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Matijevic Grows Into Arizona’s Energizer

Golden Spikes Spotlight

When Jay Johnson took over as Arizona’s head coach in the summer of 2015, he was familiar with JJ Matijevic — who was a big-name prospect on the showcase circuit during his high school days. But Matijevic was coming off a rough freshman season during which he hit just .238, so Johnson wasn’t quite sure what to expect from him going forward.

“I’d heard a lot about him and his potential,” Johnson said. “But the first time I saw him swing the bat, I remember seeing the tools, the bat speed, the power, I remember thinking, ‘This guy’s got a lot of potential, but he’s got a long way to go.’

“When I first saw him, there were a lot of moving parts to his setup and approach. He wasn’t square, his swing was very violent but it was in and out of the zone quickly, and in my opinion he was very pitchable. So we’ve made some gradual strides through the next year and a half to take some of that away. His bat just needs to be in the zone long enough to play effectively, and that’s what he’s done. Now there’s not a lot of ways to get him out.”

Matijevic made immediate progress under Johnson, hitting .287 with 17 doubles as a sophomore. But as a junior this spring, he has blossomed into one of college baseball’s best hitters. Through 31 games, he already has more doubles (20) than he had in 71 games last year. In fact, he leads the nation in doubles, and he has also set a new career high with six homers (compared with four last year) and 38 RBIs (compared with 37 last year). He’s slashing .395/.438/.690, and he has become the true centerpiece of an Arizona offense that leads the nation in scoring at 9.1 runs per game.


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