The chances to see Arizona play at home this season are running out, so you better hurry up and get down to Hi Corbett Field while you can. And make sure not to show up after the first pitch, since the games themselves have been a lot quicker than in the past.
The Wildcats, who play their final nonconference game on Tuesday night against Grand Canyon, are averaging 24 fewer minutes per contest than in 2021. The contrast is even more stark at Hi Corbett, where in 27 games this spring the average time has been 3:01 compared to 3:30 a year ago.
Only six of 39 home games in 2021 took less than three hours, while this year there have already been 11 sub-2 hour games at Hi Corbett.
What’s the secret to the speedier outcomes? Let’s call it The Chip Hale Effect.
The first-year head coach seems to do everything at a much swifter pace than predecessor Jay Johnson, who had a reputation as a micromanager in all facets of the game. Hale is just as hands on, but the amount of times he makes in-game changes is a fraction compares to Johnson, who never shied away from swapping out multiple pitchers in one half of an inning and sending up multiple pinch-hitters in the other half.
Yes, Johnson’s teams also played higher scoring games—Arizona’s games in 2022 are resulting in nearly two fewer runs per game than last year—but even the lowest-scoring affairs during the Johnson era could cause time to stand still.
For example, when Garrett Irvin tossed a 3-hit shutout against UC Santa Barbara in the NCAA regionals last June, that 4-0 win took 3:02. This season the Wildcats have played seven games where 10 or more runs were scored and the last out was recodred less than three hours after the first pitch.
And before you think one approach is far better (or worse) than the other, consider that at this point in 2021 the UA sported a 33-13 record. The Wildcats’ mark entering Tuesday night: 32-14.
After Tuesday, Arizona’s remaining nine games are all in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats visit USC, host Oregon State and end at Oregon. At 13-8, they’re 2 games behind OSU for first place, one behind UCLA and tied with Oregon.