Arizona Wildcats baseball struggles against Stanford bats in series loss
PALO ALTO, Calif. — The Wildcats’ offense exploded for 21 runs in their three-game road series against Stanford this weekend at Sunken Diamond.
Arizona’s pitching just couldn’t hold off the even more explosive Cardinal bats and the UA dropped Sunday’s game 12-8, losing the series in the process.
“You can’t beat an offense like Stanford’s if you pitch poorly,” head coach Andy Lopez said.
The Wildcats three starters allowed 19 runs this weekend in 15 innings, causing No. 25 Arizona to drop two out of three to the No. 24 Cardinal.
Of course, sloppy defense never helps a struggling pitcher and the UA (25-14, 9-9 Pac-12) had five errors over the three game span. And, that’s before factoring in how well Stanford (22-12, 9-6) swung its bats, combining for 31 total hits.
The Wildcats began Sunday with a defensive miscue in the bottom of the first inning when catcher David Real missed a routine pop up in foul territory with one out and the Cardinals’ most dangerous hitter, Brian Ragira, on deck. The defensive lapse helped Stanford jump out to an early two run lead.
The Wildcats, though, would fight back, taking a 7-2 advantage after a huge second inning.
The crazy 32-minute frame saw a pinch-hit grand slam by catcher Riley Moore and an ejection of Stanford starting pitcher John Hochstatter.
“It’s not too often you score seven runs in an inning and lose,” Lopez said. “But we found a way.”
Hochstatter hit Wildcats’ first baseman Joseph Maggi on the first pitch following the grand slam, which prompted the controversial ejection.
However, the five-run lead wouldn’t be enough for Wildcats starter Tyler Crawford, who had his worst start of the season.
Crawford struggled to get ahead in counts the entire game and the Cardinal batters ripped the sophomore for seven earned runs on five hits.
Crawford rarely overpowers batters and it showed Sunday as the sophomore didn’t record a strikeout and continually gave up solid gap shots with runners on base.
Stanford’s notorious run producers, Ragira and Austin Wilson, weren’t the usual suspects Sunday afternoon. After killing Arizona’s pitching the prior two games, the duo went 2-for-9 at the plate Sunday and Wilson went hitless.
“You got to pitch inside to them,” senior relief pitcher Tyler Hale said. “Our scouting report said they weren’t as dangerous if they couldn’t get their hands extended so that’s what I was aiming for.”
Arizona saw its five run lead turn into a four run deficit through three innings, as Crawford, junior Stephen Manthei and senior Nick Cunningham all failed to calm the Cardinal bats. Hale finally found some command from the mound.
Entering the game Hale had a 13.50 ERA in 4.2 innings, but he pitched three scoreless innings Sunday and gave up just one hit and one walk to keep the Wildcats in the game.
“I felt good out there, had good command of all my pitchers,” Hale said.
The excess use of Arizona relief pitchers in the first two games gave lesser-used bullpen arms like Manthei, Cunningham and Hale another opportunity to prove themselves. While Manthei (1-2) and Cunningham failed, Hale showed strength.
“[Hale] was great out there,” Lopez said. “I’d just like to see it from him when it counted.”
Just as Hale brought security for the Wildcats, Stanford’s proven closer Sam Lindquist (1-0) did the same for the Cardinal.
With the early exit of starter Hochstatter, head coach Mark Marquess was forced to go to his closer with no outs in fifth inning.
But, Lindquist would sail his way to end, allowing one hit and two walks on 75 pitches.
Entering the three game series in Palo Alto, Arizona had won eight out of its last nine and was rolling to the top. Now the defending conference and national champions have to try and recapture its late season momentum.
“We’re on the brink of great success and falling out of contention,” Hale said. “We just got to play Arizona baseball.”