Utah Valley University started their season in Seattle and now looks to go somewhere a little warmer. The Wolverines will play at the University of Arizona on Tuesday as they continue a month-long road slate of games.
One year ago, Arizona was ranked No. 17 in the nation when they defeated the Wolverines in all three games of the series. This year the Wildcats entered the season ranked 19th and are bringing back some of their key players to match up against the Wolverines.
With Bryce Ortega now playing for the Washington Nationals of the Major Leagues, Joey Rickard is stepping up to be Arizona’s top offensive player this year. He started all 60 games last season in the outfield and batted a .347 average, second only to Ortega. Another outfielder to look out for is Robert Refsnyder, who smacked out six home runs and 55 RBIs, the most on his team.
Utah Valley sports some good bats on their team, and they happen to be outfielders as well. Seniors Billy Burgess and Austin Heaps look to end their tenure at UVU on top of their game. Last season they combined for seven homeruns and 74 RBIs. They both batted over .300 and look to keep that momentum for the Wolverines this year.
Earlier this year, head coach Eric Madsen expressed his desire to make it into the postseason through hard-fought games and good non-conference games, this being one of them.
“Playing a tough preseason schedule is part of the fight that we have,” Madsen said. “For us we have to get into the postseason. We really would like to be in a power conference that has an automatic qualifier. But we can only do what we can do.”
The Wolverines dropped their season opener on Friday at Seattle University, losing 8-2. The score was tied 1-1 before Seattle ran off seven unanswered runs spanning the fourth through eighth innings. Jeremy Gendlek picked up the loss as the Wolverines hit just 5-of-32 at the plate.
Following the one-game stop in Tucson, Ariz., Utah Valley will travel to Reno to face the University of Nevada in a three-game set.
By Alex Rivera
*Matt Petersen contributed to this report.