By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
Jason Seefeld knew Division I college baseball would be a large jump from the high school level, but he seems to have made the transition.
The 2004 Clovis High graduate has stepped into a platoon role as a designated hitter for the sixth-ranked Arizona Wildcats. He is hitting .347 on a team trying to win a Pacific-10 Conference championship.
“It’s been everything I thought it would be,” said Seefeld, a right-handed hitter who plays against left-handed pitching.
“It’s definitely been a good experience,” Seefeld said. “Even though I only get to DH against lefties, I feel lucky to have that kind of opportunity.”
The Tucson-based Wildcats (36-17, 16-5 Pac-10) can pull into a tie for the conference championship this weekend by sweeping California in a season-ending three-game series at home. Third-ranked Oregon State (41-9, 19-5) has already finished league play.
A sweep would give Arizona the title on a tiebreaker. Of more concern, though, is upcoming NCAA regional play.
“We just need to play well this weekend for seeding purposes,” said Andy Lopez, the Wildcats’ fourth-year head coach.
Seefeld is one of four freshmen making solid contributions for Arizona. In 21 games, including 13 starts, he is 17-for-49 with four doubles and nine runs batted in.
Managing time is a transition for any incoming college freshman, but it’s more complicated for an athlete with games, travel and practice.
“There’s not a lot of free time for me,” said Seefeld, a business major. “We lift weights and practice, and that takes up the majority of the day. Monday is my only day off (from baseball).”
Fitting into the all-hit, no-defense DH role also isn’t easy.
Primarily a shortstop in high school who also served as Clovis’ closer, Seefeld has pitched one inning for Arizona this season — mop-up duty at the end of a blowout loss to Washington in late March.
With the Huskies already leading 15-8 in the ninth, Seefeld retired three of the four batters he faced, including one on strikes. The second man up reached him for a home run.
“When I first came out here they talked to me about pitching, but I told them I wanted to focus on hitting and playing in the field,” Seefeld said. “I thought I wouldn’t miss (pitching), but when I got out there against Washington I remembered how much I’d enjoyed it in high school.”
In the future, Lopez feels Seefeld will contend for an infield position.
“We hope he plays third or second down the line,” Lopez said. “I don’t think there’s any question he can compete there.”