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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

UA baseball drops first Pac-12 series since May

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Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Baseball vs UCLA

After a dramatic win on Friday, the No. 4 Arizona baseball team looked on its way to taking another Pac-12 Conference series, but No. 17 UCLA had other ideas. The Bruins hammered the Wildcat pitchers the next two games and handed the UA its first Pac-12 Conference series loss since last May.

“We faced a better team two out of the three days on the weekend,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “(Saturday) they outplayed us, and (Sunday) they out-pitched us.”

Lopez said that when the Wildcats swept then-No. 2 Stanford at home, they out-willed the Cardinal in every facet of the game.

This time it was UCLA that wanted it more, and it showed in the final results, Lopez said.

Coming into the weekend Arizona (24-11, 10-5 Pac-12) had the top-rated offense in the Pac-12, but it was the UCLA batters who couldn’t be slowed down over the weekend at Hi Corbett Field.

The Bruins (24-8, 10-5) had 39 combined hits and averaged eight runs a game. Arizona had 28 hits but left 25 runners on base and only averaged three runs a game — well under its season average of more than seven a game.

The offense was hitting too many balls into the air and straying from its season-long game plan, junior Alex Mejia said.

“(Ground balls) test the infield’s courage, and we hadn’t been doing a lot of that this series,” Mejia added.

With the series loss, the Wildcats now sit in a three-way tie for first place in the Pac-12 with UCLA and No. 16 Oregon.

Junior Kurt Heyer started the weekend strong for Arizona, giving up just two earned runs in a complete-game effort.

The game was tied for most of the night before Arizona took a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning thanks to a close play at the plate.

A single by junior Joey Rickard sent pinch runner Brandon Dixon sprinting home, from second, and after Dixon avoided the tag at home, Arizona had a 4-3 lead.

Then, with two out and two strikes in the top of the ninth, UCLA’s Chris Keck singled to right field off of Heyer to keep the game alive.

But Keck decided to push his luck and tried for second base, and a one-hop throw by junior Robert Refsnyder arrived just in time to get Keck out and secure the 4-3 victory for Arizona.

“That was the longest out I’ve ever seen,” Heyer said after the game. “I was holding my breath, saying, ‘Rob, please just throw him out.’

“I almost wanted to throw my glove up in the air after that and give him a hug,” Heyer said.
That joy quickly disappeared Saturday as UCLA hammered starter Konner Wade right from the start, leading to a 15-3 Bruin victory.

Wade lost his first career game as a Wildcat, allowing 10 hits and six runs in just three innings pitched, and it was never pretty for the sophomore.

UCLA jumped out to a 5-0 lead before Arizona had even had an at-bat, and the onslaught never ceased.

Sunday starter James Farris fared better than Wade, going 4.2 innings with six hits and three earned runs, but Farris still couldn’t keep UCLA off the bases and the Bruins took the series with a 6-2 win.

Mejia said the defense was terrible, especially in the two losses, and the stats back it up — Arizona had seven errors Saturday and Sunday.

“We didn’t help our pitchers at all,” Mejia said. “When they needed the help, we didn’t come through.”

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