BASEBALL

Arizona baseball: Wildcats put title in past, focus on '13 behind new ace Wade, CF Field

2013-01-29T00:00:00Z Arizona baseball: Wildcats put title in past, focus on '13 behind new ace Wade, CF FieldDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
January 29, 2013 12:00 am  • 

When Andy Lopez walked into a team meeting Monday afternoon at Hi Corbett Field, he asked his squad to recite the two words most often associated with the Arizona Wildcats baseball program.

No, not national champions. Rather, "effort" and "execution."

Champions defined the 2012 Wildcats, who won the College World Series and the Pac-12.

But, it's not the identity of the 2013 team - not yet.

"We have two words," Lopez said, "and they are like little robots going around the room: effort and execution. I tell the guys, 'Give the town your best effort. Give the program, the university your best effort.'"

Lopez and the Wildcats began full-team workouts Friday in preparation of their season opener Feb. 15 versus Coppin State. Monday, they held their first media availability of the new year.

The message from the coach and his players was the same: It's time to move on from the national championship.

"It was a great moment, but that's all it was, a moment," Lopez said.

Added third baseman Brandon Dixon: "Last year is last year. We have to let that go."

Here are four things to know about the Wildcats as they try to move on from last year's title.

1. It's Wade's world now

Kurt Heyer was last year's ace. He led the team in wins, complete games, innings pitched, strikeouts and ERA.

He's now in the St. Louis Cardinals minor league organization, and the ace responsibilities have shifted to junior Konner Wade.

Wade had a stellar sophomore season, going 11-3 with a 3.96 ERA.

Now, it's time to go from complimentary piece to main attraction.

"Konner Wade is a growing young man, and I'm sure he'll handle everything just fine," Lopez said.

If the 2012 postseason is any indication, Lopez is on the money.

Wade was 4-0 in four NCAA tourney starts, including three complete games - two coming in the College World Series.

2. Field's new field

The Wildcats lost a lot from their title team, but the man who led them in batting average - Johnny Field - is back.

Field led the Wildcats with a .375 clip last year and will shift from left field to center field this season.

At least to start.

Lopez was hoping true freshman Scott Kingery would patrol center after batting .480 in fall scrimmages. But he's battling mononucleosis, and no timetable for his return has been set.

Lopez is hoping it's sooner rather than later, but Field will open in center.

The coach is optimistic Field and the team's other junior starters (Dixon, Wade and projected Sunday starter Stephen Manthei) don't try to do too much as the new leaders of the team.

"You talk to them about what they accomplished last year," Lopez said. "'What did you do last year to have that type of year? That's exactly what you have to do this year.'"

3. No bling, no rings

Don't expect to see any of the Wildcats wearing their national championship or Pac-12 rings.

"I've worn it once," Dixon said. "It's at home. I wore it the weekend we got it and that's it. I think we're just trying to move on and make this year happen."

If you don't believe Dixon, know not one player or coach had his ring at Monday's workout. Not in the clubhouse, not in their cars, not anywhere.

"That thing is put away," sophomore closer Mat Troupe said. "It's back home with my family. We're moving forward."

4. Players want to play here

Recruiting has changed for Lopez since the national championship.

"We're talking to guys nationally that we probably wouldn't be able to talk to before," Lopez said.

There's a flip-side to this.

Lopez doesn't just want to sign players who think it would be neat to play for a program that just won a national title. He's also weary of recruits who are just excited by the Wildcats' professional facilities at Hi Corbett Field.

"The biggest concern is, are we getting the right guy for the right situation?" Lopez said. "We have to get guys who really want to be here. Not the guys who want to enjoy the nice facilities and ride the wave of the guys that were here last year."

By the numbers

214

Arizona must replace a combined 214 RBIs from drafted juniors Robert Refsnyder, Seth Mejias-Brean, Alex Mejia and Joey Rickard.

21

The Wildcats will stay home early, playing 21 of their first 23 games at Hi Corbett Field

34

Kurt Heyer's 13 wins are the only ones missing from last season as the returning Arizona pitchers combined for 34 wins last year.

Up next

• Who: Coppin State at No. 24 Arizona

• Where: Hi Corbett Field

• When: Feb. 15, 6 p.m.

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