It's go time for Arizona baseball after difficult weekend at Stanford
With only 16 games left on the schedule, 13 of which are conference games, it’s go time for Arizona baseball.
The Wildcats are coming off a frustrating weekend at Stanford in which they lost two out of three despite scoring 21 runs in three games — and head coach Andy Lopez said he hates losing to Stanford.
But the three-time coach of the year isn’t nervous just yet.
“We have to play good baseball from here on out, and for the most part, we have,” Lopez said. “We’ve stubbed our toe here and there, but we’ve won [10 out of the last 13]. So you can’t complain about that, but we put ourselves in that position after the first two weekends.”
Tyler Baker / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Baseball took on Cal on Friday night, winning 10-1.
After opening the season to a 15-5 record, Arizona (25-14, 9-9 Pac-12) lost its first six conference games to current Pac-12 leaders Oregon and Oregon State.
But Arizona now has the No. 1 Pac-12 and No. 18 nationally ranked offense, as it has improved its team batting average to .306. In the last 13 games, the Wildcats have boosted their average to 6.9 runs per game, but still sit in sixth place in the conference standings, four games behind the first-place Beavers.
While starting 0-6 in Pac-12 play didn’t help the Wildcats’ chances as repeating conference champions, the pitching staff’s inability to secure leads has made it even more difficult.
“[Konner Wade’s] strengths last year were that he had a change up that just fell off the table, and guys would swing through it,” Lopez said about his ace. “The thing we’ve tried to convey to Konner is, ‘Friday night, you’re matching up with their best against our best. You’re going to need some strikeouts. Not 10 but three or five in big situations.’ We haven’t gotten that this year.”
The junior leads a staff that currently ranks sixth in the Pac-12 with a 3.98 earned run average, almost two more runs per nine innings than first-place Oregon State (2.07).
Lopez said that following the weekends against Oregon and Oregon State, the Wildcats were done with experiments — the guys who have ripened or have matured quickly are the guys they’re rolling with.
The Wildcats will get a break from the stress of conference play this weekend as they host SWAC conference title contender Alabama State (27-19, 15-6 SWAC) at Hi Corbett Field.
Although they may be facing a non-conference opponent, the Wildcats are still treating this weekend as if it has conference implications.
“We can’t afford to look past this weekend and say, ‘Oh, it’s a non-conference weekend,’” Lopez said. “We got to keep good habits.”
Following the series with the Hornets, Arizona will host 10th-place Washington before beginning what could be the most important six games of the season.
Arizona travels to No. 9 UCLA and No. 8 ASU May 10-19. The Bruins and Sun Devils currently sit in third and fifth place in the conference standings, respectively.
While Lopez and the players aren’t looking ahead to that opportunity to change their fortunes, a strong weekend in Los Angeles and Tempe could totally shake up the conference.
But it starts Friday, and Wade (3-4) looks to get things rolling as a Friday night guy is supposed to do.
“Obviously our last five weekends are very big weekends,” Lopez said. “So although this may not be a Pac-12 weekend, I know for me and my staff, we’ve conveyed yesterday in practice, and we’ll do it today. We need to play good baseball.”