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Arizona baseball: JJ Matijevic rakes in Wildcats’ first series of 2017

The junior is off to a good start in his draft year

JJ Matijevic cheers on his team in Sunday’s win over Eastern Kentucky
Jason Bartel

A lot of the talk around the Arizona Wildcats heading into the 2017 season has centered around all the new, promising faces that have made their way to Tucson.

But it was a lineup mainstay that slayed in the team’s first weekend of games.

JJ Matijevic went 9-for-19 at the plate, drove in nine runs, and scored eight of his own. All of those numbers led the team.

“Raking,” Cesar Salazar said flatly about what he saw from Matijevic this weekend. “Since the fall, he’s been lights out hitting, and we all know about his capability of hitting. He’s probably the best hitter on the team, and he carried us this weekend, and I’m sure he’s going to do it the rest of the season.”

“It’s pretty impressive seeing him progress to what he is now,” Alfonso Rivas added. “Living with him, I see how he takes care of his body and just what he does every day. It’s pretty impressive, and there’s no shock on why he’s performing the way he is.”

Matijevic also put up a slugging percentage of .842 over the weekend, which trailed only Nick Quintana‘s .857 among guys that had more than one at bat.

“I think he’s just improving,” head coach Jay Johnson said of Matijevic after Sunday’s game. “I feel like he’s made gigantic steps. He made the big step from freshman year to sophomore year, and he’s making the same kind of step right now, which is great to see.”

“What I’ve been working on the most is staying relaxed, slowing the game down, and bringing the game to me,” Matijevic said of his improvement. “I’ve been doing that so far and I’ve been having some success.”

One wrinkle to the weekend was that on Saturday, Matijevic played at second base, but the rest of the series he was at first base.

“I just play wherever Coach Johnson wants me to play and just play the game the way it’s supposed to be played,” he said of that switch up.

Defense is the one thing that will remain a question throughout the year for the junior. He’s always had offensive talent, but finding a position for him in the field has been the challenge. He was one of five position players to commit an error on the weekend. It was a throwing error in the second inning of Monday’s game while at first base.

Another thing to keep an eye on will be the hair, which was braided all weekend as you can see above.

“I’ve been braiding it,” he joked. “I didn’t know what else to do with it, so I just braided it.”

Hey, whatever works.