Freshman designated hitter Michael Hoard represents a new piece of the offensive puzzle that Arizona baseball head coach Andy Lopez is attempting to construct.
Hoard, who saw his first action over the last six games on Sunday night, has made the most of his limited opportunities this season.
Sunday, Hoard delivered a two-out, two-RBI double to spark the Wildcats’ offensive attack. He finished the game 2-for-3 at the plate. Lopez said that Hoard, a left-handed batter, will face every right-handed opposing pitcher from now on, adding that he is excited to get Hoard some at-bats to get him ready for next year.
Despite the fact that Arizona amassed 11 hits in the series finale against ASU on Sunday, Lopez has belabored the fact that overall, the team’s situational hitting has been subpar and unacceptable. Over the first two games of the series, the Wildcats only combined for one run on 12 hits and stranded 13 base runners.
Lopez said he hopes Hoard will provide additional depth and power to the Wildcats’ lineup to jumpstart an offensive revival.
“[Situational hitting] was better [on Sunday], but to be very candid with you, it’s not the standard that we’ve had here,” Lopez said. “The fact is we haven’t had the year we’d like to have, and we haven’t done a good job with situational at bats at all. I mean, my goodness, how many bases-loaded double plays did we hit into this weekend?”
In Sunday’s contest, despite coming away with the victory, Arizona struggled to perform with bases loaded and only cashed in on one of four opportunities.
“We teach strikeout, hit a pop out or get a fly ball or get a sac fly [in bases-loaded situations],” Lopez said. “Go ahead and get a base hit, or a double or triple, but do not hit a ground ball,” Lopez said.
Sophomore pitcher Tyger Talley said the recent lack of command is “nothing to be worried about.”
While Talley silenced the Sun Devils’ bats and only allowed two hits in Arizona’s 6-1 victory, he needed 83 pitches to get through 4.1 innings. In comparison, sophomore Cody Moffett and freshman Bobby Dalbec, who provided relief for Talley, got through the final 4.2 innings with just 65 pitches.
Faltering command caused Talley’s pitch count to rise, and as the game progressed, he started to lose control of his fastball. By the time he was pulled in favor of Moffett, he had recorded a hit batter, four walks and a wild pitch.
Nevertheless, after the game, Talley was adamant that his trouble locating pitches wasn’t something he’d dwell on. Talley added that he’ll be ready to go in his next start, which should be this Sunday on the road against No. 7 Oregon.
“I’ll be fine next weekend,” Talley said. “I’m not worried too much. I just need to perform to focus on pounding the zone.”
Talley also said that pitching with run support behind him played a huge factor in overcoming his command issues and keeping composure.
“The more runs your team scores, the more comfortable and confident you feel on the mound,” Talley said. “For hitters, too, you go up to bat knowing you can hack away and try to put your foot on their throats and not let them get back up.”
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17