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Arizona baseball heads to ASU looking for more from back end of pitching staff

arizona-wildcats-baseball-preview-asu-sun-devils-phoenix-pac12-pitching-relievers-2021 Arizona Athletics

If Sundays didn’t exist in Pac-12 play, Arizona would be in a much better position in the conference standings after two weekends.

Not only have the Wildcats (16-7, 3-3) dropped the finale in both conference series so far, that last game has been a complete 180 from the first two when it comes to the pitching performances. Arizona’s pitchers have a 2.43 ERA on Friday and Saturdays in Pac-12 play, compared to 14.82 on Sunday thanks to losses of 11-3 at UCLA and 18-13 last weekend to Oregon.

Good thing for the UA this weekend’s series against rival ASU (15-5, 4-2) begins Thursday night and ends Saturday because of Easter. The opener is set for 6 p.m. PT at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, with Chase Silseth (4-0, 4.38) taking on ASU’s Brock Peery (2-0, 0.82).

UA coach Jay Johnson said he had all of the pitchers who threw Sunday—all seven who appeared allowed at least one run—meet with pitching coach Nate Yeskie to drew up an action plan for how to better prepare themselves ahead of time for their outings.

“Confidence is a feeling,” Johnson said. “Something that we’ve been talking about is focusing on action. Some of them need to take some action toward improvement. Every pitcher on our staff should believe in themselves.”

Arizona’s team ERA is 4.77, which ranks ninth out of 11 teams in the conference, but it would be much worse if not for the work of Silseth, No. 2 starter Garrett Irvin (2.19) and top relievers Preston Price (2.45) and Vince Vannelle (1.88).

Silseth’s ERA is still bloated from a bad outing against Oklahoma on March 4 when he allowed 10 runs in 4.1 innings. Since then he’s allowed only four earned runs in 20.1 innings, while Irvin is coming off a one-run, seven-inning effort against Oregon.

Price and Vannelle have been as close to unhittable as you can get, yielding 19 hits in 29 innings with 42 strikeouts.

In reality, Arizona doesn’t need all its pitchers to be lights out, not when it leads the nation in runs (212) and hits (258) and is third in batting average (.318) and fifth in on-base percentage (.438). Scoring against the Sun Devils may be more difficult than against any other opponent, though, as ASU has allowed five or fewer runs in 33 of its last 37 games and over the last three weekends opposing hitters are batting .161 with runners in scoring position.