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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball earns series win after dropping opener

It may have been playing its first series of Pac-12 Conference play, but the Arizona baseball team already found itself with its back against the wall on Saturday.

After being outscored 11-0 in the first nine and a half innings of the series against Washington State, the Wildcats faced a tall task: Sweep a doubleheader or start the conference season about as poorly as possible.

The Arizona offense came alive and the Wildcats took down Washington State 8-7 and 12-9 to sweep Saturday’s doubleheader and win the series 2-1 after being shut out on Friday.

“Nobody sweeps doubleheaders. College doubleheaders are almost always split,” said Arizona head coach Andy Lopez. “But I told them before the game that we could not walk out of here with a split. They had to get it done at home. They did and I like the way they did it.”

Still, it took a little while for Lopez’s message to sink in. Arizona starter Konner Wade allowed five first-inning runs in Saturday’s first game, but the Wildcats responded with three of their own in the bottom half of the inning and tied things up in the third.

After that, Arizona took over. The Wildcats outscored WSU 20-11 over the last 17.5 innings of the series, led by junior outfielder Rob Refsnyder, who went 6-for-8 on the day and drove in four runs while scoring four more.

“Anything but two wins would have been a big disappointment,” Refsnyder said. “We stubbed our toe Friday night and didn’t play well, but we came back today and I’m real happy with how we played.”

Lopez said the offensive explosion might have been a result of the Wildcats finally adjusting to the cavernous outfield at their new home. Hi Corbett Field measures 348 feet at its smallest point down the right-field line, and expands to 410 feet in left-center field.

Eleven of Arizona’s 13 hits in the series finale were singles, something that gave Lopez a sign things may finally be clicking.

“It’s what you have to do in this yard,” Lopez said. “This park is not kind to the long fly ball. It’s kind to the hard ground ball, and it’s kind to line drives.”

Rocky start

The Wildcats had two schools of thought when it came to explaining the 6-0 shutout in the series opener.

The first was simple — WSU pitcher J.D. Leckenby, whose velocity can touch the low 90s with sink, pitched a great game and silenced the Arizona bats. Refsnyder said that Leckenby might be the best pitcher the Wildcats face all year.

The second explanation was a little more complicated.

Arizona played a two-game series at Rice on Tuesday and Wednesday, and left its hotel at 2 a.m. Tucson time on Thursday. The Wildcats got back into Tucson around 1 p.m. Thursday and held an hour-long workout, and the rigorous travel schedule may have taken a physical toll on the team.

But Lopez said that the NCAA’s condensed schedule makes travel like that necessary, even if it isn’t necessarily in the best interest of the players.

“This isn’t my doing,” Lopez said. “I would not play 21 games in 30 days ever. But the NCAA’s magical wisdom of condensing the season has forced us to do this. Not just the (physical) wear and tear, but the academic wear and tear. That’s not fair to student-athletes.”

Lopez said the team would have Sunday off, then have an hour-long workout on Monday before hosting New Mexico State on Tuesday and Wednesday.

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