Some things are too cruel to be April Fool’s Day jokes. This one happened to be the real thing.
Arizona couldn’t hold on to a 10-run lead after two innings, losing 13-11 to Oregon before a season-high 4,436 fans on Saturday night at Hi Corbett Field.
It was the eighth consecutive Pac-12 loss for the Wildcats (14-11, 3-8), the longest skid since dropping nine in a row in 1998. And they have also allowed 47 runs in the past four games, tied for the most in a 4-game span since doing so in April/May 2019.
Ten of those runs came against Arizona’s bullpen, with four of the five relievers giving up at least one run. Closer Trevor Long was tagged with the loss after giving up three in the ninth, but the struggles on the mound began much earlier.
Left-hander Bradon Zastrow navigated plenty of traffic on the bases, and a pair of fielding errors, to go the first five, giving up three unearned runs while striking out six. Right-hander Dawson Netz followed by giving up two in the sixth, then lefty Eric Orloff and righty Chris Barraza each failed to retire a batter in the seventh. Righty Derek Drees allowed only one hit in 1.2 innings before Long finished off the eighth and then gave up the lead in the ninth.
All of those relievers, who until recently had been Arizona’s most effective, will be available for Sunday’s finale according to pitching coach Dave Lawn.
“They can’t hang their heads because we’ll come right back to them tomorrow,” said Lawn, who was serving as interim coach for the second straight game while head coach Chip Hale served a suspension.
Hale must have loved the start of the game watching from home, as Arizona got the first six batters on base in the bottom of the first to go up 4-0. It got the first four on base in the second, then five in a row with two outs, putting six runs on the board to make it 10-0.
But as Oregon (17-7, 5-3) chipped away, scoring 10 runs between the third and seventh innings, Arizona only managed to get one more across the plate. That came in the sixth on a 2-out double from Mac Bingham, who had four of the Wildcats’ 17 hits, to make it 11-5 at the time.
Arizona had 10 baserunners after the second inning, including bases loaded with one out in the fifth only to have Garen Caulfield’s bouncer die in front of the plate and start a double play, but for the most part struggled against Oregon’s bullpen.
“What (Oregon) did with those guys that came in after (the starter) is what beats everybody,” Lawn said. “They moved the fastball around and they commanded the change and they commanded the breaking ball down in the zone, and that got us.”
Every Wildcat had at least one hit, but in the ninth it was a 2-out walk to Chase Davis and Kiko Romero getting hit by a pitch that put the tying runs on base. Tommy Splaine wasn’t able to come through, though, grounding one up the middle that Oregon shortstop Drew Crowley chased down and threw to first to end it.
Arizona’s players were visibly upset afterward, but Lawn said he expects all that to be gone when Sunday’s 1 p.m. PT finale starts.
“I like where we’re going to be after the end of nine innings tomorrow,” he said. “People come out tomorrow and see a team that’s going to play their butts off and bring it. Way too much, still, to play for. Way too much.”