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Wildcat catcher throws weight behind plate


Arizona catcher Jett Bandy's weight has shifted over the years. As a result, so has his baseball position.

"When I was younger, I was a third baseman until I got fat," Bandy said. "I was a fatter kid, so the coach put me behind the plate."

After being a catcher through most of his childhood, his position changed again. When Bandy entered high school, he went back to the hot corner and played there through his junior year. But Bandy found himself once again behind the plate.

"When my senior year rolled around, they knew I could catch, so they moved me to catcher," he said. "I secured the position when I got to college and have been there ever since."

The 20-year-old junior said he loves sitting behind the dish for the Wildcats, who most recently swept Northern Colorado in a three-game set. Arizona pitching sacrificed just six runs in the series.

"It seems like every guy that gets on the mound really wants to compete," Bandy said. "We have a bunch of animals on the mound right now that just pound the zone. So it's been really really fun catching them, and we're going to be successful if they keep doing that."

In terms of calling games for Arizona, Bandy said his goal has been consistent since his freshman year: to select pitches that make batters fall behind in the count so they will make mistakes that lead to outs. Head coach Andy Lopez and Bandy switch off calling pitches from game to game.

But whether he is giving the signs or not, Arizona pitchers said they feel great having Bandy as their catcher.

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Starting pitcher Tyler Hale (2-0) often comments on Bandy's ability to calm him down when he is having location problems, while freshman reliever Jacob Doyle enjoys the energy and leadership that Bandy brings behind the plate.

"He's a great catcher," Doyle said. "He'll go out there and tell you like it is and pump you up. Especially with me being a freshman and him being an older kid, it's great having him there to help me out."

Bandy, who earned a Pac-10 Player of the Week nod last March, said his relationship with pitchers is one of his favorite parts of playing his position.

"The best part about catching is that you have to be focused on every single pitch, and you really have to get your (pitcher) going and will him to victory," he said.

What's the downside to being a catcher?

"You get beat up a lot," Bandy said. "You take foul tips, balls in the dirt hit you in the thigh, things like that. But that's all part of it, and it makes you tougher."

On the other side of the ball, Bandy is batting .213 with 9 RBIs. After a slow offensive start to the season, he is currently on a four-game hit streak and has four RBIs in the last five games. He said he has shortened his swing, in order to get in front of the ball better.

"You look at the same things as both a hitter and a catcher," Bandy said. "You look at the release point, the plane of the ball, things like that. So I think being a catcher does help me as a hitter."

Bandy helped out Arizona as a hitter on Sunday. In the final game of the series against Northern Colorado, the Arizona catcher smoked a leadoff double to left field in the bottom of the sixth with the game tied at one.

A bunt single by Seth Mejias-Brean led to a sacrifice fly by Alex Mejia to drive in Bandy for the go-ahead run. Neither the Wildcats nor the Bears put across any more, as Arizona defeated Northern Colorado, 2-1.

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Sunday's starter Hale went 5 innings on 1 run, 3 hits, 4 walks and 6 strikeouts.

"Overall, my outing could've been a lot better," Hale said. "My pitch count got up because I was so wild. I walked a lot of batters and hit a couple guys. My location should've been better. I didn't have the (command) that I usually do. But I'm happy that we got a win out of it."

After sweeping the Bears in a three-game homestand, Arizona heads to Kansas to face Wichita State on March 15-16. They return to Tucson on Saturday to take on San Francisco at 7 p.m.

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Kim Hartman/TucsonSentinel.com

Catcher Jett Bandy eagerly awaits Tyler Hale's pitch in Arizona's 2-1 victory over Northern Colorado on Sunday. The batter, Landon Moseley, struck out in all three of his at-bats.