Chip Hale had to watch the end of his first series win over ASU from the clubhouse.
“It’s a lot easier to coach when you’re watching it on TV,” Hale, an Arizona alum and first-year head coach, who was ejected during the bottom of the 5th inning of Sunday’s 14-4 win over the Sun Devils.
Hale was tossed by home plate umpire Jeffrey Macias after Macias said UA hitter Chase Davis did not make an attempt to avoid a pitch from ASU’s Jacob Walker that plunked him in the right leg. Davis stood still as the way-too-inside pitch plunked him, which according to NCAA rules does not constitute an intentional attempt to get hit.
Davis attempted to plead his case before Hale came out, and after a brief exchange he was ejected. Hale received a loud applause from the 3,583 fans at Hi Corbett Field as he left the field.
“He basically had to throw me out because I was arguing basically balls and strikes,” he said. “I know it’s a college rule that you can’t lean in and get hit, I just didn’t feel like he moved his knee at all. I knew when I stayed out there, he’s gonna throw me out. I apologized to him after the game. He knows the rules better than I do at this level.”
Hale exited with Arizona up 6-0, the product of a 2-run home run by Daniel Susac in the first and a 4-run third. ASU cut the lead in half on a 3-run home run by Oro Valley native Nate Baez in the sixth, the only real mistake by UA starter Garrett Irvin.
Irvin, who lasted only three innings in his last start at Utah because of arm soreness, allowed three runs and six hits over six innings to improve to 4-2. Arizona is 24-8 in his career when the senior left-hander starts, and his outing was a godsend after TJ Nichols and Chandler Murphy combined to go only 5.2 innings in the first two games of the ASU series.
“I obviously want to try to make it so our bullpen doesn’t have to pitch as many innings,” said Irvin, who said the combination of cold temperatures and a minor illness contributed to his arm problem at Utah. I was just trying to go as long as I could, so I was glad to get six.”
Added Hale: “It was so important, so important to get that start. I think if we don’t get that we’re in trouble.”
Arizona added a run in the sixth and then put the game away in the seventh with seven runs. The Wildcats only had two hits in the inning, benefitting from five walks—two in a row with the bases loaded—as well as a hit batter and a wild pitch.
Hale watched all that late scoring from the team video room, which he said had a quicker feed than the Pac-12 Network broadcast. What he saw was the Wildcats complete a game in which they were 6 of 11 from scoring position—their most hits in that scenario since mid-March—and topped the 10-run mark for the first time since March 21.
Tanner O’Tremba went 3 for 5 with three RBI, going 9 for 15 with a homer and seven RBI in the ASU series, while Mac Bingham improved his conference-best batting average in Pac-12 games to .376 with two hits and three RBI.
Susac was 2 for 3 with two walks, three RBI and three runs scored, his 25th multi-hit game of the season. It continued a trend of the sophomore catcher having a big game after going hitless the one before, as he’s batting .462 (18 of 39) with three homers, 11 RBI and nine runs scored immediately after an o-fer.
“His worst games, the next day has always been his best game,” Hale said. “He’s very good at erasing things. He’s just mentally tough. He knows how to play the game. And he knows from years of watching his brother, I’m sure he knows you’re gonna go through some struggles. He gets a burr under his saddle and he’s he’s pretty darn good.”
Susac echoed that, but elaborated on the impact his brothers, including former big-leaguer Andrew Susac, had on his mindset.
“Having two brothers 10 and 11 years older than me, for lack of a better term, they kicked my ass in the backyard,” he said. “I’d have to get back up and deal with it. I’d cry a little bit but my dad would tell me to just deal with it and grow up. For me, my mindset is it can only get better. Especially from yesterday’s game. I thought it can only get better.”
Arizona’s next six games are outside of Pac-12 play, beginning Tuesday at New Mexico State before it hosts Nevada for four next weekend and then Grand Canyon on May 3.