As his hitting slump worsened and the pressure mounted, Jett Bandy looked inside himself.
The Arizona Wildcats' catcher didn't panic, nor did he change anything. He simply breathed.
"I just relaxed more," he said. "I told myself, 'I've been doing this my entire life.' I just trusted myself, and everything started working out for me."
The new approach is certainly helping Bandy, who will lead the Wildcats into a three-game series at UCLA starting tonight.
Over his last nine games, Bandy is batting .412 with three doubles and 15 RBIs. He's 10 for 17 with runners in scoring position, and no hit was bigger than the one he ripped in an April 8 win over Cal.
Bandy's two-out, ninth-inning single scored pinch runner Bobby Rinard and gave Arizona a 5-4 walk-off win.
Coach Andy Lopez wasn't surprised: Though Bandy's season has been marred by inconsistency, there's nobody the Wildcats would rather have at the plate with the game on the line.
"You're the lucky one, being up at that time. Don't let it go to waste," Bandy said. "I dream about hitting in those spots all the time. I love hitting in those spots.
"Sometimes, I will myself to get those hits."
Earlier this season, Bandy had a will - but no way.
He hit just .194, the worst mark on the team, through Arizona's first eight games. Of his six hits, just one went for extra bases. Bandy had twice as many strikeouts (four) as walks (two); he was 0 for 13 with runners in scoring position.
Worse, Bandy was stuck in his own version of "Groundhog Day": backup catcher Jake Meskin was unable to play for the first two weeks of the season because of a back injury, which meant Bandy had to suit up every day.
"We had to stay with Jett, by hook or by crook, sink or swim," Lopez said. "I'd tell him, 'Jett, you have four more at-bats today. You have to get it figured out."
Bandy said he took the slump seriously but didn't consider a major overhaul of his upright stance. Through his first two seasons, Bandy proved to be one of the Wildcats' most dangerous hitters. His 53 career doubles are tied for sixth in school history; the Cats' junior is on pace to pass two UA legends, Chip Hale (56) and Terry Francona (61). Plus, eight games were too small a sample size to consider widespread changes.
"You don't want to do that. Why fix something that's not broken?" he said.
Bandy knows he must produce for Arizona (22-11 overall, 4-5 Pac-10) to compete against UCLA this weekend. The Bruins boast a 2.12 team ERA, tops in the conference, and one of the best in the nation.
The Wildcats will play without cleanup hitter Steve Selsky, who is out with a left hamstring injury; and reliever Bryce Bandilla spent all week tweaking the grip on his fastball. He may not pitch.
Bandy could be the key to the pivotal series. No pressure.
"He gets big hits, man," Lopez said.
"He's not a beauty queen in BP. But in clutch situations, he's the best I've had in a while."
• What: Arizona at UCLA
• Schedule: 6 p.m. today; 2 p.m. Saturday; 1 p.m. Sunday
• Radio: Saturday and Sunday games on 1290-AM