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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Punchless baseball drops first home series

    If the Arizona baseball team wants to remain in the hunt for the Pacific 10 Conference title, it’s going to need to find some run support, and it’s going to need to find it fast.

    For the second straight day a Trojan starter cut through the Arizona lineup early in the game and the Wildcat offense never found its groove to support strong starting pitching as Arizona dropped its first series of the year at home with a 4-2 loss to USC Monday afternoon.

    “”Intensity is an issue right now – I don’t know why,”” said UA head coach Andy Lopez. “”I really don’t know why we wouldn’t have intensity at this point in the season.””

    Coupled with No. 8 ASU’s sweep of UCLA – formerly in first place in the Pac-10 – the No. 14 Wildcats (36-13, 11-7 Pac-10) missed out on a shot at a share of the conference lead.

    “”You don’t work all year to get to this weekend and then disappear,”” Lopez said.

    Arizona dropped three games behind now-first-place ASU (37-12, 14-4) in the conference and is now a game behind UCLA (28-22, 12-6) for second place.

    The Trojans (25-23, 8-10), meanwhile, moved into a tie for fifth place in the Pac-10 after taking the series.

    Since scoring 15 runs in a win at Stanford April 14, Arizona hasn’t plated more than five in a Pac-10 game.

    “”Our at-bats are real scattered, unplanned – poor preparation,”” Lopez said.

    The three-hour, 15-minute game was followed by a one-hour, 45-minute post-game speech where Lopez said he stressed the importance of intensity to his team.

    “”We need to hustle more and we need an attitude change,”” said left fielder Bill Rhinehart. “”Hopefully we’ll pick up on that this week in practice.””

    USC lefty Tommy Milone (3-5), who entered with a 6.45 ERA and a 2-5 record, allowed just five hits over seven innings. He struck out nine against just one walk.

    “”I don’t like taking away from performances, so obviously, their guy was a lot better than our hitters,”” Lopez said.

    When Arizona did finally find some offense in the eighth – off Rhinehart’s bat for the second game in a row – with a two-run double that cut it to 4-2, they shot themselves in the foot.

    After Rhinehart’s double, designated hitter Brad Glenn walked to put runners on first and second with two outs. But with right fielder Jon Gaston at the dish a batter later, Rhinehart was picked off at second to end the inning.

    “”I got my lead and then I check over my shoulder, and (USC shortstop Grant Green) was behind me,”” Rhinehart said of the pickoff.

    Then, with runners on the corners and no outs in the ninth, catcher Dwight Childs’ bunt attempt grounded back to Trojan pitcher Anthony Vasquez, who turned around and started a double play.

    “”We talked about the importance of just simply sacrificing, getting the tying run to second base and putting some pressure on their guy on the mound,”” Lopez said. “”That just kind of typified our offense the last couple of nights, didn’t it? Bunting into a double play.””

    Pinch-hitter Erik Castro then struck out to end the game.

    “”We have to get wins, and in order to do that, we can’t be doing some of the mistakes that we’ve been doing this weekend,”” Glenn said.

    A first-inning error by UA second baseman Kevin Rodland allowed Matt Cusick to reach. A single and a fielder’s choice later, Cusick crossed the plate to spot USC an early lead.

    UA starter Mike Colla cruised after that until he got into some trouble in the fifth and was lifted for lefty Daniel Schlereth and the Trojans added two more runs that were charged to Colla.

    Colla (2-2) wound up going 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs, two earned, on six hits and two walks in the loss. He struck out three.

    Extra bases
    Arizona center fielder T.J. Steele missed the game with an ankle injury he suffered Saturday night while running the bases. He was replaced in the lineup by sophomore Hunter Pace, who went 2-for-4. … Glenn, Arizona’s usual third baseman, was relegated to designated hitter duty because of a shoulder injury. Colt Sedbrook shifted from second to third, and Rodland entered the lineup at second base in Diallo Fon’s spot. Fon was replaced in left field by Arizona’s normal DH, Rhinehart. … Lopez said backup catcher Daniel Butler had Tommy John surgery three weeks ago and will miss the rest of the season.

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