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Pitching, defense, weather take center stage in Arizona baseball’s home finale series vs. Oregon State

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Arizona has not committed an error in its last five games, the second time that’s happened since mid-April. This may not seem like a big deal, but considering the Wildcats lead the Pac-12 with 54 errors it’s quite the accomplishment.

And staying clean in the field can only help the UA as it prepares to take on first place Oregon State this weekend in its final series of the regular season at Hi Corbett Field.

The Beavers (39-9, 18-6) lead the nation in fielding percentage at .989, committing just 19 errors. They’ve only had seven unearned runs, compared to 46 for Arizona, but don’t give up many runs in general.

OSU’s team ERA is 3.45, seventh-best in the country, and in Pac-12 play that number dips to 2.85. It strikes out more than 10.2 batters per nine innings in conference games, with only 52 walks issued in 217.2 conference innings.

Arizona’s Pac-12 ERA is 5.03 and it has walked nearly twice as many batters (100) as the Beavers.

All those numbers point to OSU having a distinct advantage on paper, but the playing conditions could favor Arizona.

“Now, they’re gonna have to play on grass and dirt, which is different for them,” UA coach Chip Hale said of OSU, which has an artificial turf field in Corvallis. “So we’ll see how it goes. And it’s going to be a little warmer than they’re used to.”

The forecasted temperature at first pitch for Friday’s 7 p.m. PT opener is 88 degrees, while Saturday’s 6 p.m. PT starting temp is expected to be 98 and Sunday’s forecast high is 102. The Beavers haven’t played a game this season when the temperature was above 80, while Arizona’s last home game May 1 against Nevada had a first-pitch temp of 90.

Maybe the heat could neutralize OSU ace Cooper Hjerpe, a left-hander who is 9-1 with a 2.08 ERA. He’s struck out 120 batters against just 14 walks in 73.2 innings and hasn’t allowed more than three runs in a game all season.

“We tried to look at all the teams that he’s pitched against, and has anybody had any success, and tried to sort of, maybe we’ll try to go with that approach, and there’s just not a whole lot there,” Hale said. “So you gotta hope that everybody has an off night, and maybe it’ll be here in Tucson.”

Any wins over OSU, which is No. 2 in the RPI, will be a boost to Arizona’s postseason resume. The Wildcats’ RPI is 40, causing them to dip to a No. 3 regional seed in both Baseball America and D1Baseball’s NCAA Tournament projections.

O’Tremba earns academic honor

Junior right fielder Tanner O’Tremba was selected to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team on Thursday, making him eligible for Academic All-American honors. He’s the Wildcats’ first academic district honoree since Brad Mills in 2007.

O’Tremba, who received his degree in psychology from the UA on Thursday, has a 4.0 grade point average and was a Pac-12 Spring Academic Honor Roll recipient in 2021.

He’s also leading the Wildcats in batting at .368, with his 74 hits second-most on the team. O’Tremba’s 46 RBI are also second on the team.