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Arizona baseball opens series with bad home loss to Washington State

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It was almost a year ago that Arizona headed to Washington State, coming off a loss in Phoenix, and ended up dropping that first game in ugly fashion. Six weeks later they won the Pac-12 title and a few weeks after that they played in the College World Series in Omaha.

Will history repeat itself? The Wildcats completed the first half of the 2021 scenario on Friday, losing 11-5 at home to last-place Washington State at Hi Corbett Field.

It was the second straight loss for the UA (21-9, 9-4) after losing 10-6 at ASU on Tuesday. Last year it lost 21-2 at WSU in the opener after losing in extra innings at Grand Canyon a few days earlier, part of Arizona’s only 3-game skid all season.

“We just got our butt kicked tonight, and we got to come back tomorrow and hopefully we win tomorrow,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “But you never know. I mean, we went to Washington and won three, and who knows what’s gonna happen. We’ll just play the best we can tomorrow, chips will fall where they may.”

WSU (11-18, 3-10) came in having lost 10 of 11, as well as nine straight on the road.

But early on it looked to be a laugher for Arizona, which scored four in the bottom of the first on a grand slam by Noah Turley and had ace TJ Nichols on the mound. Nichols was not sharp, however, hitting two batters in the second and walking three in a row during a 5-run third innings for the Cougars.

Nichols was pulled after allowing back-to-back doubles to lead off the fourth, his shortest outing of the season, allowing a career-worst seven runs with just one strikeout.

“He didn’t throw enough strikes,” Hale said of Nichols, who dropped to 4-2.

Arizona had seven hits but none by its top four batters, who entered the game all hitting at least .287 with a combined 21 home runs and 111 RBI.

“They weren’t weren’t up to par for what they’ve done this year,” Hale said. “Every now and then you have a bad night and they did.”

Hale shook off the idea that Arizona could benefit from a wake-up call type of game—“we already had that at ASU”—as well as looking at it as a bad loss.

“It’s never bad, it’s baseball,” he said. “They beat us, game’s over.”

Arizona will try to avoid its first 3-game skid of 2022 at 6 p.m. PT Saturday, with senior left-hander Garrett Irvin (3-1, 2.40) on the mound. The Wildcats are 23-6 in games that Irvin has started, including 5-1 when he pitches after a loss.

“He’ll go out there and do the best he can,” Hale said. “We’re going play the best we can behind him and see what could happen.”

For those that may have forgotten, after Arizona lost 21-2 at WSU last April it won its next 10 games.