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Arizona baseball: Kyle Lewis succeeded filling in for Bobby Dalbec

A nice weekend for an underrated guy

Jason Bartel

There are plenty of reasons the Arizona Wildcats' sweep of the Oregon State Beavers last weekend was so unlikely.

One of the things at the top of that list was the absence of Bobby Dalbec. While Dalbec is expected to be back this weekend against Arizona State after recovering from a knee infection, it's still worth noting what Kyle Lewis was able to do at third base on short notice.

"I didn't really know until about Friday," Lewis said of when he knew he would be the starting third baseman throughout the weekend. "We were still uncertain with all the things, but all I can do is prepare, and I thought I was pretty well prepared."

Lewis was 3-for-10 in the three games, reaching base in each contest. He was also the lone infielder to not commit an error.

"He was a stud," Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said about Lewis' weekend. "The defense speaks for itself. We don't have a lot of strikeout guys for as good as our pitching staff is, so the ball's gonna be in play. He was spectacular."

"Nothing but good things out of him," Cody Ramer added about his teammate. "He's a grinder. He plays second, short, third, and we've seen it all year. He's the best ball-in-the-dirt reader alive on the planet. If he's on first and there's a ball in the dirt, he's taking it. It's just unbelievable."

There were several late additions to the Arizona roster this year as the new coaching staff took over, and Lewis was one of them.

"We brought him in in July," Johnson explained. "He's filled the role we wanted him to and exceeded expectations."

A junior college transfer from Sierra College, Lewis has this year and next year eligibility-wise at Arizona, so he has a limited amount of time to take big steps up in his game. But he felt the Oregon State weekend was a big one.

"It's a big step in the process," he said. "I just gotta come back this week and get better, but it was a big weekend. Definitely very excited, get back with these guys for practice this week, and get ready for ASU."

ASU Preview

Friday is the beginning of the actual conference series against the Arizona State Sun Devils. In two non-conference bouts up in Phoenix this year, the teams split the meetings, including a dominant performance by Kevin Ginkel.

Only one Arizona starting pitcher has been announced for this weekend, so maybe we'll see Ginkel again. Nathan Bannister (7-1, 2.74 ERA) will take the mound on Friday night to open the series against ASU's Seth Martinez (7-3, 1.99 ERA). As Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball explains, this may be a pitching matchup that helps determine the Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year race.

A few weeks ago, it seemed like this weekend would be a bubble battle, with both teams mulling around in the middle of the Pac-12 standings, and not exactly highly-favored by the RPI. Here we are now, with Arizona sitting at 25 in the RPI and half a game away from the top of the conference (14-10), while ASU is 51st in the RPI, and has an 11-10 record in conference.

Arizona is expecting record crowds at Hi Corbett this weekend, thanks to the combination of rivalry weekend, graduation, and softball start times not directly conflicting with baseball. Plus there are some giveaways going down.

Most fans know that the parking situation at HiC isn't great, especially when you're talking about a big weekend like this, so be sure to take advantage of the shuttle:

If you're unable to make it out to the park, all three games will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network. Friday and Saturday start at 7 PM PT, and Sunday will be a 3 PM PT start. Daron Sutton and Scott Erickson will be the announcers.

It can't be stated enough how important this series is for both teams, the conference standings, and postseason implications. Arizona is looking to secure a home Regional, while the Sun Devils are looking to lock down a postseason berth. It should be a great three days on the diamond.