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Arizona baseball: JC Cloney gets Wildcats’ season started vs. Eastern Kentucky

It’s officially baseball season.

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arizona vs Coastal Carolina Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball. It has arrived.

The Arizona Wildcats begin the 2017 season on Friday night when hosting the first of a four-game series against the Eastern Kentucky Colonels at 6 PM MT.

Despite all the new faces on the 2017 squad, a familiar one will get the season started on the mound when LHP JC Cloney takes the ball.

Cloney pitched in 18 games last year — all starts — and posted a team-best 2.45 ERA in 110 13 innings. However, he needed a little help from Arizona’s grad programs to be able to play baseball again this year.

He’s in grad school for journalism this academic year.

“Don’t know if I’ll finish the master’s degree, but it was the one grad program that would let me in since I graduated last August,” Cloney explained. “So I’m thankful for them because it allows me to come out here. Maybe I’ll finish it, I don’t know. We’re worried about this season to start and then we’ll figure it out when it comes time.”

On Saturday, Arizona will give the ball to junior RHP Tylor Megill, who might remind Cats fans of Nathan Bannister. Megill is a monster of a human being (6-foot-6, 240 pounds), but won’t necessarily overpower hitters, sitting right around 90 MPH on his fastball. He sees himself as a pitch-to-contact kind of pitcher, which was just like Bannister (and Cloney) last year.

For the rest of the series, Arizona doesn’t have a starting pitcher listed, but will have plenty of options. Both Jay Johnson and Dave Lawn said that ten different pitchers are capable of throwing 90 pitches this weekend. Lawn also said that he will make the decision after seeing what kind of lineup EKU brings to Tucson.

One likely name to start is sophomore RHP Cody Deason. His confidence coming into this season is a lot higher than at any point last year.

“How could it not be,” coach Lawn said about that. “He got to pitch in Omaha, he did well in Alaska, he’s highly regarded and all the other stuff on the internet, but he should be. He’s pitched his way into that.”

“He was the benefactor that he just got opportunities,” Lawn continued about Deason’s progression last year. “He got that surprise start at Utah, and then became more reliable as the year went on, and got to pitch in these big moments.”

“His misses are less,” Lawn continued. “It’s not quite miss or middle. We’re getting a little more closer and towards the edges, and the changeup has made the difference for him. That pitch is more than usable. We spent an awful lot of time on it in the developmental plan, and he’s thrown it, used it.”

Deason’s 2016 can be divided into two halves: pre-Oregon series and post-Oregon series.

Why that line of demarcation? Deason had been signed with the Ducks before the UO coaching staff let him go the summer before he was set to move to Eugene.

He went into Eugene as a Wildcat and threw 2 13 innings of one-hit ball against the Ducks.

“Most guys try too hard and make them think ‘yeah, that’s why we let him go’,” Lawn said about that outing. “But no, he really threw the ball well. He’s a different guy. They get older, and you yell at ‘em enough for stupid things and eventually they figure it out, but that’s how it’s supposed to go. He’s doing his job and I’m doing my job if that’s how it ends up.”

Junior LHP Cameron Ming is probably the most likely left-handed starter behind Cloney, especially since this is a four-game weekend. Ming could be used as the “ultimate utility pitcher” according to the coaching staff.

Of course, the last two starting pitchers Arizona uses will be totally based on how the reliever situation plays out on Friday and Saturday.

On the other side, EKU has announced it will have two left-handed and two right-handed starting pitchers throughout the four-game weekend, which will certainly show us what Arizona’s coaches have in mind for different lineups against different opposing pitchers. There are plenty of options, especially at DH, 1B, and catcher.

We will have a series open thread for updates and discussion that will post just before Friday night’s game starts. If you’re unable to head out to Hi Corbett, you can stream all games here.