Arizona is in the hunt for a second straight Pac-12 title, sitting two games out of first place with three weekends to go. But the Wildcats may have already played a better opponent than anyone they’ll face down the stretch or in the Pac-12 Tournament later this month.
“They’re as good as any of them, and they beat all of them,” UA coach Chip Hale said of Grand Canyon, who beat the Wildcats 11-7 at Hi Corbett Field on Tuesday night. “It was a good 3-game series and they beat us.”
The Antelopes (31-15) took two of three from Arizona, winning multiple games in the season series for the first time since 1993. Grand Canyon also has wins this season over ASU, Oregon State, Stanford and Texas Tech.
“I think this year, they’re a top-two team we’ve played,” catcher Daniel Susac said. “Them and Texas State, I think those are the two best teams we’ve played all year.”
Arizona (32-15) lost a game it led or was tied in after eight innings for just the third time this season, giving up four runs in the top of the ninth. Those came off closer Trevor Long, who after going 11 consecutive outings without allowing a run has been tagged for six in his last two appearances.
“The greatest thing about relievers is to have a short memory,” Hale said of Long, whose ERA had grown from 0.73 to 2.67. “So he’s gonna have to have a short memory. We’re gonna need him.”
The ninth started very badly for the UA when left fielder Chase Davis misplayed a slicing line drive and let it get past him for a triple. Grand Canyon brought that run in with a single through a drawn-in infield, but then another single was followed by a 3-run home run by Tayler Aguilar.
Aguilar also had a 2-run homer in the top of the first and finished 4 for 5.
GCU led 4-1 in the third before Arizona scored single runs in the third and fourth to get within 4-3. The Antelopes added two in the sixth and another in the seventh, both on triples, to make it 7-3.
A 2-out RBI double by Tanner O’Tremba in the seventh got Arizona within three, then it scored three times in the eighth before an out was recorded. Mac Bingham led off with a single, extending his on-base streak to 33 games, then scored one pitch later on a Garen Caulfield double.
After a pitching change, Tommy Splaine tripled into the gap in left-center after GCU left fielder Cade Verdusco—who robbed Bingham of extra bases in the second—couldn’t hang onto the ball after a dive. Caulfield scored on that play to make it 7-6, then Tony Bullard singled him in to tie it.
Tyler Casagrande pinc hit for Noah Turley to try and move Bullard into scoring position but after an 0-1 bunt attempt went just foul up the third base line he struck out. Nik McClaughry followed with a strikeout, then O’Tremba got under one that he flew out to left.
Susac, who was 2 for 3 with two RBI for his 27th multi-hit game of the season, said Arizona’s ability to come back on multiple occasions showed heart.
“I think I kind of got a glimpse of last year’s team where we were never out of it,” he said. “I think that’s gonna be big for us down the stretch.”
Arizona plays only Pac-12 teams the rest of the regular season, beginning Friday at last-place USC (22-20, 6-15).