Kevin Newman has spent countless hours watching video tape of Derek Jeter in the field, over the course of his baseball career.
The Arizona freshman shares the same position as the New York Yankee veteran, and it’s no coincidence that they both wear the same number on their back.
“Jeter is my favorite player, so I try to do everything I can to be like him,” Newman said. “I love fielding balls up the middle – that’s my favorite. I also really like plays in the hole, where I get to throw over my shoulder, like Jeter does. I’m a Yankees fan because of him.”
Although the first-year college player can’t yet be compared to the five-time Gold Glove major leaguer, Newman carries a .976 fielding percentage this season and has turned 24 double plays with 152 assists.
Priding himself off of his defense, Newman has also performed well at the plate in his rookie season, hitting .336 with 41 RBIs on the year.
Six of those RBIs came on Saturday, when Arizona romped the University of Southern California, 18-4.
“The guys in front of me were getting on (base) and putting me in RBI situations,” Newman said. “I executed (in those spots), so I was thankful for them being on.”
Accounting for a third of his team’s total runs in the game, Newman cashed in an early RBI to begin Arizona’s offensive onslaught.
In the bottom of the first, Johnny Field singled to center field to leadoff the inning. Trent Gilbert doubled into the left field corner, scoring Field for Arizona’s first run.
A third consecutive UA basehit by Brandon Dixon set up Newman, who drove in his first RBI of the night on a groundout.
After an inning of play, Arizona led, 2-0.
After retiring the first seven batters in a row, Arizona starter James Farris ran into trouble in the top of the third. With one out, he gave up back-to-back hits but was able to get out of it.
“Honestly, in the first three innings, I had my off-speed stuff, but then I lost it,” Farris said. “So we really went fastball-heavy the rest of the way.”
The Trojans stole the lead in the next frame. With the bases loaded in the top of the fourth, USC’s Timmy Robinson smoked a three-run, bases-clearing triple into right field. Wildcats Zach Gibbons made a diving effort, but he missed.
“The reason (Robinson) was able to get that hit was because I got behind in the count,” Farris said. “The bases were loaded with a full count, so I couldn’t walk a run in. So of course, he was sitting fastball, and I threw one on the outer half of the plate, and he barreled it up.”
The three-bagger put the Trojans up, 3-2.
In the bottom of the fourth, Newman opened the inning by reaching on an error and stealing second base. Arizona went on to post 8 runs in the inning, highlighted by back-to-back triples by Cody Ramer and Joseph Maggi.
Newman came through with two more RBIs in the frame on a basehit. The Wildcats put together 6 hits, 2 stolen bases and a walk to take back the lead, 10-3.
The Wildcats continued to pour it on.
Newman drove in his fourth RBI of the evening in Arizona’s three-spot in the sixth. Leading 13-4, the Arizona shortstop tacked on two more RBIs with a single to center field in the seventh inning, contributing to a five-run frame for the Wildcats.
“(USC pitchers) were missing all night,” Newman said. “They were wild all night, so I was sitting fastball early. And I was looking for the ball over the plate, not in or out. I got a couple jam shots that happened to fall in, but I’ll take them.”
The last two innings were scoreless, as the game ended, in Arizona’s favor, 18-4.
Farris pitched a complete game and received the win in the blowout. He went 9 innings on 4 runs, 7 hits, 1 strikeout and 1 walk.
“Farris threw a lot of strikes and had a lot of location with his fastball,” Lopez said. “He pitched to the strength of the park. This is a big park, so you get rewarded when you throw strikes, and he did a good job at that.”
Arizona completes its final series of the regular season against USC on Sunday at 12 p.m. MST.
Farris fights through fatigue, goes the distance for the first time this season
The one thing that Farris has worked on the hardest this season is his durability.
“There’s a point in the season when you start to fatigue,” Farris said. “So you go off adrenaline to carry you through. I didn’t want to rely on just adrenaline, so I have been running more, eating better, working out harder and working with the trainers more.”
In his final start of the regular season, the Arizona right-hander pitched his first complete game of the year and led his Wildcats to a 18-4 trounce of USC on Saturday night.
But it wasn’t easy for him.
“My arm was dragging,” Farris said. “But even into the ninth, I had my location with me. I just tried to pound the zone and throw strikes, hoping they would get themselves out. Anytime you can pitch to contact and let your defense work behind you, that’s a great feeling.”
It took Farris 124 pitches to make it through the nine frames.
“The seventh through the ninth, I really didn’t feel like I had anything left,” Farris said. “I was going off adrenaline, I think. I’m sure my velo(city) was down. But I just tried to pound the strike zone.”
Friday night’s starter Konner Wade went 9 1/3 innings, so Farris wanted to go the distance in his start on Saturday.
“There’s definitely friendly competition between starting pitchers,” he said. “That’s always something that’s there. Like, Wade went 9+ innings last night, so I wanted to come out and do the same tonight. Crawford better do the same tomorrow.”