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Defense dooms Arizona baseball in home loss to Michigan State

Arizona starter Andrew Nardi allowed two earned runs in six-plus innings on Tuesday night.
Arizona baseball

After opening the baseball season with 12 games against opponents mostly from lesser conferences, the Arizona Wildcats finally got a chance to take on someone from the power leagues.

It did not go well.

Big Ten foe Michigan State scored eight runs in the top of the seventh inning, aided by four errors, en route to a 9-5 win at Hi Corbett on Tuesday night. Arizona committed six errors overall, its fourth consecutive game with at least four, and have 25 for the season.

“I think it’s a mindset thing,” coach Jay Johnson said of Arizona’s error issue. “This game will attack you mentally, I think we have a little bit of that going on.”

It was only the second win for MSU, which came in at 1-9 and had dropped nine straight including three at ASU over the weekend.

The Spartans sent 13 batters to the plate in the top of the seventh, which lasted more than 40 minutes and saw Arizona use four pitchers. Started Andrew Nardi was pulled after allowing a triple and a double to open the frame, with the first of Cameron Cannon’s two errors that frame—he had three for the game—allowing MSU’s Bailey Peterson to score on his triple after Cannon’s throw to third got past Nick Quintana and went into the stands.

Cannon now has nine errors in 13 games this season, after having just seven all of 2018.

Quintana got in on the miscue parade later that inning when he let a grounder go through his legs, scoring two to put MSU up 6-4, and an errant pickoff throw by reliever Zach Sherman accounted for the Spartans’ final run in a frame that also featured had five hits, two walks and a hit batter.

“I very rarely have been a part of a game where I’ve seen the wheels spin off like that,” Johnson said.

Arizona (8-5) scored three times in the bottom of the first and made it 4-0 in the second, every run coming with two outs. But after getting five hits in the first two innings the Wildcats notched just four more the rest of the game.

The Wildcats had a chance to blow things open in the fourth, with runners on second and third with one out, but Quintana and Austin Wells both struck out.

“It wouldn’t have guaranteed a win, but the momentum would definitely have been on our side,” Quintana said.

Nardi shook off a iffy opening inning to retire seven straight at one point, allowing just an unearned run through the first six before hitting a wall in the seventh. His six-plus innings marked the second-longest start for Arizona this season.

“That’s as good a pitching performance as we’ve had this season,” Johnson said. “I thought he was in a good place. He was at 79 (pitches) to start that inning. We felt like we could steal an out or two.”

Arizona returns to action Friday when it opens a three-game series at Hi Corbett against College of Charleston. Pac-12 play begins the following weekend against Utah.