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Arizona baseball beats Kansas State to open the Chip Hale era

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Chip Hale’s professional coaching career ended at Globe Life Field last July when he left his job as the Detroit Tigers bench coach to take over his alma mater. His collegiate coaching debut is in the same park, and it was a successful one, albeit a little nerve-wracking toward the end.

Arizona opened the 2022 season with an 8-6 win over Kansas State on Friday afternoon in Arlington, Texas. It’s the first of three games for the Wildcats at the State Farm College Baseball Showdown.

The UA, coming off a trip to the College World Series, never trailed in building an 8-1 lead before having to sweat out a late Kansas State rally against the Wildcats’ bullpen.

Arizona put up nine hits with six of them going for extra bases, including home runs by Noah Turley and Tanner O’Tremba, the latter reaching the second deck in the top of the sixth to give Arizona a 4-1 lead.

Turley, a junior college transfer who got the start at first base, blasted one to straightaway center to put the Wildcats up 1-0 in the second. An RBI double by Mac Bingham and a run-scoring single from Daniel Susac extended the lead to 3-0 in the third.

“That’s a guy that is going to be a huge person for us in the middle of the lineup,” Hale said on the FloBaseball stream of Turley, who hit 22 home runs last season for Yavapai College.

Susac broke the game open with a bases-loaded double to score two in the seventh, and Arizona added two more in the eighth on a Nik McClaughry RBI triple and McClaughry later scored on a double steal.

TJ Nichols got the start for Arizona, going the first four innings. The sophomore right-hander allowed a run and five hits with six strikeouts, working out of trouble a couple of times. Righty George Arias Jr. threw a 1-2-3 fifth to pick up the win, with freshman righty Anthony ‘Tonko’ Susac coming on in the sixth for what was likely intended to be a 4-inning outing since he’s in the mix for a starting rotation spot.

Susac couldn’t get out of the eighth, though, getting chased in the middle of a 4-run frame for K-State. Three singles and a hit batter caused Arizona to turn to righty Trevor Long with 1 out and an 8-3 lead, but Long didn’t get out any of the three batters he faced.

“The bullpen is a little bit of a mystery for us,” Hale said.

Lefty Holden Christian, a preseason All-American who transferred from Loyola Marymount, came on and got a pair of fly outs to end the inning. The first brought in a run on a sacrifice fly and the second was shagged on the warning track in center by Bingham.

Christian then retired the side in order in the ninth, striking out the final batter to pick up the save.

Arizona will face Oklahoma, whom it beat twice in the Frisco College Baseball Classic in Texas last season, at 6 p.m. MT Saturday, before finishing the tourney Sunday at 1:30 p.m. MT against Texas Tech.