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Arizona baseball crushes Air Force to snap skid, extend home win streak

9 in a row at Hi Corbett

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It’s probably not going to work, but Arizona might want to petition the Pac-12 to have the conference tournament (and its last road series) moved to Hi Corbett Field.

The Wildcats shook off their winless road trip, which featured three walkoff losses, by getting back to their old ways in a 16-4 win over Air Force on Friday night.

It was Arizona’s ninth consecutive home win, one off a 10-game home streak earlier this season. The UA (24-19) is 19-6 at Hi Corbett, compared to 5-13 elsewhere including 1-11 in Pac-12 road games.

“This is something we’ve talked about ad nauseam, maybe it’s too much but the offense is real comfortable here,” Arizona coach Chip Hale said. “They swing the bat well, we see the ball well. We need to do a better job on the road, we know that, but we’ll take advantage of whatever we can get here.”

Arizona collected a season-high 22 hits, its most since getting 24 at Washington State in May 2019. Five players had at least three, with Mac Bingham and Kiko Romero having four apiece. Romero also scored four runs and drove in six, the last four on a grand slam in the eighth inning to give him 64 RBI this season.

“I don’t really try to drive runs in, I just try to hit,” said Romero, who is on pace to challenge the single-season school record of 86 RBI depending on how many postseason games Arizona plays. “There seems to be runners on base.”

Any amount of runs has usually been plenty with Cam Walty on the mound, though last time out his seven shutout innings weren’t enough as Arizona lost 2-1 at Oregon State. Air Force (22-25) became the first team to score against Walty since he moving into the starting rotation, getting a 2-run homer in the top of the first to end his scoreless inning streak at 22.1 innings.

That ties Nathan Bannister’s scoreless mark from 2016 as the longest by an Arizona pitcher in the past decade. He ended up going seven, allowing three runs and seven hits with eight strikeouts, improving to 2-0 in five appearances against Air Force including four from his two seasons at Nevada.

“Me and CL (pitching coach Dave Lawn) had kind of talked about the approaches because I’ve faced a lot of those hitters before, and kind of what pitches had worked, because the last time I pitched against them I did pretty well,” said Walty, who is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA in five starts, allowing three runs in 27 innings with 32 strikeouts.

Each subsequent outing from Walty begs the question of how different Arizona’s season would have gone had he been healthy at the start of the year. An oblique strain suffered at the end of preseason delayed his UA debut until early March, and as a reliever.

“I don’t lose sleep over it,” Hale said. “In ‘86 when we won it, we were not very good till the end. So we’ll see how it goes. It’s not over, and Cam is going to be a huge part of this deal.”