u2022 Junior outfielder Cal Stevenson has only one hit in nine at-bats, but he has drawn four walks and is tied with Morimoto for the team lead with seven runs.

\u2022 Freshman infielders Cameron Cannon and Nick Quintana totaled five hits in eight at-bats, and they\u2019re a combined 12 for 19 (.632) through three games.

\u2022 Arizona and Eastern Kentucky conclude their four-game series at 10 a.m. Monday.

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The Arizona Wildcats\u2019 season-opening victory Friday night featured a promising mix of the new and the familiar.

The new: key offensive contributions from first-year Wildcats Mitchell Morimoto and Nick Quintana.

The familiar: stellar pitching by veteran starter JC Cloney.

It added up to a crisp 6-0 triumph over Eastern Kentucky in front of an announced crowd of 3,716 at Hi Corbett Field.

Jay Johnson couldn\u2019t have asked for a better start to his second season as Arizona\u2019s coach.

\u201cThe crowd was awesome,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cWe don\u2019t take this lightly. This doesn\u2019t happen in college baseball on the West Coast. That fueled our guys.

\u201cOpening day is always special. They don\u2019t need any extra motivation or speeches. I thought they handled it well. I thought they settled into the game. JC certainly helped us do that.\u201d

Cloney allowed only one hit in seven surgically efficient innings \u2014 a double by Daniel McFarland on the first pitch of the game. From that point forward, Cloney allowed only one baserunner \u2014 on a strikeout.

Jacob Abbott swung and missed to lead off the top of the sixth, and he reached base after the breaking ball in the dirt bounded away from catcher Cesar Salazar. Cloney stranded Abbott at second base.

Cloney has pitched 23 consecutive scoreless innings, dating to last year\u2019s College World Series. He described what it\u2019s like to be in the proverbial zone.

\u201cYou kind of get in a groove,\u201d the senior left-hander said. \u201cYou feel like everything\u2019s working. Whatever pitch they call, you just go and throw it. You don\u2019t think about it.\u201d

Cloney became the first UA pitcher to win consecutive opening-day starts since Kurt Heyer in 2011-12. Cloney threw 74 pitches, including 57 for strikes. He did not have a single three-ball count.

\u201cHe made it easy on us,\u201d Morimoto said.

Morimoto and Quintana were two of four newcomers in Arizona\u2019s Game 1 lineup. Morimoto, a right-handed hitter, started in left field and batted leadoff against left-handed Colonels starter Jack Piekos. The transfer from Mesa Community College had two hits, reached base three times and scored the Wildcats\u2019 first two runs.

Morimoto found out he was starting earlier Friday and was surprised to learn he\u2019d be batting leadoff. He opened the game by reaching base on a hit-by-pitch.

\u201cJust doing my job,\u201d Morimoto said, \u201cgetting on so the guys behind me can do their jobs and get me in. Any way possible \u2014 wearing that pitch or putting one in play. Whatever it takes.\u201d

Quintana \u2014 who chose to attend Arizona despite being drafted in the 11th round by the Boston Red Sox \u2014 started at third base and batted fifth. After going hitless in his first two at-bats, Quintana drilled an RBI double down the third-base line to spark the Wildcats\u2019 three-run sixth inning that expanded their lead from 2-0 to 5-0. Quintana also drew a walk and scored two runs.

\u201cAfter those first two at-bats, it was just like any other day at the park,\u201d Quintana said. \u201cIt was comfortable.\u201d

Another newcomer, right-hander Seve Romo, pitched two scoreless innings in relief to secure Arizona\u2019s first opening-day shutout since 2013. The victory was the Wildcats\u2019 ninth in a row to open a season.

Inside pitch

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JC Cloney is an obvious choice to start the Arizona Wildcats\u2019 season opener Friday night against Eastern Kentucky.

The senior left-hander is Arizona\u2019s most experienced starter. He pitched the opener last year and shut down Rice. He became one of the best pitchers on one of the nation\u2019s best teams, compiling an 8-4 record with a 2.45 ERA.

Less obvious: whether Cloney would be a member of the 2017 Wildcats at all.

At the end of last year\u2019s College World Series, which Arizona came within one hit of winning, Cloney faced an uncertain future. He had pitched brilliantly in Omaha, throwing 16 scoreless innings in two sterling starts. But his arm was fatigued, he was on track to graduate later that summer and he wasn\u2019t sure what he wanted to do next.

The 22-year-old Cloney considered three main options: sign with a pro team, return to Arizona or stop playing baseball to begin pursuing a career in law enforcement. For a while, the latter seemed the most likely scenario.

