As the series went on, the pattern stayed the same. Sloppy baseball led to tight games down the stretch, but in the end No. 17 Arizona played just well enough to earn the three-game series sweep over the Utah Valley Wolverines.
WildcatAuthority.com takes a look back at the weekend it was for the Arizona baseball team.
Friday 3/4: Arizona 6 Utah Valley 5
W: Konner Wade (1-0) L: Jeremy Gendlek (0-2)
Saturday 3/5: Arizona 6 Utah Valley 3
W: Kyle Simon (3-0) L: Justin Campbell (0-2)
Sunday 3/6: Arizona 9 Utah Valley 3
W: Matt Chaffee (1-0) L: Ryan Chadwick (0-1)
Player of the Series: Joey Rickard. He went 5 for 13 at the dish this series, which actually lowered his average to .458, which is still 48 percentage points higher than the next high highest average on the team (Cole Frenzel .410). Rickard wins this award for the little things he did this weekend.
Two of his five hits this series were infield singles and two other hits were singles that were turned into doubles because of his speed out of the box. He also got his hits late in both game two and three while the games were still in doubt. Rickard is 6 for 14 this year with two outs and 11 for 16 with runners in scoring position. This award has been long overdue.
Unsung Hero: Tyler Hale really gutted his start out Sunday afternoon. After giving up a three spot in the opening inning and going to a full-count on three Utah Valley batters in the same inning, he somehow managed to make it through 6.2 innings without allowing anymore runs after that. Hale would be the first to admit he didn't have his best stuff Sunday afternoon, but that only makes what he did more impressive.
"I think I probably should have spent some more time in the bullpen before the game," said Hale. "My legs felt a little shaky, I'm not quite sure what it was, I'm just glad I eventually found it."
The way Arizona's bullpen has been going lately, the Wildcats needed every one of Hale's career-high 109 pitches Sunday afternoon. This was probably one of the more impressive no-decisions an Arizona pitcher will have this year.
1. Finishing Strong: Arizona outscored Utah Valley 9-1 from the 7th inning on in this series. The Wildcats never had more than a two run lead going into the 7th frame this series. The series may have been sloppy, but when it had to, Arizona got it done.
2. Nick Cunningham: He only pitched in one game this series, but Arizona has a very important piece back in its bullpen after Cunningham missed the first nine games of the year with a strained oblique muscle.
"Really happy to see Cunningham back in the mix, said UA head coach Andy Lopez. "Boy we've been missing him, it's really important to have him back.
Expect the bullpen to start to sure things up a little bit now that he's back. There's a reason why Cunningham led all Arizona pitchers in appearances a season ago.
3. Taking care of Business: Even more so than last year, winning out of conference games is going to mean a lot come postseason selection time. Getting series wins are nice, getting series sweeps are better, especially against inferior teams. The Wildcats now have two series sweeps on the year and are 8-1 against teams not in the top 25. It's not the most impressive stat, but it's essential for Arizona to take full advantage of these opportunities before conference play begins.
1. The Slow Start: In two of the three games Utah Valley was the team to strike first, as a result the Wildcats found themselves in games that were close for most of the way. Out of conference is a time where if you're Arizona, you want to give a lot of your younger position players and bullpen guys a chance to come in and test the waters with little margin for error. Arizona wasn't able to do that this series because it never had more than a three run lead in any game until the 8th inning.
"It's a real balancing act, we really want to get a lot of guys in and get them some work, but when you're in tight ball games, you need to just win those first, "said Lopez.
2. The Free Passes: In games one and three Arizona pitchers walked a combined eight batters. That's too many for a team that expects to contend for a Pac-10 title.
3. Giving them away: Arizona gave up four unearned runs in the series; three of them were because of wild pitches or passed balls. Again, too many for a team of this caliber.
Quotes of the Series:
"I'll tell you what, Simon has been very consistent, he'll push (Kurt) Heyer for that Friday night spot. The whole thing about Friday night is you want to make sure you have a guy that's going to set the tempo for the weekend and you need at least seven innings out of them. You don't want to go to the bullpen in the 4th or 5th inning on a Friday night.
--Head coach Andy Lopez
"Heyer and I have been going after it since freshman year, but whatever is better for the team is cool with me. Having a 1-2 punch like we do is pretty legit, no matter what the order is."
--Pitcher Kyle Simon
On Deck: Arizona now heads to Las Vegas to take on the UNLV Rebels for a quick two game series this Tuesday and Wednesday.
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