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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball offense blooms late as the Wildcats lose two of three to ASU

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Danielle Main
The Arizona baseball team huddles before its game against Hermosillo at the Mexican Baseball Fiesta on Oct. 5 at Kino Veterans Memorial Stadium. Hermosillo will go on to play a game each day throughout the weekend.

After dropping its previous two games on the road to USC and Loyola Marymount University, the Arizona baseball team looked to right the ship when it hosted ASU for a three-game series from Friday, March 15, to Sunday, March 17. However, a combination of Arizona’s anemic offense during the first two games and some clutch hitting by ASU allowed the Sun Devils to take two out of three in Tucson, dropping the Wildcats to 8-10 (3-3 in Pac-12).

Game 1: Friday, March 15, at 7 p.m.

Arizona Diamondbacks relief pitcher and University of Arizona alum Kevin Ginkel threw out the ceremonial first pitch on Friday night. Throughout their playoff run last season, Ginkel was the Diamondbacks’ high leverage reliever, pitching 11.2 playoff innings without surrendering a single run.

The Wildcats could’ve used a guy like him in the bullpen Friday night, as they blew a 1-run lead with two outs and nobody on base in the ninth inning to drop game one.

After a shaky start, in which Arizona starting pitcher Jackson Kent gave up three hits to the first four batters he faced, Kent found his groove in the middle innings, accumulating 7.1 innings without allowing an earned run. The Sun Devils managed to score an unearned run with two outs in the seventh inning. However, when third baseman Richie Morales fielded a dribbler off the bat of designated hitter Josiah Cromwick and fired a wild throw to first, he allowed right fielder Nick McLain to score from second base. Kent also struck out five while only walking one batter all night.

Kent’s performance was nearly matched by that of ASU’s starting pitcher Thomas Burns, who largely held the Wildcats’ offense in check. Despite issuing five walks and allowing five hits over his seven innings of work, Burns was able to effectively work his way out of trouble. The Wildcats scored their lone run off Burns in the second inning, when designated hitter Maddox Mihalakis smacked a line drive double down the right field line that scored left fielder Easton Breyfogle from first.

From there, it was a battle of bullpens and mistakes. In the eighth inning, Arizona took the lead after a pickoff attempt by Ben Jacobs sailed wide of first baseman Jacob Tobias’ glove, allowing Emilio Corona to waltz home from third.

The top of the ninth began with a bang as Corona made a spectacular diving catch in right center field to rob catcher Ryan Campos of extra bases. However, down to their final out and with nobody on base, Tobias smacked a single over the outstretched glove of a leaping Mason White to keep ASU’s hopes alive. Then, Cromwick hit a double to the left field corner and, with runners on second and third, second baseman Ethan Mendoza singled to center to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs.

Arizona was unable to mount a comeback in the bottom of the ninth, despite getting a runner in scoring position. With two outs and a runner on second, Garen Caulfield hit one hard to right field but it fell harmlessly into the glove of McLain to seal redemption for Jacobs and the win for the Sun Devils, whose bench stormed the field in celebration of their unlikely victory.  

Starting pitcher Kent  pitched well enough to deserve a win but left with a no-contest due to a fielding error and a lack of run support from a lethargic Wildcat offense.

Game 2: Saturday, March 16, at 6 p.m.

What began the night as a packed house of 5,410 fans at Hi Corbett Field ended with a disappointing shutout loss for the Wildcats, whose lack of offense had most fans heading to the exits by the start of the ninth inning.

The Wildcats didn’t get their first hit of the evening until the fourth inning, when Corona worked a full count before pulling a line drive single into left field.

Corona’s single would be Arizona’s final hit of the evening. ASU starting pitcher Connor Markl struck out eight batters over six innings, picking up the win in the process, while reliever Ryan Schiefer, who struck out four and held the Wildcats hitless over his three innings, picked up the save.

In the top of the third inning, a pair of singles and a wild pickoff attempt to first base by Arizona starter Clark Candiotti allowed McLain to put ASU up early with a groundout RBI chopper to first. Later in the fifth, a controversial ball called by home plate umpire Angel Campos on a two-strike count with two outs and nobody on base led to a Campos line drive double to right field. The no-call would come back to haunt the Wildcats as Campos scored on a McLain single to left field, putting the Sun Devils up 2-0 after five innings.

The Sun Devils added on to their lead in the seventh, when a leadoff triple from Harris Williams set up a Campos RBI single. In the eighth, the Sun Devils scored an insurance run as Mendoza hit a double off the left field wall and was later brought home when Steven Ondina smacked a line drive single to center.

In the bottom of the ninth, balls hit by Caulfield, White and Corona all reached the warning track but fell harmlessly into the gloves of ASU’s outfielders, giving the Sun Devils an early series victory in Tucson.

In a repeat of Friday’s game, the Wildcats wasted another strong performance from their starting pitcher. Starting pitcher Candiotti struck out eight Sun Devils and allowed 1 earned run and 1 unearned run. Candiotti’s night was cut short after he racked up 98 pitches in just five innings, but he was able to mostly work his way out of trouble despite allowing five hits.

Game 3: Sunday, March 17, at 4 p.m.

The Wildcats’ dormant offense erupted for 14 runs to avoid the sweep and snap their four-game losing streak in game three of the series.

Neither starting pitcher made it past the third inning as both offenses put up crooked numbers early. Corona kicked off the offensive explosion with a first-pitch solo home run to left field in the bottom of the second to give Arizona a 1-0 lead. From there, the Wildcats combined for seven hits, five of them singles, and plated 5 runs in the inning. Starting pitcher Adam Behrens was relieved after allowing 5 runs over 1.1 innings.

Arizona starter Cam Walty didn’t fare much better, however, as ASU responded with 3 runs of its own in the third inning. The scoring was spurred by a pair of doubles by Campos and Tobias, who finished the game five for five at the plate, and knocked Walty out of the game after just 2.2 innings of work. However, ASU was unable to capitalize on this momentum, stranding 12 runners on base over the course of the game and failing to score another run on the Arizona bullpen, who combined for 7 runs over 7.1 innings.

The Wildcats added 4 more runs to their lead in the fourth and fifth innings. Brendan Summerhill got his first hit of the series on a misplayed chopper to first base to start the fourth inning. Caulfield then smacked an RBI triple that snuck past the outstretched glove of ASU left fielder Williams. White elevated a sacrifice fly to deep right field, scoring Caulfield and putting the Wildcats up 7-3.

In the fifth, Breyfogle hit a grounder up the middle that beat the shift, scoring on a Mihalakis double off the center field wall. With the bases loaded and one out, Summerhill hit a ground ball to the shortstop but beat out a double play, allowing Guzman to score his second run of the game and put the Wildcats up 9-3. The Sun Devils challenged the play for runners’ interference but the original ruling was upheld upon review, leading to the ejection of ASU head coach Willie Bloomquist.

Arizona would add on 5 more runs in the bottom of the seventh to complete the rout, finishing the game with 14 runs on 20 hits. Every hitter in the starting lineup got a hit, the first of the series for Summerhill, Tommy Splaine, White and Morales.

Junior third baseman Morales had a standout night at the bottom of the order, finishing two for three with two doubles, 3 runs batted in and a walk.

Looking ahead: 

The Wildcats will host another in-state rival, Grand Canyon University, on Tuesday, March 19 at 6 p.m., before traveling to Eugene, Oregon for a three-game series with the University of Oregon next weekend.


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