\u201cYou got the sense he was probably going to move on with his life,\u201d UA pitching coach Dave Lawn said.

Cloney returned home to Castaic, California, in early July. He recalled a conversation with his travel-ball coach, Sean Thompson.

\u201cGood last outing, right?\u201d Cloney said, referring to his shutout in the College World Series finals against Coastal Carolina.

\u201cYou\u2019re not done,\u201d Thompson replied.

It was true. Cloney hadn\u2019t completely closed that chapter of his life. But he hadn\u2019t been selected in the MLB draft, either, so that option was cloudy at best. Returning to Arizona remained a possibility. Lawn and UA coach Jay Johnson gave Cloney their best pitch.

Lawn told him that Arizona really wanted him, that another good season would improve his draft stock and that \u201cyou can only do this one time.\u201d

Johnson emphasized the opportunity to spend one more season with his teammates, leading them and leaving a legacy.

\u201cHe means a lot to our program,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cHe obviously meant a lot to last year\u2019s team. I knew he would mean a lot to this year\u2019s team.\u201d

\u201cHe wanted me back. I knew that,\u201d Cloney said. \u201cIt was kind of getting all the stars aligned. Once they did \u2026 it was, \u2018All right, I\u2019m coming back.\u2019 \u201d

Cloney had given his adviser an early-August deadline: If a free agent offer didn\u2019t materialize, he would go back to school.

Cloney needed to get into a graduate program, though. He ended up in journalism, a field with which he had little familiarity. (Cloney earned his degree in psychology).

He came to view it as a challenge. He is attacking his final college season the same way \u2014 determined to top his indisputably successful UA debut.

Once he knew he was coming back, Cloney went to work with strength coach Jim Krumpos. Lawn described their regimen as \u201cthe prizefighter plan,\u201d and the results are evident in Cloney\u2019s remodeled physique.

Listed at 6 feet 2 inches and 234 pounds, Cloney has lowered his body fat to 15 percent. He worked on strengthening his back, chest and legs after his arm \u201ckind of gave out later in the season.\u201d He increased the amount he can squat by 60 pounds.

\u201cThe energy level is up,\u201d Cloney said. \u201cWith this squad, if you don\u2019t have the energy, you get left out.\u201d

Cloney also worked to improve his changeup. Where it once was his fourth most-trusted pitch, it\u2019s now his second, behind the fastball he can spot for strikes as well as anyone. Cloney walked only 22 batters in 110\u00aa innings last season.

With his new, stronger body, Cloney is hitting the upper 80s with his fastball. But his success never has hinged on velocity. It\u2019s one of many examples he sets for the younger members of the pitching staff.

Cloney is renowned for his in-game focus and preparation between starts. When fall practice begins, Lawn always matches veterans with newcomers. He made sure Cloney threw with a different pitcher every day so they all could learn from him.

\u201cThat mentoring mentality \u2026 comes naturally for him, where it doesn\u2019t always for some people because they\u2019re competitive,\u201d Lawn said. \u201cThere\u2019s always that little part (where) you don\u2019t want to make this guy too good. JC\u2019s always comfortable in his own skin.\u201d

Cloney willingly has stepped into the leadership void created by the departures of Nathan Bannister, Bobby Dalbec and others. Cloney is one of only three UA pitchers classified as seniors, along with Austin Schnabel and Luke Soroko. No one on the staff can match Cloney\u2019s big-game starting experience.

\u201cSuccessful experience breeds confidence,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cHe pitched opening night last year. I\u2019m sure he\u2019ll draw from that and help our team settle into the game.\u201d

Cloney knows what it\u2019s like to pitch in front of thousands of fans, whether they\u2019re with him or against him. He knows what the younger pitchers soon will realize: that no matter how much adrenaline is pumping through your system, you have to \u201cslow the game down\u201d and trust the work that got you to this point.

No one \u2014 including Cloney \u2014 knew 7\u00bd months ago that he\u2019d be back at Hi Corbett Field, pitching for the Wildcats. It turned out to be the right decision for all parties involved.

\u201cHe\u2019s our No. 1 recruit,\u201d Lawn said. \u201cThere are others that are actually on that list. But he\u2019s our No. 1 recruit. I can\u2019t imagine this pitching staff without him.\u201d

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Peyton Manning would have a hard time fitting in with the 2017 Arizona baseball team.

