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Arizona baseball’s defense struggles in loss to Wichita State, winning streak snapped at 10

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAR 23 Washington State at Arizona Photo by Jacob Snow/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The win streak is over for Arizona baseball.

The nationally-ranked Wildcats lost for the first time in 11 games Friday night, dropping the second of a three-game set to Wichita State, 10-9, in what was a long, ugly contest.

Despite leaving 11 men on base, Arizona’s offense put them in a good enough position to win the game, scoring 9 runs and tallying 10 hits, but the Wildcats weren’t good enough defensively to earn an 11th straight victory Friday night.

The Cats committed a season-high 5 errors in the loss, all of which helped lead a total of six unearned runs to come across for the Shockers.

It was an ugly affair on both sides, as Wichita State’s manager was ejected in the fourth inning and the two teams combined to make 7 errors, while allowing a total of 8 unearned runs.

However, Arizona’s poor defensive play was summed up when Wichita State took the lead for good in the top of the seventh inning.

With his team leading 9-8 and a runner on third and two outs, UA head coach Jay Johnson called on Vince Vannelle out of the bullpen to relieve a tiring Ian Churchill.

Vannelle, Johnson’s go to guy out of the pen in pressure situations, did his job and induced a chopper to Jacob Blas at shortstop. It was a chopper that should have ended the inning with Arizona’s lead intact.

It didn’t though, and instead Blas, after fielding the ball cleanly, threw the ball short of first and into the dirt in front of Branden Boissiere at the bag. Boissiere, who is normally excellent at scooping balls, was unable to field it safely and the tying run scored as the ball rolled past him. The Shockers ended up going ahead 10-9 on the next at bat on a double deep down the left field line.

Arizona went down quietly in the seventh, eighth and ninth and never held the lead again.

“We just didn’t play good catch,” Johnson said. “We made some mistakes and baseball will reward the team that plays the best and Wichita State handled the ball a lot better. We can certainly play better, we have played better, and we will play better tomorrow.”

The Wildcats fell behind early in the game, as starting pitcher Chandler Murphy allowed five runs to come across for the Shockers in the top of the second inning. Unsurprisingly, an error was involved in the early offensive onslaught.

However, Arizona showed some serious resolve when they responded with four runs of their own in the bottom of the second, making it 5-4, and then even more by taking a 6-5 lead in the bottom of the third by getting two more across.

Murphy rebounded after the rocky second inning on the mound with a strong third, but was chased from the game with two outs in the fourth inning. The Wildcats defense did nothing to help their starting pitcher, committing three errors in the frame and allowing a total of three runs (all unearned) to come across.

Of the eight runs that Murphy allowed, only four were earned.

Churchill then came in and stemmed the tide, getting out of the jam left to him in the fourth and firing scoreless innings in the fifth and sixth. It wasn’t until after he was taken out in the seventh that the run that was charged to him came around to score.

Trailing 8-6, the Wildcats put up a three-spot of their own in the bottom of the fourth to take a 9-8 lead, but were unable to get anything else going after that. When Wichita State took the lead in the seventh, it was enough to seal the Wildcats’ fate.

Vannelle ultimately took the loss on the mound, while Boissiere went 3-4 with an RBI and Daniel Susac and Tony Bullard drove in two runs apiece.

The Wildcats (11-3) and the Shockers (7-4) will be back at it Saturday in their series finale. First pitch is slated for 6 p.m. MST.