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Arizona baseball swept at Oregon State after bullpen squanders multiple late leads

The bullpen is back to its old (bad) tricks

arizona-wildcats-baseball-osu-beavers-final-score-sweep-recap-walked-off-corvallis-pac12-2023 Arizona Athletics

Entering Sunday, no opponent had scored more than six runs against Oregon State at Goss Stadium. Arizona eclipsed that mark after six innings, building a 7-2 lead.

Then the Wildcat bullpen took over, and promptly fell apart like it has so many times this season.

Oregon State scored five runs in the bottom of the eighth to take a 1-run lead, then after falling behind by two in the top of the ninth walked Arizona off for the second time in three games for an 11-10 victory. Both go-ahead hits for the Beavers were by Garrett Forrester, who was 5 for 6 with five RBI, and each came after the previous batter was intentionally walked to load the bases with two out.

Arizona (23-18, 9-15 Pac-12) suffered its fourth sweep in conference play this season, third on the road, and fell to 2-11 in road games with another coming Tuesday at Grand Canyon. The Wildcats lost for only the second time this year when scoring 10 or more runs.

It was the second time against the Beavers (30-13, 14-10) that the UA blew a lead late, though technically this time the Wildcats did so twice. On Friday night it squandered seven shutout frames from Cam Walty, getting walked off 2-1 in the ninth. Arizona had entered the weekend 21-1 in games it led after seven innings.

The loss spoiled a tremendous individual performance from right fielder Emilio Corona, who had three home runs and RBI including the go-ahead 3-run blast in the ninth after Arizona had blown a 5-run lead. Corona, who had three homers entering the day, is the first UA player with a 3-homer game since CJ Ziegler in 2008 and the first to drive in eight runs since Moises Duran in 2002.

Corona’s first homer, a 2-run shot, put Arizona up 2-1 in the second, and he launched a 3-run bomb in the third to make it 5-1. That provided a nice cushion for right-hander Aiden May, who went six innings and allowed two runs on six hits with four walks and a career-high nine strikeouts. He fell behind 1-0 after two batters but settled down and had one of his best outings of the season.

But once the ball was turned over to Arizona’s relievers, the tide turned.

TJ Nichols, who had been the Friday night starter until a few weeks ago, allowed a solo homer in the seventh and then walked the first batter of the eighth before giving up a 2-run shot to make it 7-5. Derek Drees then came in and walked both Beavers he faced before getting replaced by Trevor Long.

Long retired the first two OSU batters before Arizona opted to intentionally walk Travis Bazzana to load the bases, and then Forrester fouled off a few 2-strike pitches from Long before roping a 3-run double to left for an 8-7 lead going to the ninth.

Arizona got 1-out singles from Nik McClaughry and Chase Davis, then with 2-out Corona crushed an 0-1 pitch down the left field line for a 10-8 lead.

Chris Barraza, Arizona’s fourth reliever, gave up a walk and a double to start the bottom of the ninth, walked the bases loaded with one out. A 2-run bloop single tied the game, then with two down the Wildcats again intentionally walked Bazzana and Forrester singled to right on the next pitch for the walkoff.

Including the free passes, Arizona pitchers walked 12 OSU batters. The previous high this season was seven, and the Wildcats came in averaging just 3.32 walks per nine innings.

Arizona would have to win its remaining six Pac-12 games to avoid its first losing conference record since 2018. Its next five contests are nonconference affairs, though, starting with Tuesday at Grand Canyon before hosting Air Force for three at Hi Corbett Field next weekend and then Nevada at home on May 10.