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Arizona baseball: Wildcats look to gain momentum after domination of ASU

We saw a completely different team on Tuesday night

Jason Bartel

Where has this Arizona baseball team been for the last month?

Nevermind the 17 runs and 20 hits. The atmosphere, the energy, the excitement, the fun. It's almost like a completely different set of guys showed up.

"We came in to this game knowing we had to win it," JJ Matijevic said after Tuesday night, where he drove in a career-high seven runs. "We had that mentality where we're not getting down on ourselves for these past sweeps, and we knew we had to get hot right now, and this game's a good start."

Perhaps the tone was set Sunday afternoon, when Robby Medel asked Andy Lopez for the ball on Tuesday night. While Medel has struggled a bit on the field as of late, coach has always praised his off the field mentality, saying his "It factor" is what Arizona has been missing.

"He says 'I want the ball, I want the ball' and then goes out and pitches well," Lopez added after Tuesday's game.

While Medel didn't actually start because Cody Hamlin needed to get some work in before Friday, the freshman transfer came in in the second inning, and went 6 1/3 innings, allowing just one earned run.

"It felt good to do my job," Medel said. "Coming out of the pen has taught me a lot, because I came here as a freshman, started right away. And coming out of the pen helped. It helped me get my confidence back, and I felt like I pitched with a lot of confidence today."

The pitching hasn't exactly been the problem the past few weeks, although having a guy like Medel in the bullpen gain some confidence back after a rough couple of months is something that Arizona will certainly need coming down the stretch.

The offense has been the problem, and 17 runs is one more than the combined total over the previous seven games for Arizona.

"It would be nice to play one month of really good baseball like we did earlier in the year," said Lopez. "Hopefully we get it going."

"I know one thing we told them after the game on Sunday was that we looked tentative," coach continued. "Come on, air it out. Get your money's worth. Get the ball out of the air, but get your money's worth."

"And they looked good."

"Lopez has just been saying to everyone let it fly, and that's what we did tonight," Bobby Dalbec added. "I think we're just playing a lot more loose now. Last weekend we were trying to win the series on one hit or one pitch, and obviously that didn't work out, so tonight we just got after it."

Even though it is a midweek game, where both teams can't exactly use their best arms, it could be just the confidence boost this team needs in all aspects. Look at a guy like Kevin Newman. He had just one hit all weekend against Cal, and then goes 5-for-5 in one night against ASU.

The pieces are there to make a late-season run. I think it's too late in the game to say that a big run would put Arizona back on the bubble for an NCAA Tournament berth, but stringing together some wins to close out the year would be a nice way to go out instead of looking like they did against USC, Oregon State and Cal the past month.