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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball takes on ASU in non-conference game

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The baseball version of the Duel in the Desert continues tonight as No. 13 Arizona meets No. 20 ASU tonight for the first time this season at 6:30 p.m. in Tempe, Ariz.

Arizona (24-11, 10-5 Pac-12) is coming off of its first weekend series loss of the season after dropping two straight games to No. 11 UCLA, but the junior-laden team will have to quickly move past the disappointing weekend as it travels to take on a talented Sun Devil squad (23-13, 9-6 Pac-12) at Packard Stadium.

“Mentally I think we’ll be okay, a lot of our guys are tough guys,” junior Alex Mejia said. “We’re a lot of juniors too, so we need to drop (the UCLA losses) right away. Obviously we need to learn from it … make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The disappointing end to the weekend exposed some of Arizona’s weaknesses, especially in the bullpen, and tonight’s game against ASU won’t be any easier.

“You just have to play good baseball, there is no mystery potion or anything,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “You have to pitch well, get timely hitting and play good defense. You can win just about every game if you do that.”

But the Wildcats have struggled to put together complete game efforts during weekday games all season long, resulting in just a 4-4 record during the week, including three straight losses.
And even with the limited success during the week and a rivalry game between two top-25 opponents, Lopez said he’s treating it just like any other Tuesday game.

That’s because tonight is just a single non-conference game. The two teams’ official Pac-12 duel starts May 25 in Tucson, so despite the rivalry, Lopez said the team can’t disrupt its roster with a conference series against Washington coming up.

“I’m sure ASU is in the same mode,” Lopez said. “They want to win like we want to win because it’s a (rivalry game). But we both have weekend games, and they are three important conference games.”

With a trip to Seattle booked for the weekend, Lopez said he wouldn’t make any special adjustments for ASU despite the pitching staff troubles during week games.

Middle relief has been the most consistently weak area for Arizona this season, and it has shown when the usual three starters aren’t able to go out to the mound.

Tonight either relievers Tyler Hale (1-0, 3.89 ERA) or Tyler Crawford (0-1, 3.97 ERA) will start.
Both Hale and Crawford have done well in their limited roles this season. But that hasn’t translated into Arizona victories, as neither has won in a midweek start.

Lopez likes to either have his weekend starters go the distance, or at least hand the ball to closers Stephen Manthei or Mathew Troupe, but that plan can’t happen midweek.

Neither Hale nor Crawford has shown the stamina to go the full distance, with Crawford going the longest in 5.2 innings in a 5-4 loss to Utah Valley.

But even with the limited success, Lopez said he wouldn’t make any special changes for ASU because the result of the Pac-12 series against Washington will erase any memory of this first encounter with the Sun Devils.

But even though the manager isn’t disrupting everything for this first meeting, Mejia said the players will give the game the extra attention rivalries usually deserve.

Mejia knows the opposition feels the exact same way.

“(ASU is) going to be a competitive team,” he said. “They always are when they come out and play us.”

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