It’s been a few years since Arizona baseball outfielder Justin Behnke played at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
The Mesa, Ariz., native and Dobson High School graduate played there for high school playoff games. Now he gets to go back this weekend as a collegiate athlete to face in-state rival ASU, which moved back to Phoenix Municipal Stadium for the first time since 1974.
“It’s definitely a stadium atmosphere, and this weekend, I bet it’s going to be pretty packed,” Behnke said.
He said the move doesn’t affect the series, though, even with it being ASU.
Behnke said Arizona is still going about it like any other series.
But Arizona has some major lineup changes that make this series different. Coach Andy Lopez said on Wednesday that Xavier Borde and Bobby Dalbec will replace Robby Medel and Tyger Talley on the mound for the last two games of the series.
Borde, a redshirt junior, has never started for Arizona during Pac-12 Conference play and had never started a game before this year. He has four starts this season in nine appearances, with a 1.69 ERA.
“Xavier has good stuff,” Lopez said. “If there’s one thing he lacks, it’s the experience.”
Dalbec, Arizona’s typical starting third baseman and closer, will make his first start as a pitcher on Monday night. Talley, Arizona’s consistent Sunday starter this season, will switch roles with Dalbec and close for the team.
“The reality of it right now is that Tyger Talley isn’t effective from about 35 pitches on,” Lopez said. “As much as he wants to be, he’s not.”
The major pitching changes came after Arizona was swept last weekend by No. 9 USC. Both Medel and Talley gave up seven-run innings, resulting in a 13-6 loss on Friday and a 10-9 loss Saturday.
Lopez said the pitching situation that Arizona is facing isn’t as bad as it could be.
“This isn’t a monster,” Lopez said.
Which could be due, in large part, to Arizona’s premiere hitting game. The Wildcats hold the highest batting average in the nation, and Scott Kingery leads all batters in the same category.
Behnke and shortstop Kevin Newman round out the top three hitters for Arizona.
“Against USC, we could hit, but we didn’t execute as well as we could have, and it potentially cost us a couple wins,” Newman said. “We have to get it in our minds that we always have to execute.”
ASU is coming off a series victory over Utah, winning two of three games, but lost 7-6 at UNLV on Wednesday. Newman said the biggest thing Arizona will have to face is the Sun Devils’ tough pitching staff.
Arizona leads the all-time rivalry series 226-193-1, but lost three of five games last season.
The first game of the late weekend series starts Saturday, with the first pitch at 7:30 p.m.
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