Arizona Baseball

Arizona pitching comes up short in series-opening loss to Utah

Jay Johnson

Arizona may lead the Pac-12 in nearly every hitting category, but it’s rarely said that offense wins championships.

The Wildcats began their series against Utah on Thursday night with a 19-1 home record. Arizona lost its perfection at home last Thursday against Oregon in a blowout, and the series opener against Utah carried the same theme.

Arizona (26-10, 9-7) burned through six pitchers who gave up 12 runs in nine innings to emphasize the Wildcats’ need for a stability in a starting pitcher and a stronger defense behind him.

“We didn’t get a very good pitching performance tonight probably by anybody,” coach Jay Johnson said after the 12-5 loss at Hi Corbett Field.

The Wildcats have focused on improving their fielding this season and have been making gains. But the Wildcats committed two errors Thursday night, which further undermined the 18 hits allowed by the pitching staff.

Thursday’s game started well when Alfonso Rivas hit a solo home run that barely got over the right field wall. Stopping at second, Rivas was encouraged by the umpire’s twirling finger to finish his trip around the bases.

The early 1-0 lead was short lived.

Utah (15-17, 6-10) put runs on the boards every time from the from the second to the eighth innings. The Wildcats shuffled through their bullpen after starting pitcher Randy Labaut went 1 2/3 innings. The pen consisted of five members who collectively had a 5.80 ERA, but that would increase following the game.

“We didn’t pitch good,” Johnson restated. “We didn’t want a few guys to come up with runners on base, and it seemed like those guys were always coming up with runners on base.”

While the pitchers gave up six runs through five innings, Arizona’s offense battled back with five runs of its own.

But the Utes scored two runs in the sixth inning for an 8-4 lead, and their reliever, Jacob Rebar, followed with the first one-two-three inning of the game. The Wildcats would not rally back.

Johnson complimented Utah’s hitting effort.

“We were shifted a couple times and the ball didn’t go where we were shifted. That’s credit to them being able to use the whole field,” he said.

To make matters worse, the Wildcats’ batting lineup was filled up with 0’s as well. The top half of the lineup kept their averages stabilized by each having at least one hit, but the bottom faltered against Utah’s draft prospect Jayson Rose. Cesar Salazar’s single in the fourth inning came as the only hit for the bottom half of the lineup.

“We were a hit away three or four times,” Johnson said about the potential to get back into the game. “We couldn’t finish.”

The series resumes Friday night when JC Cloney takes the mound for Arizona.

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