UA BASEBALL

Arizona baseball: UA staff needs to locate its focus down stretch

2013-05-03T00:00:00Z 2013-05-03T09:07:16Z Arizona baseball: UA staff needs to locate its focus down stretchDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
May 03, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When James Farris walks or hits a batter, he can't help but feel like a teenager who just let down his parents.

"The feeling you get is like disappointment and failure," the junior right-handed starter said.

For Farris and his fellow UA pitchers, there have been too many feelings of disappointment and failure lately.

Wildcats pitchers have become just that - wild Cats - and Tuesday's 7-5 loss to Arizona State may have been a low point.

The UA walked eight batters and hit five more.

What's worse is it wasn't an aberration.

The Wildcats have hit 53 batters this season, the second-most in the Pac-12, and have issued 130 walks - sixth-most in the league.

The team's 33 wild pitches through 43 games are tied for fourth-most in the conference and four more than the UA threw all of last season.

"The lack of strikes is alarming right now," coach Andy Lopez said. "I'm starting to think our guys have a union going on and part of the dues is you have to hit a guy with two strikes.

"It's worrisome."

Lopez is hopeful the team can fix the problem quickly with just 12 games remaining in the regular season. The first test comes tonight, when the UA welcomes Washington for a three-game series.

Here's a closer look at the team's struggles:

Mental or physical?

It depends on the pitcher.

Lopez thinks Farris, his Saturday starter, is suffering from poor mechanics.

The junior has been working with Lopez and pitching coach Shaun Cole on his release point and other technical aspects of pitching before practice.

Tonight's starter, Konner Wade, has hit 11 batters, but that's also not a surprise. He hit 24 last year and pitches inside with heavy movement.

For some of the younger pitchers on the staff, however, the problem may be more mental.

"I'd like to think it's mechanical because the next step is probably, 'How do you conquer it if it's a mental thing?'" Lopez said. "The mental part is always more challenging than the physical part.

"There are a couple of guys where it may be a mental thing."

Pitching with more urgency

Now that the season is winding down, pounding the strike zone becomes even more important.

Lopez said he can handle losing games if the other team outplays and outhits the Wildcats. He has trouble, however, when the UA helps the opponent win. That's been happening too often lately with the walks, wild pitches and hit batsmen.

Now that the final 12 games have arrived, it has to stop.

"We'll address it in the next two weeks and get it cleared up and moved out of the system," Lopez said.

Added Farris: "It's the sprint now at the end of a long season. So in the sprint, you really have to focus on more urgency and being tougher, being more focused. You can't give in on any pitch; let the other team do it, but not us."

Inside pitch

• The Wildcats will follow the lead of football and softball teams by wearing copper helmets tonight for the first time. The UA introduced the football lids last fall as a tribute to the state's mining history.

• Center fielder Johnny Field has been named to the 60-man midseason Golden Spikes Award watch list. The award is annually presented to the top amateur player in the country.

Wild things

A look at the UA's recent control struggles on the mound.

Date Opponent BB HBP

April 12 Washington State 4 2

April 13 Washington State 4 3

April 14 Washington State 1 1

April 16 Arizona State 6 2

April 19 Stanford 1 2

April 20 Stanford 3 2

April 21 Stanford 4 1

April 26 Alabama State 0 2

Saturday Alabama State 0 2

Sunday Alabama State 4 0

Tuesday Arizona State 8 5

The Series

• What: Washington at Arizona, three-game series

• Where: Hi Corbett Field

• Schedule: Today at 6 p.m., Saturday at 6 p.m., Sunday at noon

• Radio: All games on 1290-AM

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

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