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Arizona baseball can’t hold early lead at ASU, drops 5th straight in Pac-12 play

arizona-wildcats-baseball-recap-asu-sun-devils-losing-streak-pac12-2023 Arizona Athletics

PHOENIX—In losing its first four Pac-12 road games this season, Arizona scored first only to give up the lead in the middle innings, yet still manage to bring the tying or go-ahead run to the plate in the ninth.

The Wildcats once again took an early lead on Saturday night, but the fifth straight conference loss didn’t include any potential for a late-inning comeback.

Arizona lost 7-4 at ASU in front of 5,753 fans at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, its ninth consecutive Pac-12 road setback dating back to last season. A loss Sunday to the Sun Devils would mark a third straight time getting swept on the road in league play.

“We’re not playing very good baseball,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “We’re not playing well. Not making pitches when we need, not making plays when we need to. Just not playing good baseball.”

Arizona (13-8, 3-5 Pac-12) scored three runs in the top of the second, getting a bases-loaded flyout from Emilio Corona and a 2-out, 2-run single from Mac Bingham. It led 2-0 after the first inning at ASU on Friday, only to fall 6-5, and in all three losses at UCLA last weekend had the early lead.

The Wildcats didn’t score again until the eighth, when they were down 6-3, and had just one of their seven hits after the third while ASU (15-8, 4-1) took control with a 5-run sixth.

UA starter Braden Zastrow looked good the first three innings, allowing a run on two hits with four strikeouts, but didn’t get an out in the fourth. He yielded back-to-back singles and then left with the bases loaded after a sacrifice attempt that resulted in everyone being safe.

Eric Orloff came on and struck the first two batters out, then induced a short fly from Wyatt Crenshaw that Bingham laid out to snare and keep it a 3-1 game.

It was the second stellar defensive play of the game for Bingham, who was 2 for 4 with two RBI at the plate to take over the team lead with 28 RBI.

Orloff threw a scoreless fifth and came back out for the sixth, marking only the second time this season he’s pitched in three different innings in a game. The other time, opening weekend against UC-San Diego, the first three batters reached against Orloff in that third inning, which may have factored into Hale’s decision to go to the bullpen after Orloff allowed a leadoff single.

“Just trying to win a game,” Hale said.

Freshman Casey Hintz took over and immediately ran into bad luck, as ASU’s Willie Cano appeared to have drawn a walk only to have the first base umpire say he went around on a 3-1 checked swing. Cano singled through the right side on the next pitch, giving the Sun Devils runners on the corners, and a sacrifice bunt brought in a run to make it 3-2.

The next batter, Isaiah Jackson, doubled off Kiko Romero’s glove and up the first base line to tie the game at 3, prompting Hale to bring in Dawson Netz. Netz hit Crenshaw with his first pitch, a call that was upheld by replay, then Nu’u Contrades crushed a 3-run home run to put the Sun Devils up 6-3.

Contrades, a freshman, was 3 for 5 with five RBI after going 0 for 4 on Friday, while the two hitters that gave Arizona so much trouble in the series opener—Ryan Campos and Luke Keaschall—were a combined 0 for 7.

Arizona will send right-hander Aiden May to the mound for Sunday’s 4 p.m. PT finale, and there will be at least one lineup change. Hale said third baseman Tony Bullard, who was hit in the helmet by a pitch to lead off the fourth, suffered a concussion.