Despite having won three consecutive Pac-12 series, the Arizona baseball team is riding a two-game losing streak heading into this weekend’s series against the Washington State Cougars.
Head coach Jay Johnson credited Grand Canyon’s defense from the Wildcats' loss on Tuesday, April 13, against the Antelopes.
“On the offensive side, I thought we hit a lot of balls hard right at people,” Johnson said. “I thought Grand Canyon made two very pivotal defensive plays that changed the nature of that game. One we had second and third with two outs and Daniel Susac hit the ball up the middle. We were leading 4-3 when Channy Ortiz made an unbelievable play. If that ball gets through, we’re ahead 6-3. Then, Tony Bullard hit a ball down the third base line with a man on first in the eighth inning that if that would have gone down the line, then we might have had a run in or a runner on second and third with one out.”
“I thought Grand Canyon played exceptional defense. And then, there was three at-bats in the game where if we could have gotten the type of at-bat that we want, I think it would have swung the game,” Johnson said. “We had the bases loaded when it was 3-3 with one out and only came out of that with one run. I felt like that was a very pivotal point in the game. Credit to Ortiz again. He got a good swing off a good pitcher and got one over the fence, and that was that.”
One of the themes Johnson preaches to his team every practice and every game is the motto of “one game at a time” and to not let anything that happened in the past get to them. It is a way of thinking that every player on the team really takes on.
“Yeah, especially in today’s world where there is a lot of media that’s focusing on things way down the road,” freshman Mac Bingham said. “They just kind of help us block it out like blinders and focus on the task at hand. I think it has been extremely helpful.”
The Wildcats will be looking to win their fourth straight Pac-12 series win this weekend as they head down to Pullman, Washington, to take on the Cougars. Johnson is friends with Brian Green, the coach of Washington State, and said he has nothing but respect for what he has brought to their program.
“I think they’re going to be much improved,” Johnson said. “[Green] and I both coached at the University of San Diego, not at the same time, but we’re both positively influenced by coach [Rich] Hill there. We’ve had kind of a similar track in coaching and have become great friends over the last 20 years or so.”
“The first thing that you notice about this Washington State baseball team is they’re more talented,” Johnson said. “In the order and arms on the pitching staff, this is not what we have seen maybe two years ago in terms of talent and then [Green] does a good job with developing the team and competitiveness. It looks like through four Pac-12 series, they’re playing very competitively in all of the games. This will be a tough matchup. I pass it to our players and just in my own line of thinking, every Pac-12 weekend is the same in terms of competitiveness, regardless of what the jersey says.”
The Wildcats will begin a three-game series against the Cougars this weekend. The first game will be on Friday, April 16, with the first pitch scheduled for 3:05 p.m. MST.
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