Column: Arizona baseball could be better
Arizona baseball saw countless opportunities come and go during last weekend’s series against No. 14 Oregon. Arizona showed that it could be competitive against one of the top teams in the nation and give itself a fighting chance. Although the Wildcats suffered a three-game sweep and have now lost eight of their last nine games, they have not played bad baseball.
Arizona has fallen into a habit of playing good, effective baseball for most of the game, but faltering during one or two innings. When their opponents exploit those weak innings, the Wildcats begin to unravel and Arizona ultimately loses the game. Saturday’s game offered a prime example of this.
Despite the fact that Arizona squandered a four-run lead and Oregon’s offense surged back to secure a 7-6 extra innings victory; the Wildcats showed that they could match up to one of the conference’s top teams and threaten to beat a team who on paper, was expected to be far superior.
Arizona jumped out to an early lead in the first inning after sophomore centerfielder Scott Kingery singled home sophomore shortstop Kevin Newman. Oregon hastily responded and over the next four innings, pushed two runs across the plate and held a 2-1 lead after five innings of play.
After the Ducks scored the go-ahead run in the bottom of the fifth, the Wildcats retaliated with a four-run top of the sixth to steal the lead back from Oregon. With runners on first and second, freshman infielder Willie Calhoun doubled to right field to score Newman. Junior left fielder Tyler Krause followed with a single to left, scoring junior second baseman Trent Gilbert. Freshman utility player Bobby Dalbec contributed with an RBI single and junior catcher Riley Moore followed with an RBI sacrifice bunt, reaching on a fielder’s choice. During the next inning, Arizona tacked on another run, bolstering its lead to 6-2.
Oregon, however, would not be silenced and immediately sprang back to life in the bottom of the seventh, tying the game with a two-RBI triple followed by a two-RBI homerun.
Both teams failed to score in the final two frames and the Wildcats were given another opportunity to push across a run in the top of the 10th inning. After Dalbec struck out swinging to start the frame, Moore singled to center field. Sophomore third baseman Cody Ramer grounded out to the right side, advancing Moore to second base and putting him in scoring position. But Arizona’s inability to execute in clutch situations was evident and sophomore Zach Gibbons flied out to left.
Arizona stranded 10 base runners on Saturday night and over the three-game series, combined to strand 25. This is compared to Oregon, who only left 20 on base throughout the series. So it didn’t come as much of a surprise when the Ducks only needed one chance to finish off the Wildcats in the bottom half of the 10th. Oregon subsequently strung together three hits and scored the winning run in walk-off fashion before Arizona was able to record an out.
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17