It started out so well for the Arizona Wildcats.
Isn’t that what we said last week? Unfortunately, yes.
After starting the season 17-5 the UA has lost three straight and five of eight, including a home loss to Arizona State. It’s enough to make a team ready to fight and that’s almost what happened after both benches cleared Tuesday night.
ASU appeared to be coasting with a 6-1 lead in the 4th inning when Cole Frenzel was hit in the back with a first-pitch fastball. Frenzel had been hit in the helmet his previous time up and exchanged words with Sun Devil pitcher Kyle Ottoson and second baseman Zack MacPhee.
Both benches cleared but the umpires and coaches maintained order with only Arizona’s bullpen catcher, TC Mark, getting ejected (a strange way for the freshman to get into his first boxscore).
The game resumed, ASU center fielder Andy Workman made a diving catch to snuff out the UA rally, and ASU cruised to a 10-5 victory. With the win the Devils clinched the season series for the third consecutive year.
The bigger issue is the Wildcats lost two of three at home to Oregon State over the weekend to fall to 2-4 in Pac-10 play. For the second straight series Kurt Heyer was magnificent Friday night only to see the team falter in the next two games.
The sophomore K-maker threw his first complete game of the season in an 18-0 shellacking of the Beavers. With Heyer’s pitch-count rising coach Andy Lopez considered pulling him after the 8th inning but Heyer was able to talk him out of it.
“He sensed that I wanted it very badly,” the righthander said Friday night. “He gave that last inning to me and I got that last zero. It felt great.”
The good feeling didn’t last long as starting pitchers Kyle Simon and Tyler Hale weren’t able to match Heyer’s performance and the UA hitters couldn’t come close to duplicating the offensive outburst as OSU took the series with 10-4 and 8-4 wins.
Lopez is mostly concerned with his slumping pitchers. “My whole career has been based off of two real basic things,” he said after the ASU game. “You gotta pitch and play defense, and we’re not pitching in a couple situations and it’s costing us right now.”
The Arizona coach indicated he’s going to reconsider how he’s using his bullpen arms. He said, “Right now we’ve got a couple guys that don’t throw enough strikes to be pitching at this level.”
It won’t be a difficult decision on Friday at 6 p.m. when Kurt Heyer gets the ball again as the Cal Bears come to town for another Pac-10 series.
Here are the rest of the results from around the conference last weekend:
ASU won all three vs. Oregon.
Scores: 5-2, 3-1, 8-0
The Ducks are the worst hitting team in the Pac-10 and no amount of uniform combinations is going to change that.
Cal won two of three vs. USC.
Scores: 6-10, 9-2, 9-6
Cal sits in a 1st place tie but the Bears’ schedule is backloaded with the league’s top teams.
UCLA won all three vs. Washington.
Scores: 2-1, 5-3, 3-2
The Pac-10’s third 1st place team is the second-worst hitting team in the conference, but you only have to score one more than the other guys.
Stanford won two of three at WSU.
Scores: 8-10, 22-3, 4-3
The Cougars started strong with an 8-run 8th to take the first game but the Cardinal bounced back to win the road series.
Those games brought about these rankings:
Oregon State’s road series win propelled the Beavers over both Arizona and UCLA in the rankings. Oregon’s oh-fer convinced that final poll to exclude the Ducks.
A word of advice if you’re coming to Frank Sancet Stadium to see Kurt Heyer and the Cats: Get to the park early and don’t dilly-dally with your Dippin’ Dots. The umps make sure that first pitch is in the air right on time if not a couple minutes early.
It’s up to the Wildcats to make that pitch a strike.
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