Friday night provided an incredibly emotional win for Arizona against rival ASU. Saturday brought the inevitable letdown.
The Wildcats fell behind early and were never able to claw their way back into it, losing 8-5 to the Sun Devils before 6,617 fans—the fourth-largest crowd in program history—at Hi Corbett Field.
ASU (20-20, 9-8 Pac-12) scored three runs in the top of the second off UA starter Chandler Murphy, who lasted only three innings. That followed TJ Nichols going 2.2 innings in Friday’s 10-inning win, and not including the all-bullpen games at Creighton earlier in the week Arizona has had a starting pitcher go more than five innings just once in the last 11 games.
“It hasn’t been great,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “There’s definitely concern. We’ve been battling. Guys have done a good job out of the pen to kind of keep us in the game. We need a good outing by Garrett (Irvin) tomorrow.”
Irvin (3-2, 2.86) was pulled after three innings last Saturday at Utah because of arm soreness but had gone at least six in his six previous starts.
Arizona (27-13, 12-8) trailed 6-0 before finally breaking through in the fifth for three runs, including 2-out RBI hits from Chase Davis and Mac Bingham. But overall the Wildcats couldn’t do much against ASU starter Kyle Luckham, who along with two relievers combined to record 18 ground ball outs.
“He did a good job of sinking the ball down and in on righties,” Hale said of Luckham. “You just try to elevate the ball a little bit, but he was throwing strikes with it and getting ahead. You’re sort of at his mercy at that point.”
Arizona had 12 hits, four by Tanner O’Tremba including a solo home run off the batter’s eye in center. He upped his average to a team-leading .370.
“Tanner has been great,” Hale said. “Tanner’s a team leader, he’s in there exhorting everybody, trying to get everybody fired up, and doing it with his bat, doing it with his defense. When you talk about model players, whether it’s in the classroom or on the field or in the clubhouse he’s a model guy.”
A win Sunday would give Arizona the weekend series, something it hasn’t gotten in Pac-12 play since sweeping Washington on the road in early April. Not having to wait long for the chance to do that lessens the chance for players and coaches to dwell on Saturday’s loss, O’Tremba said.
“I think the biggest thing is the day is not as long, and it’s Sunday,” he said. “It’s just hey, let’s go, no matter what, win or lose, hey, let’s go. Let’s piece it together and win the series.”