It was an exciting weekend of baseball as Arizona returned home to Hi Corbett Field after a trip to Texas last weekend. What made it even more exciting as it was the first time this season that fans were allowed to attend the game. In previous home series, games were limited to family, but as COVID-19 restrictions are slowly being eased back, about 900 fans attended each game.
Originally, it was supposed to be a four-game series against Wichita State. Then about a week ago, it was moved to just a three-game series and Arizona would play Air Force in what would have been the fourth game against Wichita State. Then, just Saturday morning, Wichita State canceled the game later that night. So Arizona instead played Air Force Saturday and Sunday.
Game 1: Arizona-8, Wichita State-5
Top of the rotation starter Chase Silseth had a nice bounce-back outing after he was banged around a little in his last start in Texas. Silseth had good command of the strike zone and was able to get a ton of routine ground balls.
The infield played a solid defensive game and turned a couple of clutch double plays. Most of Wichita State’s runs came on a Donta’ Williams error in centerfield, which he quickly made up for in the next half-inning at the plate.
Hitting-wise, Arizona played its stereotypical aggressive style of baseball, stealing bases and laying down bunts. They were able to take advantage of a couple of Wichita State fielding errors which helped Arizona get on the board early.
Game 2: Arizona-9, Wichita State-10
Not a good game at all from Arizona. Despite scoring nine runs, it was a rough game from the pitchers and even rougher on the defensive side. Arizona had five errors in the game which essentially sealed their fate. From a viewing standpoint, it was an exciting and high-scoring game but for this team to do the things they want to, they can’t make errors.
Interesting stat from Friday's game: Second-basemen Kobe Kato reached base five times on zero hits and zero official at-bats. Kato had four walks and a hit-by-pitch.
Game 3: Arizona-2, Air Force-5
This was probably Arizona’s worst offensive performance of the season. Two runs on four hits are not the recipe to win games for Arizona. Starting pitcher Garrett Irvin had a solid start going 5.2 innings and only allowing three runs.
The biggest storyline in this game came in the sixth inning when Arizona head coach Jay Johnson got ejected for arguing a play at second base. On the positive side, Arizona did have an error-free game.
Game 4: Arizona-14, Air Force-5
This was an impressive bounce-back game from Arizona. After losing two in a row, they needed this game and they delivered.
Starting pitcher T.J. Nichols was solid until the fourth inning when he started to get hit around. In the fourth inning, Air Force scored four runs which would tie the game. Fortunately for Arizona, they would score the next 10 runs of the game, including Donta’ Williams who hit his first home run of the season in the eighth inning.
The bullpen was incredible and it was a defensively sound game. Relief pitcher Preston Price was the star of this game when he came in to relieve Nichols. Price threw 3.1 innings, allowing just one run on one hit. Johnson has had a ton of confidence in Price this season and he made that apparent in the post-game press conference.
“His reliability to execute and come through has put us on the right side of things,” Johnson said.
Going into the game, Johnson was slightly worried about fatigue coming off a late-night game Saturday and a grueling road trip the week before. Luckily, the fans at Hi Corbett were especially loud Sunday afternoon and gave the team a needed jolt of energy.
“I thought it was the best day so far, I can’t tell our fans how much I appreciate that enough,” Johnson said. “I had some concerns about the mental and physical readiness of our team, based on we traveled last week and the grueling schedule. We came back and it's been kind of a weird week shifting things around.”
Arizona will now open up Pac-12 play with a trip to UCLA to play the Bruins in a three-game series starting Friday, March 19. It is something shortstop Jacob Blas is ready for as they play some rivals.
“We obviously didn’t get the opportunity to do it last year and we are all looking forward to it this year, it’s going to be really fun,” Blas said.
Arizona’s next home series will be against the Oregon Ducks starting Friday, March 26.
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