In college baseball, you’re usually only as good as your sophomores and juniors.
If Friday night was any indication, this year’s Arizona Wildcats may be an exception.
Senior James Farris pitched 7º innings, giving up six hits and striking out nine and freshman DH Willie Calhoun went 3 for 5 with four RBIs, two doubles and two runs scored.
The UA cruised to a 13-1 win over Kent State at Hi Corbett Field in the season opener.
“James Farris was outstanding,” UA coach Andy Lopez said. “Early in the game when it was close, he hung a couple of zeros and shut them down. With Willie, the little I’ve seen of him, he looks pretty consistent. He showed some pretty good things tonight.”
The senior-freshman production won’t be the only thing different about the Wildcats this season.
Cleanup hitter Zach Gibbons doesn’t have a home run in his career and is listed at 5 feet 11 inches and 182 pounds. The team’s center fielder Joe Maggi started at first base last season and the final pitcher on the mound for the Wildcats, Tyler Parmenter, is a converted infielder.
Call them the unconventional Cats.
“Quite honestly, yes, we are a little different than most teams I’ve had,” Lopez said. “And I knew that was going to be the case. That’s why I wanted as much time as possible with these guys.”
But as the UA found out Friday, different isn’t always bad.
Calhoun, a 17th-round draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays, broke open a close game in the fourth inning. The Benicia, Calif., native came up with the bases loaded and one out and laced a double to right-center field to clear the bases.
His hit came after Arizona already plated three runs. The freshman eventually scored on a wild pitch and the Wildcats posted a seven-spot in the inning to break the game open.
Before Calhoun’s at-bat, Lopez had a chat with his freshman to loosen him up.
“ ‘Lopes’ came up to me and said ‘you only have three options; that’s to get a hit, sacrifice fly or strike out,’ ” Calhoun said. “He said ‘I’d like you to get a hit’ and I kinda laughed and said ‘that’s what I want, too.’ ”
The freshman had his big debut in front of his dad, little brother and grandpa.
“It’s hard to imagine the night going any better,” Calhoun said. “I’m pretty excited about it.”
Calhoun wasn’t the only hitter to have a big night. Gibbons also contributed three hits and a pair of runs scored. Second baseman Trent Gilbert and third baseman Cody Ramer each had two hits and six different players contributed at least one RBI.
“We were hitting up and down the lineup and that’s what you want to see out of the gate,” Gilbert said. “It was a fun game.”
Of course, Farris didn’t need that support. The senior from Gilbert threw 100 pitches — 72 for strikes — and walked just one batter. It was a promising start for Farris against a team that was in the College World Series in 2012 when the Wildcats won their national championship.
“One walk is one too many, but other than that, I thought I threw pretty well tonight,” Farris said.