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Arizona baseball blown out by Oregon in series opener for 7th straight Pac-12 loss

Chip Hale misses game as part of ejection suspension

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Sometimes baseball can come down to simply hitting it where they ain’t instead of where they are. Oregon did plenty of the former, Arizona the latter, resulting in a lopsided loss for the Wildcats that was the seventh straight in Pac-12 play.

The Wildcats lost 15-3 to the Ducks on Friday night at Hi Corbett Field, snapping a 10-game home win streak and matching their worst skid in conference play since 2015-16.

Arizona (14-10, 3-7 Pac-12) played the game without head coach Chip Hale, who was serving the first half of a 2-game suspension stemming from his ejection during Tuesday’s extra-inning win over Grand Canyon. It couldn’t have been any easier for Hale to watch from home as his pitchers allowed season-highs in runs and hits while his offense couldn’t do much at the plate.

Oregon (16-7, 4-3) finished with 22 hits, 15 of which were either of the bunt/infield single variety or found a hole through the infield. Five of those came in a 7-run second to give the Ducks an 8-0 lead.

Arizona, on the other hand, finished with five hits and recorded 13 outs on balls hit in the air while nine Wildcats struck out.

“They had a good plan,” UA interim coach Dave Lawn said of Oregon, which has won seven in a row. “They were determined to stay in the middle of the field and not try to do too much and it worked. We’ve been getting outscored, but I wouldn’t say that we’re not hitting. You saw tonight, those first six innings, missiles all over the place.”

Chase Davis, who had three home runs in the previous two games, hit a 116-mph liner right into the glove of Oregon shortstop Drew Cowley, and Cowley also prevented Arizona from getting back into it in the bottom of the second when he dove up the middle for a bouncer off the bat of Tyler Casagrande and started a 6-4-3 double play.

“We were hitting it hard to right at people, just kind of missing those lucky hits and rally starters,” said catcher Cameron LaLiberte, who had two of the Wildcats’ hits.

TJ Nichols had his shortest start in almost two years, getting only four outs while allowing nine baserunners. He was tagged with eight runs, six hits, two walks and a hit batter.

Redshirt freshman lefty Jackson Kent finished out the second and ended up going a career-long 3.1 innings, allowing four runs and seven hits with a walk, then freshman righty Tony Pluta yielded two runs and six hits over 1.1 innings. George Arias Jr. allowed a solo homer to the first batter he faced but then allowed only one more hit over two frames and Casey Hintz threw a clean ninth.

It was the most runs Arizona allowed in Pac-12 play since losing 21-2 at Washington State in April 2021. That was as the tail end of a 3-game skid for the Wildcats, who would win their next 10 en route to a Pac-12 regular season title and a College World Series appearance.

“I refuse to sit there and be down on on this group of guys, particularly the pitchers, and think that they’re not what they were the first six weeks of the year,” said Lawn, who also addressed the team in place of Hale afterward. “I just told them hey, man, this game will bring out the best in you and it’ll bring out the worst in you. It’s easy when it’s easy, and it’s hard when it’s hard and it’s been really hard lately, but that doesn’t mean it has to be that way starting tomorrow.”

Arizona and Oregon play Game 2 Saturday at 6 p.m. PT, with lefty Bradon Zastrow scheduled to start for the Wildcats.