A hard fought series between two ranked teams ended in a tie after Arizona dropped game two Tuesday night to the Rice Owls, 11-7, which was the UA's first home loss of the season thus far.
WildcatAuthority.com was there to take in the action.
Player of the Series: This one has to go to Anthony Rendon. The guy is battling a shoulder injury and still goes 4 for 7 at the dish with three RBIs in the series. He also was a homerun away from hitting for the cycle in game two, and might have gotten too if the Arizona bullpen didn't walk him two straight times to end the game.
Not only did Rendon hit the ball, but he hit when it mattered most, as he crushed a bases clearing triple in the 5th inning to all but end the Wildcats' chances of sweeping the series. UA head coach Andy Lopez's post series comments pretty much say it all:
"Man please don't tell me we're playing this guy (Rendon) again this weekend," he said. "If he transferred to Utah Valley and he's coming this weekend, I think we're just going to take this weekend off."
Rendon was the National College Player of the Year in 2010; not very many people should be surprised if he wins it again in 2011.
Rookie Watch: This section is going to have to probably be named something different, like ‘Field's corner' or something because for the third straight series Johnny Field has figured out a way to make an impact. Everyone is starting to figure out what this freshman can do with the bat, but it was his work in left field that really turned heads this series. Field had three diving grabs in the series, all which saved multiple runs from scoring.
"I've played outfield my whole life so it's really just second nature for me," said Field. "I know I made the transition from second base, but I really just picked it right back up, all I want to do is just compete out there."
Not only can Field make the web gems, but he also showed he's got a pretty good arm as well, recording Arizona's first outfield assist of the season in the 8th inning of game two when he gunned down an Owl base runner at home plate.
This guy is a full time starter, whether Steve Selsky is healthy or not.
1. Clawing till the end: Yes, there were a lot of errors. Yes, the bullpen got beat up pretty good, but Arizona battled all series long, even when it gave up an eight run lead in game one or when they fell down 11-4 in game two. The team only came away with the split, but it easily could have been a series sweep in favor of the Owls.
"I love the way we competed this series," said Lopez. "We do still have to get some answers in the middle part of our rotation, but I love the way we continue to compete."
2. The outfield defense: The Wildcat outfielders tracked down some balls and made some plays even the great Willie Mays would be proud of. Robert Refsynder, Joey Rickard, and Field saved at least a half-dozen runs this series with a combination of over the shoulder grabs, sliding grabs, and diving catches all over the place. There was a moment in Wednesday night's game where Field stretched out to his left at full speed to make a catch, and the crowd gave him a standing obviation; and it was only the first out of the inning.
3. Bryce Bandilla: Against one of the better hitting teams in the nation, Bandilla proved that he was worthy of the closer title, as he pitched a total of 2.2 innings this series, allowing zero runs and collected the Wildcat's first save of the season in the process.
1. The Bullpen: After giving up zero earned runs through six games this season, the Wildcat bullpen combined to give up 17 earned runs and 15 walks in two games. Freshman relievers Daniel Ponce de Leon and James Farris also made appearances where they combined to give up five runs, without recording an out. Obviously Arizona is missing some key guys out of the pen right now due to injury or illness, but definitely a series to forget for these guys.
2. Couldn't avoid the big inning: Rice scored five runs in the 6th inning of game one and scored eight runs in the 5th inning of game two, in both innings the Owls batted around the order. You're just not going to win a lot of games giving up five or eight runs in a game, let alone one inning.
3. Missing in Action: Two guys that combined for a .332 average and 23 doubles last year are struggling out of the gate this season. Jett Bandy and Seth-Mejias Brean have the worst two batting averages out of any starter on the team so far, with Mejias-Brean batting .267 and Bandy hitting .194. Both guys likely will get it going, but you never like to see two of your leaders struggling like they are.
Quote of the Series
"I keep telling myself I'm hot and coach Lopez always says it's a marathon not a sprint. You can't get too worried about anything, the game of baseball honors toughness, once you start thinking about stuff, that's when the game gets you. You just have to keep telling yourself you're a good hitter, and that's what I'm doing."
--Arizona Catcher Jett Bandy
Series Wrapup: UA vs. Rice
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