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Defense, pitching fails Arizona baseball in third straight loss

arizona-wildcats-baseball-recap-wsu-cougars-pitching-defense-2022-pac12-chip-hale-daniel-susac Arizona Athletics

There’s little margin for error in baseball. Even less for costly errors.

Another poor fielding not contributed to another bad loss for Arizona, which fell 6-5 at home to last-place Washington State on Saturday night at Hi Corbett Field. It was the Wildcats’ season-high third consecutive loss, second in a row to a WSU team that came in losers of 11 of 12 and nine straight on the road.

“Teams go through ruts like this,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “We’re in a weird rut right now. We’re just not playing very good baseball on the defensive side and pitching as well as we have.”

Arizona (21-10, 9-5 Pac-12) committed three errors, resulting in three unearned runs including the tying score for WSU (12-18, 4-10) in the eighth after Tony Bullard dropped a pop fly behind third base to open the inning. The Cougars went ahead in the ninth on a 2-out RBI single by Kyle Russell, who was down 0-2 against UA closer Holden Christian before battling back.

All five of Arizona’s runs came in the fourth when, with two outs, seven consecutive batters reached. Singles by Bullard and Tyler Casagrande and a walk to Garen Caulfield loaded the bases for Nik McClaughry, who grounded to short but reached when WSU shortstop Kodie Kolden threw wide of second trying to get a force.

Bullard and Casagrande scored on that play to tie it at 2, then Mac Bingham, Daniel Susac and Tanner O’Tremba followed with RBI singles to put the Wildcats up 5-2.

“We got a few that snuck through there, we got a few that dropped in,” Hale said. “That’s what you need in those 2-out rallies, that was really good. We didn’t hit very many balls well, but they fell for us. We’ve hit a lot of balls in big situations that they’ve caught.”

Arizona had nine hits, seven coming with two out. Wildcat batters were 2 of 20 with fewer than two outs.

WSU scored twice in the fifth, one of which was unearned, as it made UA starter Garrett Irvin labor through six innings. Irvin allowed the leadoff man to reach five times, causing him to work from the stretch against 18 of 27 Cougars he pitched to.

While the Cougars chipped away, Arizona’s bats went silent after the 5-run fourth. Fourteen consecutive Wildcats were retired before McClaughry singled with one out in the ninth, but Bingham struck out and Susac flew to center to end the game.

Susac, who was 2 for 5 with an RBI, has sensed a lack of energy from his team of late, particularly from those not on the field.

“I think the dugout could be better,” he said. “I think that can always be better. I think a lot of teams you see, that grind out wins, a lot of times they have chirpy dugouts. Not in a bad way, chirp your own team. Get on your own guys, keep them going. I think, as a whole, I don’t think our dugout has been great.”

Susac said he doesn’t think the losing streak should affect how Arizona plays Sunday, or beyond.

“Take a shower, go to sleep, wake up, new mindset,” he said. “I think that’s all you can do. I think that’s the same with, if you’re playing baseball anywhere past this, it’s every day. Three losses in a row, you just gotta go win, start a new streak. I think we were at this exact same spot last, 7-5 to start the Pac. I think that ended pretty well last year.”

Hale would not name a starter for Sunday’s 12 p.m. PT series finale. If Dawson Netz, who missed his last start because of tendonitis, can’t go then either righty Chandler Murphy or Anthony Susac could get the nod.

Other changes could be happening, too, said Hale, who lightened the pregame workload Saturday thinking his team might be going through the college version of the dog days.

“Maybe that’s the problem,” he said. “If we’re not getting the job done, we’re gonna have to try other players.”