Arizona’s pitching let it down numerous times last season, and Chip Hale knew changes needed to be made. Though it’s only the fall, it already looks like those changes are paying off.
Eight Wildcat pitchers combined to limit Mexico pro team Naranjeros de Hermosillo to five hits in a 3-1 win on Thursday night in the Mexican Baseball Fiesta at Kino Stadium. It was Arizona’s first win in four tries in the event, having tied in 2018 and 2022 and lost in 2021.
“Really, really happy with the pitching,” Hale said. “We’ve seen Coach (Kevin) Vance and Coach (John) DeRouin are really doing a great job teaching these guys some new pitches, and just the pitch call was fantastic.”
Five returning arms and three newcomers combined to allow one unearned run while striking out 10 and issuing zero walks. The trio of new arms were all junior college transfers: righties Raul Garayzar and Matthew Martinez from South Mountain CC and lefty Alessando Castro from Pima. Garayzar was one of four pitchers with two strikeouts, joining returners Tonko Susac, Bradon Zastrow and Tony Pluta, while Jackson Kent threw two perfect innings to start and senior Trevor Long closed it out in the bottom of the ninth after Arizona took the lead in the top of the inning.
Arizona had 12 hits, three by junior Garen Caulfield, but left eight men on base and were 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position in the first eight inning. In the ninth, though, redshirt freshman Xavier Esquer reached on an infield single with one out and advanced to second on a throwing error, moving to third on a wild pitch.
Freshmen Zach Plasschaert and Easton Breyfogle followed with walks to load the bases, and then after a fly out that wasn’t deep enough to tag on Emilio Corona plated two with a single to left.
“Emilio Corona again, when it’s money time, that’s when he comes through,” Hale said of Corona, who began the game with three strikeouts before getting hits in his final two at-bats.
Corona, Caulfield and Tommy Splaine were the only regulars from last season to play in the field Thursday, as sophomore Mason White sat with a minor arm injury that could keep him out of the rest of fall ball. Arizona had newcomers, redshirt freshmen or lightly used sophomores at five other spots, and the mixing and matching to find the best fits will be a big emphasis the rest of the fall.
“We’re trying to find out where guys are going to play, because we’re so new,” Hale said. “Position-wise we’re so new.”
Arizona has two more fall exhibitions on tap, hosting Pima on Oct. 14 and Central Arizona on Oct. 21. Both games at Hi Corbett Field have 1 p.m. PT starts and are open to the public.