Under its original schedule, Arizona would have had an immediate opportunity to wash away the bitter taste of losing its first Pac-12 series since March. Instead, the Wildcats have to wait a few more days to get back to their winning ways on the field.
The UA had been slated to play at Santa Clara on Monday, a one-off contest attached to the tail end of the weekend trip to Stanford, but coach Jay Johnson announced last week that game had been canceled by mutual agreement of he and Santa Clara coach Rusty Filter.
So instead of getting what would should have been an easy win—the Broncos (14-27) are ranked No. 191 in RPI—the Wildcats (32-13, 16-8 Pac-12) got back to Tucson Sunday night and next play Friday at Hi Corbett Field against Washington.
“I think you want to always want to get back to play,” Johnson said. “I think, knowing the maturity of our team, I think the get right opportunity will be throughout the week. I’m always impressed with their ability to bounce back, not just from a tough loss but just like with their energy. It makes me want to be 21 again.”
Arizona had a similar post-conference road series game in March when, after losing two of three at UCLA to open Pac-12 play, it went to Loyola Marymount and won 18-2. It went on to win six straight Pac-12 series after that before dropping two of three at Stanford.
The breakdown of those games in Palo Alto were similar to the ones at UCLA, with Arizona dropping a close one on Friday, winning convincingly on Saturday but then losing the finale in less than impressive fashion.
“They beat us yesterday, I mean there’s nothing else to it,” Johnson said of Sunday’s 8-2 loss. “We beat them soundly Saturday. Friday, in a game with arguably two of the best pitchers in the league going head to head, in my opinion, we made one more mistake than we did. That was the difference in the game.”
Friday’s game went 13 innings and lasted more than five hours, with Arizona leaving Stanford’s Sunken Diamond about 14 hours before the start of Saturday’s day game. Thankfully, Johnson said, his team has proven to be very good at shaking things off and moving on.
“For me, it’s really important to get a tough loss off of them as quickly as you can,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that it doesn’t sting, that it doesn’t hurt. They know we had that game. We were essentially three outs from putting that thing away. Our players were aware of that, I don’t need to beat that down through them. So we had a quick meeting, I mean it was like two minutes in the outfield. Then the next day, my message to them in the morning was before we left the hotel was it was all about focus. I know that sounds really boring, but we’ve won a lot of high-level games this year, and really focusing on the games that allow us to do that, and I think they did a really good job of that.”
Sure enough, Arizona tied a season high for runs in a 20-2 win on Saturday, scoring three in the first and six in the second.
The Wildcats are 8-0 in the second game of Pac-12 series, outscoring their opponents 80-31.
Arizona gets its next four games at Hi Corbett, where it is 21-6 and hasn’t lost since April 11. It hosts Washington for three then takes on New Mexico State before finishing Pac-12 play at Oregon State May 21-23 and then hosting Dixie State in a nonconference series the final weekend of the regular season.
Johnson said he’s still trying to replace the Santa Clara game—it’s frustrating to me because I want to play the full 56 games—but the window for adding one is closing quickly.
“It’s going to be tough sledding. There’s a lot of elements to it now that it’s gotta make sense. If the Yankees want to take that 56th game we’ll take and line up and see what we can do.”