'Super Bowl' mantra fuels baseball past Washington State
Every game is a Super Bowl for the Arizona baseball team.
Arizona Head coach Jay Johnson urges his team to focus solely on the game at hand. It can’t dwell on losses or bask in wins; each game is a clean slate.
“It’s a long season,” Johnson said. “It’s 58 games and in the Pac-12 [Conference], it’s not going to go good all the time.”
When things don’t go well, the team’s one-game-at-a-time mentality is especially relevant.
Arizona played one if its worst games of the season on Saturday, for instance, losing 6-2 at home to the Washington State Cougars. The Wildcats made three errors and recorded just two hits. Johnson, meanwhile, was ejected in the second inning.
Not a lot went right for Arizona that night, but you wouldn’t have known it when the Wildcats knocked off the Cougars 7-3 the next morning to come away with a series victory.
“I thought they did a nice job of putting [Saturday’s game] behind them, which was important because it was really only one of the bad, bad games we’ve played all year,” Johnson said.
Bobby Dalbec held the Cougars to three runs over 7.2 innings, which helped Arizona bounce back from its loss.
“It was really big,” Dalbec said. “I think our team is pretty good at having a short memory and flushing each previous game.”
Ryan Haug, who had two hits and an RBI as he filled in behind the plate for an injured Cesar Salazar, knew his team wasn’t going to let the poor Saturday performance carry over to Sunday morning.
“Yesterday, it was a tough one to swallow, but all of us come out and compete,” Haug said Sunday. “And you could tell that there was something in each guy’s eyes that we were going to get after it today.”
Losses are going to happen and sometimes they are going to be ugly. While Johnson doesn’t expect his team to win every game, he does expect his players to give it their all and approach each game like it’s the last of the season.
“We try to take one day at a time, one pitch at a time, so we really just try to focus on the little things and we don’t try to look too far ahead,” Haug said.
So far, the Wildcats have. While the team’s record isn’t great—19-11 overall and 4-6 in the Pac-12—Johnson couldn’t be happier with the effort his team has given on a consistent basis.
“I love the competiveness of our players. I love how important it is to them that they play to their potential,” Johnson said. “They’re doing everything we’re asking them to do as hard as they can … and we’ve done some good things. But we have to continue to get better. It’s not going to get any easier.”
The team’s conference schedule will continue to pit it against some of the nation’s best. Arizona won’t win every game, but don’t expect its intensity level to waiver, either. After all, each game is treated with the utmost importance.
“Every game is a Super Bowl, like [Johnson] says,” Haug said.
The Wildcats return to action Tuesday against rival ASU in Phoenix. First pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m. and will be televised on Pac-12 Networks.
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