clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

NCAA Baseball: Arizona’s pitching has improved, but still struggling to put batters away

arizona-wildcats-baseball-ncaa-tournament-tcu-horned-frogs-pitching-cam-walty-2023-fayetteville Arizona Athletics

With a team ERA of 5.87, Arizona has one of the worst pitching staffs in the NCAA Tournament field. But over the last eight games, including the run to the Pac-12 final, the Wildcats have allowed four or fewer earned runs six times.

That includes holding regular-season conference champ Stanford, which had scored at least six runs in 17 straight games, to four in a mercy-rule victory in the Pac-12 semifinals. Since that ridiculous 21-20 win over the Cardinal on May 14, which started the late push to the postseason, Arizona’s pitchers have been holding up their end of the bargain more than at any point since the first few weeks of the season.

“To see the pitchers come around and do what they need to do, it’s super awesome,” Chase Davis said after the Pac-12 semifinal win over Stanford, which saw Bradon Zastrow throw a complete game.

But though the improvement has been noticeable, there are still some areas where Arizona’s pitchers continue to struggle. Namely, with two out and/or two strikes.

“There’s no doubt that has been an issue all year, the 0-2, 1-2 hanger has really cost us,” UA coach Chip Hale said.

While three of Arizona’s four Pac-12 games could be considered well-pitched ones, each included at least one scenario where a pitcher had a batter on the ropes in a key situation but let them off the hook. Two of the three runs Aiden May allowed in the final against Oregon came with two outs and two strikes, and Cam Walty gave up five consecutive 2-out hits (two on 2-strike counts) as Oregon State scored four in the top of the first in the second game of pool play.

“I think that’s kind of been something that has been getting me the last couple outings, and I think just the ability to get the first two outs needs to be (my) same intensity to get that third out,” said Walty, who is likely to start Arizona’s first game against TCU.

As a staff, Wildcat pitchers have a .284 batting average against with 2 out (compared to .303 overall). Opponents are hitting .388 against Walty with 2 out.

It’s one thing to give up 2-out hits when behind in the count, it’s another to bail out the batter with a 2-strike pitch too close to the zone.

“We’ve tried to stress to them ... if they get a slider or a change up, just get it down in the dirt,” Hale said. “We’ve had a hard time doing that. And I thought we did a better job on Saturday night of bouncing some balls and trusting the catchers to block them.”

Walty admits there have been times where he’s gotten too close to the plate in pitchers’ counts, but he’s also not one to waste pitches when he can finish off a batter quickly. He has far and away Arizona’s best strikeout-to-walk ratio, with 48 Ks to 8 BBs.

“There’s a lot of ways that hitters get themselves out, so I think just giving them a chance to kind of throw strikes and allow them to beat themselves,” he said. “You have a lot better chance of getting outs than when you’re trying to get them to chase.”

TCU, which hits .295 as a team, is .287 with two out.