Arizona baseball: At 12-18, young Wildcats suffer growing pains

2014-04-02T00:00:00Z 2014-04-02T00:04:39Z Arizona baseball: At 12-18, young Wildcats suffer growing painsBy Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Freshmen can’t be trusted. Or, at least, relied on.

Or blamed.

The way UA baseball coach Andy Lopez sees it, freshmen are essentially in a foreign land, in unfamiliar surroundings. Trying to learn, trying to adapt.

They’re away from home, away from their friends, and family.

“Really,” he said, “it’s like you’re in exile. You’ve been held captive, kept away from your surroundings.”

There’s more.

“You gotta eat different food, the climate’s different, friends are not here, dog’s not here, you’re watching a new TV. I mean, everything’s different.

“Freshmen,” he added. “You can’t really rely on those guys.”

See, the Wildcats, with 11 freshmen on the roster, are struggling right now. On the season, they’re 12-18, 2-7 Pac-12 and currently in 11th place in the Pac-12. Sunday, they lost 11-0 to Oregon State, the eighth loss in nine games.

“There’s a lot we need to work on as a team,” said Willie Calhoun, a freshman. “We’ll get through this.”

In Sunday’s loss, freshman righty Austin Schnabel got the start, but couldn’t even get out of the first inning. His line — ª inning, four hits, four earned runs and one walk on 23 pitches.

His line for the season — 0-4 record, 9.18 ERA, three strikeouts and seven walks in 16º innings pitched.

But, Lopez isn’t mad at Schnabel. He doesn’t blame him.

“I don’t want to beat up Schnabel,” Lopez said. “I think Schnabel’s done a decent job. His numbers aren’t spectacular, and they don’t give you goose bumps. But other than (Sunday) he’s hung in there, been pretty competitive. He’ll be OK when it’s all said and done.”

He won’t be the Sunday starter anymore, though. That’ll go to righty Tyger Talley. Partly because Schnabel has struggled, sure, but also because Talley is a sophomore. Lopez believes that once a player has been with the Wildcats for a year, he’s a vet. And Lopez depends on vets.

Even the “special” players he’s coached in his career started out in the background. He listed some of them ...

Josh Fogg, David Ross, Mark Ellis, Brad Wilkerson, Mark Melancon.

In 2012, when the Cats won it all, it was Alex Mejia, Seth Mejias-Brean, Joey Rickard, Kurt Heyer. All juniors. Two years earlier, they were freshmen, too. Hitting eighth and ninth, in the background. Then in 2012, they were juniors, the stars, the team leaders.

On that College World Series-winning tam, Trent Gilbert was a freshman, as were Tyler Crawford, Joseph Maggi, Tyler Parmenter and Riley Moore.

Now, those players need to step up, and come to the foreground.

“With all teams, the older guys should take charge,” said Gilbert, an infielder. “You can’t expect freshmen in a tough conference like this to perform all the time. They’ll be up and down. So as older guys, we try our best to be the consistent players and hopefully keep everyone up. I understand where he’s coming from when he says that.”

So, even though freshman Bobby Dalbec has been one of Lopez’s most consistent performers — a .304 batting average, a 1.29 ERA on the mound — don’t expect him to take charge.

Calhoun broke up Oregon State’s no-hitter with an eighth-inning leadoff single on Sunday. But, he’s also hitting .224.

Kenny Meimersdorf is at .219, Michael Hoard .217. Evan Herbert has a 3.00 ERA, Morgan Earman a 4.50, Luke Soroko a 9.82.

Good or bad, Lopez won’t rely on any of those “rookies.” And he probably won’t blame them, either.

“As freshmen, you can’t depend on that,” Lopez said. “That’s not on them as human beings, that’s them in the game. You can’t say OK, Dalbec’s gotta hit .320 this year, and Schnabel’s gotta be 4-1 right now. You can’t do that.

“Well,” he added, “you can, but then you’ll be disappointed.”

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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