Defense dooms Wildcats in loss to Michigan State
Coming off a tough series win over Wisconsin-Milwaukee this past weekend, there was no time to celebrate for the Arizona Wildcats, as the Michigan State Spartans came to Hi Corbett Field Tuesday night. The ‘Cats looked to take advantage of a vulnerable Spartan team that lost nine games in a row coming into their matchup, but six errors and a struggling offense late doomed Arizona to a 9-5 loss.
After getting into an early bases-loaded jam in the first inning, starting pitcher Andrew Nardi was able to strike out the final batter of the inning. Nardi settled in nicely after the first, allowing only one base runner over the next four innings.
The Wildcat lineup was on fire early on, scoring four runs in the first two innings thanks to RBI singles by Matthew Dyer, Ryan Holgate and Nick Quintana. They were able to string together long, quality at-bats early on, as Spartans starting pitcher Jesse Heikkinen only threw 3.1 innings. Unfortunately, that was all the offense the Wildcats got for the night, as they recorded only four hits and one run for the game after the second inning.
Nardi saw himself get into a jam in the sixth inning, in large part due to an error by shortstop Cameron Cannon, as he surrendered his first run of the game off a sacrifice fly with runners on first and third base and one out. Nardi came back out to the mound in the seventh inning having thrown 78 pitches, with fatigue possibly starting to set in as he gave up back-to-back extra-base hits to start the inning. He left the game with a runner on second base and no outs and the Wildcats up 4-2.
The bullpen and defense were unfortunately not able to back up Nardi’s spectacular outing. Vince Vannelle, Gil Luna and Zach Sherman all came in the game following Nardi, allowing six runs combined in the seventh inning. It wasn’t all on them, however, as only one of the six runs they gave up was earned. Cannon and Quintana each surrendered costly errors with two outs that would have ended the inning. Arizona has struggled defensively recently, committing fourteen errors over the last three games, including six on Tuesday.
“I want to say no, but again, I have seen this type of thing before,” head coach Jay Johnson said when asked if each error gets in the players heads. “I just don’t think I have seen it in as many guys on one team at one time like it happened tonight, so I think there is definitely a piece of that and we’ll keep working hard to get them better at that.”
Quintana said postgame Arizona’s energy has to be the same all game if the ‘Cats hope to pull themselves out of the recent funk they have been in defensively.
“I just think the energy,” Quintana said. “The energy that we had the first five innings was great, and it’s just one of those things where once the other team got the momentum, it kind of started to dwindle down a little bit, but in my opinion how we dig ourselves out is just the energy and the mentality we have at practice.”
The Wildcats are back in action this upcoming weekend, hosting College of Charleston in a three-game set starting Friday night at 6 p.m.
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