The thing that will be the downfall of the Arizona Wildcats in 2016 is the lack of pitching depth, and that was on display on Tuesday night. But a strength of this team, defense, would also fail them in timely spots.
Arizona would drop a midweek game to UC-Riverside. The Highlanders entered Hi Corbett with a 9-12 record on the season, but started the two-game series with a 6-5 win over the now 16-8 Wildcats.
"We've played great defense to this point in the season, and we didn't tonight," head coach Jay Johnson said after the game. "We'll change some things we do in pregame batting practice to go a little bit more of a game speed kind of deal."
"We just didn't deserve the win tonight."
Star freshman Alfonso Rivas got the start on the mound for Arizona, and he was effective. But after having pitched in the final two games of the UCLA series, he was only able to last 4 1/3 innings.
"He's gonna pitch a lot, and he's gonna hit a lot," Johnson said of Rivas' ever-expanding role on this team. "You're gonna hear his name a lot in this park for the next three or four years. That's a guy I feel really good about his competitiveness."
"We asked a lot out of him tonight, and it just got hard because he was throwing so good, so you gotta keep going back out there."
Through the first four innings, UCR was unable to get a runner past second base against Rivas. A walk and a double in the fifth would chase Rivas, and brought in Robby Medel.
Medel would strike out Michael Farris, but a two-run single to left and another single would end Robby's night.
Cody Moffett walked the first batter he faced, then a crucial throwing error by shortstop Cody Ramer would give Riverside the 4-3 lead.
"I knew I had to get rid of it," Ramer explained of the miscue. "It was a pretty good runner, and I'm trying to throw it on the run and get it there. I tried to guide it to him instead of just throw it."
"I saw the tail on it and I saw it just get past him."
Poor defense from the Wildcats in the 5th would cost them again, as second baseman JJ Matijevic booted a ball hit to him, letting a run score, and putting runners on the corners for probable Saturday starter Nathan Bannister.
"It hurt tonight," coach Johnson added about the defense. "It's like turning the ball over in basketball."
"It's rough knowing that we're giving away runs, especially on walks too," Ramer added. "Walks and defense is honestly what killed us today, so we're just going to have to clean it up."
Bannister then threw a wild pitch, making the score 6-3.
The Wildcats did lead 3-0 after the second inning. Zach Gibbons had an RBI single to get the scoring started. Two batters later, Justin Behnke came up with Gibbons on third and Jared Oliva on second.
Johnson put on the safety squeeze. The UCR catcher fielded the ball, threw to first to get Behnke, but with no one covering the plate, Oliva was able to score after Gibbons, giving Arizona the three-run lead.
Gibbons would drive in another run in the 8th on a chopper to second to make the score 6-4. Johnson called upon Cesar Salazar to pinch hit for Oliva. Salazar hit a fly ball to left, ending the potential rally.
"If we're guilty of anything tonight, we've got a couple guys beating themselves up a little bit," Johnson said about the lack of offensive production. "Chasing some hits for the first time instead of just trying to see the ball and put together a good at bat."
Austin Rubick threw a scoreless ninth, setting the Wildcats up for one last chance. A two-out hit from Ramer followed by a single by Ryan Aguilar made it 6-5. UCR got Rivas to strike out to end the game.
Ramer was 3-for-4 with a walk in the leadoff spot for the Wildcats on Tuesday.
"I was just trying to get a good pitch and put a good swing on it," he said of his success at the plate.
Arizona and UC-Riverside meet at Hi Corbett again on Wednesday. First pitch is scheduled for 1 PM PT.
"We gotta flush whatever happened tonight and go get the next one tomorrow," Ramer said. "So that's what we're all gonna do."