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Arizona baseball drops 10th straight Pac-12 game as pitching continues to struggle

Wildcats rallied from down 5-0 to lead in 8th before bullpen blew another one

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Arizona’s regular season is officially in its second half, and with each loss the chances of there being a postseason are dwindling.

The Wildcats dropped their 10th consecutive Pac-12 game on Friday night, losing 13-8 to Washington at Hi Corbett Field. It’s their longest skid in conference play since losing 12 straight in 1990.

Washington (19-8, 6-4) scored six runs in the top of the ninth inning off UA relievers Trevor Long and Derek Drees, with a 2-run home run by Will Simpson giving the Huskies the lead for good before adding insurance via a 2-run single and another 2-run homer.

Arizona (14-13, 3-10) allowed four homers, with Pac-12 opponents smacking 18 longballs during the skid.

“We’re just not making the pitch when we need to make it right now,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “We just have to find a way to stop the other team. We have to do a better job and we’re just not doing that.”

The UA trailed 5-0 in the third inning but rallied to tie the game at 6 in the bottom of the sixth on a 3-run homer by Mac Bingham, who had three hits and drove in four. The Wildcats then took an 8-7 lead in the bottom of the eighth with the benefit of two Washington errors on the same play after Nik McClaughry singled in Tommy Splaine to tie it, with Tony Bullard scoring the go-ahead run on a bad throw home.

Though that comeback proved to be for naught, Hale indicated it was a great sign of the team’s perseverance during the skid.

“I think that they’ve proven that over and over, that they’re not going to give up,” he said. “They keep fighting and they will keep fighting. There’ll be no give up, not as long as I’m here.”

Hale shook up the weekend rotation, starting sophomore right-hander Tonko Susac over junior TJ Nichols, whom he said is being moved to the bullpen. Susac only lasted three innings, though, allowing five runs with three walks and a 3-run homer in the first.

He was followed by redshirt freshman lefty Jackson Kent, who went a career-long 4.1 innings with five strikeouts.

“He made the one bad pitch for the home run, but other than that he did a good job,” Hale said.

That home run, by Washington’s AJ Guerrero, gave the Huskies a 7-6 lead in the top of the eighth. Kent would leave with one out for Dawson Netz, who got a strikeout and a flyout and was in line for the win after the UA’s rally in the bottom of the eighth.

Long, who also got the loss last Saturday when Arizona couldn’t hold a 10-0 lead after two innings, allowed a leadoff single and got a fly out before Simpson crushed one to dead center. He gave up two more hits before Drees entered and allowed a walk, a 2-run single and a solo homer in two-thirds of an inning.

Rather than speak to the team on the field afterward, like normal, Hale took them into the clubhouse. He said his message was simple.

“We’ve done a lot of things, and there’s a lot of things I’ve said to them, but in the end we just have to win the game and we have to battle,” he said. “We have to better than the other team and right now we haven’t been, which is unfortunate. I don’t really have any words for it. That’s what I told them at the end, I said if you don’t like losing then we have to do do a better job, and even score more runs if we have to. Let’s just find a way.”

Arizona and Washington meet again Friday at 6 p.m. PT, with lefty Bradon Zastrow going for the Wildcats. With Nichols out of the rotation, he may serve as a bridge to the rest of the bullpen either Friday or in Saturday’s finale like Kent did in the opener.