There’s something about playing Mountain West Conference teams at home on a Saturday night in the middle of Pac-12 play.
Arizona was shut out 5-0 by Air Force on Saturday night, ending a 9-game home win streak during which it had scored 128 runs. The shutout was the second of the year against the Wildcats, joining a 5-0 loss to Fresno State in Mesa on the second day of the season, and came just over a year after they were blanked at home by Nevada—and current UA pitcher Cam Walty—to end a run of 216 consecutive games in the scoring column.
“We should not get shut out in our ballpark,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “That’s just unacceptable.”
A night after Arizona had five players with at least three hits, and 22 overall as a team, the Wildcats were limited to a 1-out double by Cameron LaLiberte in the third and a leadoff single from Chase Davis in the 6th. Both of those were against Air Force starter Doyle Gehring, who came in with a 6.22 ERA but went six innings with four walks and three strikeouts.
Falcons closer Sawyer Hawkes followed with three hitless innings, giving up a walk in the seventh and striking out five.
Arizona’s only real scoring chance came in the third when LaLiberte’s double and a pair of walks loaded the bases for Pac-12 RBI leader Kiko Romero. Romero had a grand slam as part of a 6-RBI effort Friday, but on a 3-2 pitch was caught looking.
“He had a good at-bat and the guy just made a good pitch,” Hale said. “We swung the bat well early, we hit a lot of balls hard. We had some guys out there, but we couldn’t get it done.”
UA starter Bradon Zastrow, who was 3-0 with a 3.56 ERA in six previous home starts, was the tough-luck loser. The left-hander allowed four runs over a season-high 6.1 innings but only two were earned because of a pair of errors.
After Air Force (23-25) went up 2-0 in the third on a solo home run and a delayed double steal of home, a 2-out grounder to Mason White at second base was booted, allowing the Falcons to go up 3-0.
It became 4-0 in the seventh when, after catching a throw from Tony Bullard on a sacrifice bunt, Romero fired to second to try and catch the lead runner. But shortstop Nik McClaughry was not expecting the throw, which sailed into left, moving the runner to third, and he came home on a sacrifice fly.
Hale said it wasn’t surprising that both errors came back to bite Arizona.
“We were not prepared to play today,” Hale said. “It’s my fault. Our staff’s fault. We did not have these guys ready to go.”
Arizona can go for the series win Sunday at 1 p.m. PT, with righty Aiden May (4-2, 5.67) on the mound. A flyover, featuring two F-35 Lightning IIs and two F-16 Fighting Falcons, is scheduled for 12:50 p.m.