A month and a stadium reconfiguration later, it was a very different story for Arizona.
The Wildcat baseball team, who is now just 5-6 overall in 2018, lost all three games in Minneapolis against Big Ten foes Minnesota, Illinois, and Michigan State, and lost all three games by one run each.
In fact, Arizona’s six losses on the young season have come by a total of seven runs. This is the first time since they were 2-3 in 2016 that the team has been below .500 under Jay Johnson.
Only twice has Arizona scored more than five runs in a game, and has failed to do so in each of its last five contests. By contrast, last year the Wildcats had only failed to reach that mark five times in their first 20 contests.
As a team, Arizona is hitting just .208. That’s exactly 100 points lower than last year’s team batting average. 2018’s .279 slugging percentage has a long way to go to get to 2017’s mark of .442.
No regular starter is hitting above .292 right now.
The offense has certainly been the reason for the team’s faltering over the past two weekends in San Diego and Minneapolis. Arizona’s team ERA is now 2.24, nearly cutting last year’s 4.36 posting in half.
Positive for UA baseball: Starting pitchers have a combined ERA of 2.17 through 11 games. Warm up the bats and tighten up the bullpen (but mainly the bats) and things will look a lot better.— WildcatUniverse.com (@Scott_Terrell) March 4, 2018
No Arizona pitcher that has pitched at least two innings this year has an ERA higher than 3.60. And the weekend rotation of Cody Deason, Avery Weems, Michael Flynn, and Randy Labaut are all pitching very well.
So what’s going on with the offense? One obvious thing to me is that Arizona has only played one true weekend series through the first three weeks of the season. This team has had to play nine different opponents over the course of 11 games. That’s a tough ask for any team. Having to prepare for a different squad each day...while on the road?
They will get a repeat opponent this Tuesday when San Diego State makes its way to Tucson before the Wildcats have a three-game home series against North Dakota State.
You also can’t blame inexperience on this offensive drought. Only one regular starter, Travis Moniot, didn’t see significant playing time for Arizona last year, and even he played regularly in 2016 at Oregon and was selected for the USA Collegiate National team that summer.
While the offensive struggles right now are of some concern, it stands to reason that this team will start to settle in when it starts to play a little bit more of a normal baseball schedule. There are plenty of proven guys in the lineup that are struggling, so it seems more likely than not that they’ll get this thing turned around.
And if the pitching keeps up what it’s doing? Look out. But those bats have gotta start getting some things done.