So far this academic year we’ve seen Mike Stoops and the Arizona football team end a seven-game losing streak to USC, and Sean Miller and UA basketball steal a game from USC thanks to a foul and three free throws with two-tenths of a second left.
USC got a little bit of revenge on the baseball field.
As feared Arizona did not respond well to another road trip and as a result the last-place Trojans won their first Pac-10 series of the year.
It was the same problem as against UCLA. The Cat bats have stopped hitting. The team’s bread-and-butter has gone stale. Here’s a look at how the top four hitters in the UA lineup have fared the last few weeks:
|Games||Rickard||Valenzuela||Bandy||Selsky||4/9 – 4/18||7||.241||.448||.360||.429||4/19 – 5/2||7||.179||.207||.192||.231|
It’s not a surprise the team won six of the first group of seven games but only three of the last seven.
Joey Rickard’s slump actually extends back another weekend when he went 1-for-11 at Cal, bringing his slide to 13-for-68 (.191) in his last 17 games. It’s really hard when the guy who comes up more than anyone isn’t getting on base.
What can you do about it? There are three options: 1) Do nothing and hope things turn around, 2) Play the same guys but juggle the lineup, or 3) See what you’ve got on the bench.
Option 3 may be what’s in store as freshman Cole Frenzel got three starts and picked up five hits over the weekend. You also saw Andy Lopez bringing in pinch-hitters for Rickard and Valenzuela as the Cats tried to come from behind on Sunday, and the moves paid off as Josh Garcia had the huge hit to tie the game in the 8th.
Another interesting development has been the rollercoaster that is Bryce “The Thrilla” Bandilla’s season. He began the season as the designated closer but blew his first save opportunity. He had a couple good middle relief outings and got moved into the starting rotation. He had one good start mixed in with five bad ones and got moved back out of the rotation. Now he’s an ironman reliever, having appeared in seven of the UA’s last eight games, picking up two wins with three times as many strikeouts as walks.
Here’s how Bandilla the starter compares with Bandilla of the bullpen:
I think it’s safe to say he’s going to stay put.
Just like last week you have the give the team credit for coming back to win the third game after losing the series by Saturday. There’s a big difference – in the standings as well as in perception – between losing two out of three and getting swept. Ask UCLA and Stanford how hard it can be to avoid a third straight loss.
But credit only gets you so far before you have to start making payments with actual wins. How much did losing this series hurt? Entering this week the Cats had a top-15 RPI and were projected as a 2-seed, the equivalent of a 5-to-8-seed in basketball.
Now Arizona will take a tumble in the rankings and RPI and the team will slide closer to the bubble. It means there’s pressure to sweep the Cal State Bakersfield series. It means the ASU game on Tuesday is no longer a nothing-to-lose affair.
Dropping a pair in L.A. was definitely a step back, but an opportunity for instant redemption awaits. The best way to make up for losing to the worst team in the conference is by beating the undisputed best team in the conference.
Especially when you’ve already beaten them once.