The No. 11-ranked Arizona Wildcats came into Saturday’s game against Texas State looking for their seventh straight win.
An excellent pitching performance by Bobcats starter Levi Wells ended their win streak at six however, losing 6-2 at Hi Corbett Field.
Wells, a right-handed sophomore, pitched extremely well through his five innings of work, striking out eight Wildcats on 87 pitches.
Texas State’s first base runner was anything but conventional. A hard hit ball by John Wuthrich at third baseman Garen Caulfield in the top of the first inning bounced off of him, rolling towards second base for a hit. Wuthrich would then steal second, advance to third on a wild pitch, then score on a ground out to second.
Arizona starter Garrett Irvin struggled through his 5.2 innings of work, only striking out two batters and giving up three runs on 86 pitches.
Head coach Chip Hale described his performance as “okay.” Hale referenced the “misplay” by Caulfield that ended up resulting in a run scored in the top of the first.
Irvin did however go on to retire the side 1-2-3 in the second and fourth innings, maintaining the 1-0 deficit until the fifth inning.
Arizona’s inability offensively to capitalize with runners on base however made it impossible to dig themselves out of the hole, albeit small, that they dug themselves in while Irvin was still on the mound.
Arizona went 2-11 with runners in scoring position, the same as Texas State. The difference might have been Texas State’s success in “advance opportunities”. They were 11-18, while Arizona was 7-24. Arizona also struck out a season-high 16 times tonight at the plate, eight of those caught looking.
Hale talked about the struggle that his hitters were having and what continued struggles at the plate may mean for some.
“Gotta be able to pull the trigger” Hale said. “Guys are getting opportunities right now to play, obviously if it continues, then we will have to find someone else. We put a lot of faith in these guys and we give them a lot of leeway with their swings.”
Hale also took the blame for the struggles of the offense, feeling as though he and the staff may not have prepared their hitters well enough for the Bobcat pitching staff.
“These guys are who they are, they got here for a reason, so we just try to get them ready for the game,” Hale said. “We obviously failed as coaches tonight because we obviously did not give them enough information on these guys, i’ll take the blame on that”
Tony Bullard made his return to the lineup tonight as the designated hitter. Originally the tentative plan was for Bullard to return Tuesday versus New Mexico Hale said, but a Jack Grant broken nose in pregame changed those plans for Bullard, and resulted in him hitting in the #5 spot tonight.
“We had to change everything around, and we had a spot for him in the DH spot.”
Hale says Grant could be ready to return as early as Sunday’s game, but was not sure.
The change in plans didn’t seem to impact Bullard. He swung on the first pitch he saw and hit a slicing base hit down the right field line, just out of the reach of the right fielder Wuthrich. Wuthrich however made an excellent recovery and threw Bullard out as he tried for second.
“He (Bullard) obviously hasn’t faced a lot of pitching. He was okay, we will see how he feels tomorrow,” Hale said.
The game remained 1-0 until the fifth inning. After a single by Isaiah Ortega-Jones, a triple by Ben McClain, and then a wild pitch that scored McClain, Texas State pushed it to 3-0.
Texas State tacked on another run in the sixth inning thanks to another Ortega-Jones single that scored Cameron Gibbins from third, making it 4-0.
Arizona however finally was able to cash in during the seventh inning, bring some electricity back to Hi Corbett Field when Tanner O’Tremba stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and singled to left field through the hole, allowing Mac Bingham and Garen Caulfiel to score, making it 4-2.
O’Tremba was the only Wildcat not to strike out on the night.
Texas State would ultimately regain the momentum in the following half inning, plating another run in the eighth and ninth inning. Arizona did have runners in scoring position in both the eighth and ninth inning, but like the entire game, were unable to capitalize.
Arizona (9-2) and Texas State (9-2) will finish their three-game series Sunday at Hi Corbett Field. That game is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. RHP Dawson Netz is expected to start for Arizona.
The Wildcats will then host New Mexico on Tuesday, March 8 at 6 p.m. before traveling to California to take on the Cal Bears (5-5) and the Pacific Tigers (4-7).
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com 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.