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Arizona baseball: Alfonso Rivas showcasing patience in sophomore season

He’s become a base reaching machine in year two

Alfonso Rivas eyes his own bat
Jason Bartel

In 2016, Alfonso Rivas walked just 18 times in 190 at bats for the Arizona Wildcats.

In 2017, he’s gotten the free base 24 times in just 118 at bats, giving him the second-highest on-base percentage in the nation (.539). It’s also the highest mark of any player that has played in at least 25 games, and Rivas has been in 34.

“I think the maturity in his at bats,” head coach Jay Johnson said of the huge jump in his walk rate. “It’s built around swinging at the best pitch of the at bat; swinging at your pitch and not the pitcher’s pitch. A strike’s better than an out kind of an idea especially when you have the hand-eye coordination he does, and the ability to find the barrel.”

“It was really trying to see the ball all the way through from the pitcher’s mound all the way to the batter’s box,” Rivas said about the adjustment he made this offseason. “I’m really picking it up early, which has really helped me a lot on offspeed pitches to see if they’re down or up or stuff like that.”

Jared Oliva has previously talked about opening up his head more this year to be able to do that, and Rivas has done something similar.

“I sort of opened my head a little more just so I can really clear my vision and see the pitcher with both eyes,” Rivas explained. “And now I can really see their release point.”

The batting average has also gone from .247 last year to his current mark of .415, which puts Rivas sixth in the country.

“Growth,” Johnson added about this development. “I just think that there were some guys that were put on the planet to hit — we talked about that with Zach Gibbons — and Alfonso’s working his way into that category.”

“I’d say a lot,” Rivas tacked on about how much he’s improved as a hitter. “Even last year, if a fastball was coming I was probably gonna swing just because it was a fastball. But now I just feel more mature. I feel like the game is slower and I’m just seeing the ball real well.”

“I think he’s just more relaxed than last year,” catcher Cesar Salazar added about Rivas. “When you see him hit his hands are just hanging off his body. He’s just locked in and he’s working really hard, but I think he’s just a more relaxed hitter than last year and that’s the base of his success in my opinion.”

“As a freshman you feel more pressure, but as a sophomore I know the competition that I’m going to face and what I’m going to get into,” Salazar added about the freshman-to-sophomore changes. “I feel more relaxed, and (Rivas) has been helping me with that.”

One thing that’s been an interesting development this year is Johnson moving Rivas up to the two-hole in the order. With his absurd on-base percentage, this sets the table well for guys like Oliva and JJ Matijevic to drive him home as Arizona is still averaging nine runs per game.

“I like the two-hole just because I can get more at bats,” Rivas said. “But I don’t think much of it and I don’t change any of my approaches at the plate.”

Certainly if Rivas keeps reaching base more than half the times he’s up to bat, everyone will love having him in the two-hole moving forward...except opposing pitchers.