PHOENIX—Winning on the road is never easy. For Arizona, at least in Pac-12 play, it’s become impossible.
The Wildcats lost 10-6 at rival ASU on Sunday afternoon at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, getting swept by the Sun Devils for the first time since 2019. That was also the last time they lost six in a row in conference play, and like this year those were all on the road.
“We’re getting beat up pretty good on the road,” said UA coach Chip Hale, whose team was swept at UCLA last weekend and has dropped 10 consecutive Pac-12 road games, losing 13 of 14 on the road in league play since starting 6-1 last season. “Obviously (ASU) did a better job. They outcoached us, they outplayed us. That’s just the way it works sometimes. They just were the better team this weekend.”
Arizona pitchers gave up four home runs on Sunday, seven for the series, after coming into the weekend with only 12 homers allowed in 19 games. Hale said it was a combination of leaving pitches up and some sliders hanging, but the conditions also contributed.
“I said this before the series, the team knew this, but this ballpark sits exactly the opposite of Hi Corbett,” he said. “You see the wind blew out all series. They took advantage of it, we couldn’t really take much advantage of it. Chase’s (home run) would have gone out anywhere, out of Yellowstone.”
Chase Davis nuked a 3-run shot over the ASU bullpen in right to put Arizona (13-9, 3-6 Pac-12) up 3-2 in the top of the third inning, but the Sun Devils (16-8, 5-1) came right back with two in the bottom of the frame. They tied it with the first of those four homers, with UA starter Aiden May yielding three in four-plus innings.
The Wildcats tried to mount a late rally, scoring three in the eighth to turn a 10-3 game into a 4-run deficit thanks to a 2-run double from Kiko Romero and a Garen Caulfield sacrifice fly. They had four of their eight hits in that inning, with none in between Davis’ homer and then.
“What I try to tell all our guys, if we can win more pitches than the other team, we’re probably going to come out on top,” said UA shortstop Nik McClaughry, who was 3 for 4 after entering the day 3 for 33 in Pac-12 play. “I think right now we’re just not winning those big pitches. So I think staying with it and winning as many as you can—if you don’t win one pitch then get to the next pitch and try win that one—I think that’s all we can do.”
After the game, Hale appeared animated when talking to his team huddled around him in left field. He said it didn’t go how you’d think.
“It might sound funny, but I’m very proud of these guys,” Hale said. “They battled their tails off the whole weekend. It’s a tough place to play. I mean, there’s a lot of verbal abuse, and I just think we have a bunch of classy guys. We have to push through and play better, we know that, but I’m very proud of the of the effort they gave.”
While Arizona is 1-6 in true road games this season—it won at Grand Canyon on March 7 during a 9-game win streak—it is 9-2 at Hi Corbett Field, where the next eight contests are scheduled. That starts with a Tuesday visit from Grand Canyon, which was ranked this week, then is followed by Pac-12 series against Oregon and Washington.
Oregon swept the Wildcats in Eugene to end the regular season last year, while Washington just took two of three at UCLA.
“It doesn’t get any easier, whether it’s home or away,” Hale said.
The key to turning things around?
“Find a way to win,” he said. “I don’t care how it is, just find a way to win. Things turn. Baseball turns. When things seem to bleakest a lot, that’s when it’ll turn around and maybe something is going to happen.”
McClaughry said Arizona may have fallen victim this weekend to “playing against the scoreboard,” which he said meant being too mindful of the opponent and not focusing on themselves. He said that wasn’t the case before the recent skid.
“I think we just need to remember how good we were when we won nine straight games,” he said. “We were hitting the ball really good. Pitching was good, defense was good. And I think sometimes we tend to forget that when stuff like this happens. So I think it’s important, especially the younger guys, to remind them that they’re good players and just stay with it. Stuff’s gonna happen. Good stuff’s gonna happen, not just bad stuff.”