If Arizona ends up turning around this season, consider the past two games when it rounded that corner.
The Wildcats put together arguably their most complete performance of the season on Saturday afternoon, routing Washington 13-1 at Hi Corbett Field to take the weekend series. Combined with Friday’s 12-4 win it marked their first consecutive victories since a 9-game win streak in late February and the first half of March.
The UA (16-13, 5-10 Pac-12) pounded out 17 hits, getting at least one from every batter in the lineup, while scoring its most runs in a conference game since beating ASU 14-4 last April. The Wildcats also got strong performances from all four pitchers, holding Washington (19-10, 6-6) to six hits and the fewest runs of any conference foe since May 21 when Garrett Irvin threw a complete game against the Huskies.
Throw in another errorless performance, with highlight-reel defensive plays by shortstop Nik McClaughry and Chase Davis, and Arizona did it all.
“Pitching is so much easier when you have a defense like that behind you,” said UA right-hander Aiden May, who allowed a run on five hits with five strikeouts over five innings.
May, who came in with a 7.09 ERA, got 12 swinging strikes mostly with a slider that he said was doing a lot more for him than normal.
“Normally it’s pretty just horizontally moving, there’s not a lot of depth to it, but today I feel like it had some depth to it and drop on it,” he said. “I feel like that was kind of keeping them off balance a little bit and I was putting them in good spots and they weren’t touching it. I used it a lot and it was pretty effective.”
May left when it was only 2-1, as Arizona had stranded eight runners over the first five with its scoring coming on a 2-run home run from Emilio Corona. But the Wildcats scored two in the sixth, two in the seventh and seven in the eighth.
Arizona was 11 of 24 with runners on base, getting 15 men on with two out and scoring five runs with two out.
“I think that’s just been sort of the mantra of all of us since this thing kind of got kind of shaky for us,” coach Chip Hale said. “We always preach the process over the outcome. So whatever the outcome is, just keep pushing, keep attacking, keep battling.”
Corona finished with five RBI from the No. 9 spot, and for the weekend was 5 of 11 with a homer, seven RBI and five runs scored against his former team.
“This one definitely meant a little more to me, for sure,” said Corona, who played at Pima College last season after spending 2021 with the Huskies. “It’s definitely easier to get more fired up and ready to go.”
Arizona actually didn’t need any of its late runs since its bullpen—for the first time in a while—was lights out. The trio of Eric Orloff, Dawson Netz and Chris Barraza allowed three baserunners in four innings, with Orloff retiring all six batters he faced and Barraza striking out three in a row following a hit batter.
Both had struggled recently, with Orloff failing to get an out in his previous two outings and Barraza allowing five runs in his last three appearances.
“Eric, I thought, had a huge step forward,” Hale said. “He had been so good for us and then had struggled, and to get the two clean innings was was huge for him. Chris threw on Tuesday in an intrasquad game and was doing the same thing, was throwing 98 mph. He’s pitching with a little edge, a little different. So hopefully we see that the rest of the way.”
Arizona completes its 8-game homestand with a Tuesday matchup against New Mexico State before heading to Washington State, which was swept at ASU this weekend. The Wildcats have are 1-6 on the road this season, the only win coming at Grand Canyon, and have dropped 10 straight Pac-12 road games.