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Arizona baseball: Wildcats showcase lineup variety while sweeping ASU

This team certainly has a lot of options right now

Sawyer Gieseke receives a throw to third during pregame warmups vs. ASU
Jason Bartel

A wise man once said that we’re all day-to-day.

Jay Johnson’s lineup is certainly right there with the rest of us.

“With 18-to-21 year-olds, it’s day-to-day sometimes, and we’re just trying to find the right guys for that day,” Johnson explained. “Honestly, this year has been the hardest for me to make the lineup because there’s more than nine deserving guys to be in there. It’s a great problem to have.”

“We have some depth on this team,” Johnson continued. “We feel like we have some guys that can match up and do well with some things.”

“There’s more players executing,” sophomore cleanup hitter Alfonso Rivas added. “It’s exciting to see how many options we have and knowing that all of them can get it done.”

Even on Saturday in Phoenix as the team was looking to complete a three-game sweep of its rival, the Arizona Wildcats’ batting order was more like minute-to-minute as first pitch approached.

“I thought through it all day, I sat on the bench here and normally I have it written out before I get here, and it took about 20-25 minutes before I settled on what we did,” Johnson continued. “Glad we put up nine runs. It made me feel good.”

The final product featured some big changes, like Jared Oliva leading off, JJ Matijevic in the second spot, Ryan Haug in the third spot, and Cal Stevenson batting ninth.

But it paid off with the team’s first first inning runs in almost a month.

“We’ve been lacking with getting going in the first inning,” Rivas said. “And today as soon as the first pitch it seemed like we were on it. It’s nice to feel it when you’re hitting fourth, fifth, or sixth in the lineup. It gives you motivation to really execute what you’re trying to do.”

“I think we just got the right swings in the first inning and it really got things going,” Stevenson added. “It got us headed in the right direction.”

Even Stevenson batting ninth may not have been involved in the first inning scoring, but did reach base five times on Saturday to kind of spark the top four of the order. Five of the team’s eight RBI came from the top four hitters.

“I see more fastballs in the nine-hole if anything,” Stevenson explained. “Guys try to work around me when they get to two strikes and I think I laid off some pitches (Saturday) that allowed me to get on base, take some walks, and really get things going for this offense.”

Haug played left field and catcher in this series, which is still only the second week that he’s really been in the outfield this year. And he made some nice catches in addition to going 2-for-9 at the plate before leaving Saturday’s game early while playing catcher.

“He’s been a very valuable person over these last nine games, and it was precautionary,” Johnson said of taking him out and replacing him with Cesar Salazar on Saturday.

“He’s unbelievable,” Stevenson said flatly about Haug. “Ryan goes out there and he’s a competitor. He’s going to give you the best you can, and left field’s not easy. You can’t go from behind the plate to playing the outfield. I’ve done it when I was younger and I thought it was the hardest thing in my life, so to do it now in college when you play catcher your whole life, and just go out there and do it like you’ve done it your whole life it makes it easier for us.”

“I’ve been very surprised,” continued Stevenson. “He’s got some tough reads out there but he’s made some very good plays in the right moments for us.”

The Arizona lineup may look different each day as the rest of the season progresses, but at this point, production is sort of expected no matter who is batting where anymore.