Despite their College World Series appearance last spring and desire to return, the Wildcats aren\u2019t running around yelling \u201cOmaha!\u201d

The players aren\u2019t forbidden from saying the word. It just doesn\u2019t come up very often in Jay Johnson\u2019s program, even though last year\u2019s experience there \u2014 in particular the final, gut-wrenching defeat \u2014 remains a fresh memory.

\u201cYou can\u2019t play here if you don\u2019t want to play in the College World Series,\u201d Johnson said Wednesday, two days before Friday\u2019s season opener against Eastern Kentucky. \u201cThere\u2019s nobody on the planet that wants to be in the College World Series worse than me. It\u2019s at the top of why we do what we do.

\u201cWith that being said, I\u2019ve never been a believer that talking about it is going to bring you any closer to doing it. We want to focus on the things it\u2019s going to take to improve and be successful, that will help move us in that direction.

\u201cOur players want to be there. I want to be there. But we\u2019re going to focus on how we\u2019re going to get there.\u201d

Johnson believes every season presents new and different challenges and that \u201ceach team needs its own identity, its own road map, its own purpose.\u201d He and the other coaches will cite last year\u2019s players as positive examples \u2014 how Kyle Lewis evolved into an important utility player or how starting pitcher Nathan Bannister approached every day with equal diligence. But as hard as it can be, especially for young people, to put the outcome aside, Johnson insists on focusing on the process. It\u2019s the bedrock of his system.

\u201cIf yesterday has nothing to do with today, if the team that plays the best is the one that\u2019ll win \u2014 not the best team \u2014 and if we\u2019re going to play 56 Super Bowls, how can we possibly hang our hat on what happened last year?\u201d pitching coach Dave Lawn said.

\u201cIt\u2019s not like we hear a kid talk about it and tell him, \u2018We don\u2019t talk about that.\u2019 We just don\u2019t talk about it to the team.\u201d

Viral video

Sawyer Gieseke did it again.

The senior utility player, whose comedic videos were a huge hit during the College World Series last year, released his latest creation Tuesday \u2014 and it went viral.

Numerous websites, ESPN and MLB Network picked up on the parody of the spring training arrival scene from the movie \u201cMajor League.\u201d As of late Wednesday afternoon, it had been viewed more than 270,000 times on the athletic department\u2019s YouTube and Facebook pages.

\u201cIt was unbelievable,\u201d senior pitcher JC Cloney said. \u201cTo see how many people have already seen it is kind of crazy.

\u201cEveryone knows Sawyer has the ability to produce a great piece like that. But I think he outdid himself.\u201d

Gieseke, a film and television major, wrote, directed, edited and produced the video. It features UA coaches and players portraying characters from the 1989 classic, which was filmed at Hi Corbett Field. Freshman outfielder Matt Fraizer is Willie Mays Hayes. Sophomore pitcher Cody Deason is Ricky \u201cWild Thing\u201d Vaughn. Johnson is gravelly voiced manager Lou Brown.

\u201cThat\u2019s one of my all-time favorite movie characters,\u201d Johnson said, adding: \u201cThere will be no more imitations for the rest of the season.\u201d

\u201cA scary deal\u201d

Johnson\u2019s hometown of Oroville, California, has been in the news in recent days because of concerns about flooding in and around the small town located an hour north of Sacramento.

Heavy rain forced officials to release water from Lake Oroville \u2014 the second-largest reservoir in California \u2014 through the spillway adjacent to the Oroville Dam. But the water damaged the spillway, and concerns about the rising level of the lake led to almost 200,000 people being evacuated in Oroville and surrounding areas, according to reports. Johnson\u2019s father, Jerry, was among them.

\u201cThat\u2019s a scary deal,\u201d Jay Johnson said. \u201cLiving there and knowing the size of the lake, you know the magnitude of how bad that would be.

\u201cI\u2019m proud of the way they\u2019re handling it. Now we just need the rain to stop up there.\u201d

Johnson said his dad was able to return home Wednesday morning. However, rain is in the forecast each of the next several days.

Coach Morin

Arizona football player Matt Morin will not play for the baseball team this season, but he will be part of the squad.

Morin, a fifth-year senior, will be an undergraduate assistant coach, Johnson said. That will enable Morin to work out with the team. A powerful left-hander, Morin aspires to play pro ball.

\u201cHe has made an awesome impact on our team over the last month and a half,\u201d Johnson said. \u201cHe has some baseball goals after this. Being around and learning more in that role will help him get closer to achieving those.\u201d

Morin played tight end, quarterback and running back for the football team last season

Inside pitch
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