Arizona Baseball

No. 11 Arizona dominated by Grand Canyon in home opener

The Chip Hale Era made its official home debut Tuesday night at Hi Corbett Field, but it was not the start many expected after an exciting 3-0 showing in the State Farm College Baseball Showdown in Arlington, Texas.

The Wildcats lost 19-3 to Grand Canyon (2-2).

Arizona, which came into tonight’s game ranked No. 11 in the country after its dominant performances in Texas, struggled offensively against GCU pitcher Connor Markl.

A combination of errors in the field and the Antelopes taking advantage of young Wildcat pitching put Arizona in a hole early. Arizona found itself trailing 6-0 after three innings.

The four errors committed by the Wildcats is the most since a March 5, 2019, game against Michigan State.

Arizona starter Eric Orloff was knocked out of the game after just 1 2/3 innings of action. Orloff, a freshman, was making his collegiate debut.

Orloff’s first pitch was smacked by Elijah Buries for a single to left, and the Antelopes only continued the attack through the first few innings.

Markl lasted five innings, only giving up three hits and one earned run on 78 pitches.

Once Orloff was taken out, Arizona went to another freshman, Tommy Splaine, who is not only listed as a pitcher, but a first baseman and catcher. Splaine lasted only 1 1/3 innings before being replaced.

The decision to use Splaine prevented Hale from being able to use him as a catcher to give Daniel Susac a rest in a blowout game, which is something Hale had alluded to doing this season. With Splaine pitching, it would have only left one catcher active for the Wildcats had they removed Susac from the game, Cameron Laliberte.

Hale says the staff will look at their catcher situation more closely moving forward.

“If Laliberte gets hit with a foul ball, we don’t have anyone else to catch. So we’ll have to rethink some of that stuff,” Hale said.

The Wildcats settled down to start the fourth inning, and it seemed like they had stopped the bleeding and were looking to chip away at the six-run deficit.

The Wildcats cut into the deficit in the fifth inning on a dropped Tanner O’Tremba third strike by GCU catcher Tyler Wilson that caused an errant throw up the line at first, bringing Nik McClaughry home from second and making it 6-1.

In the sixth inning, however, GCU blew the game open, walking the bases loaded before Wilson sent a deep shot towards the Terry Francona Hitting Center in right field to make it an 11-1 ballgame.

Hale was quick to dismiss the notion that Arizona came out flat, rather instead that GCU was just a quality opponent that played well in all phases of the game and Arizona did not.

“I wouldn’t say we were flat, they just beat our butt,” Hale said. “They played really well. They are good team. They are well coached and we just didn’t do anything … pitching, hitting, fielding … we just didn’t do it tonight.”

GCU would tack on four more runs in the top of the seventh inning making it 15-1, including a solo home run by Jonny Weaver.

In the bottom of the seventh, O’Tremba — this week’s Pac-12 Player of the Week after his performance in Texas — delivered with the bases loaded on a shot just out of reach of the shortstop’s glove to score two runs for Arizona. That would be all Arizona would get, though, and they would go into the top of the eighth still trailing 15-3.

GCU tacked on two more in the top of the eighth and another two in the top of the ninth to make it a 19-3 game.

Arizona (3-1) will continue its season at home against Wisconsin-Milwaukee (3-0) for a four-game series starting on Thursday at 6 p.m. They begin their Pac-12 schedule against Cal in Berkeley on March 11.

FOLLOW @HMORENONEWS ON TWITTER! writing intern Harrison Moreno is a southern Arizona native who has watched Wildcat athletics since he was young kid. He recently is a graduate of The University of Arizona’s School of Journalism, with a focus in broadcast and audio journalism.

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