Arizona could not get its offense going consistently and its pitching struggled to stop ASU’s lineup in the first four innings, giving up six runs, in Saturday’s 8-5 loss at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona coach Chip Hale mentioned after Friday’s dramatic walk-off win over ASU — in which the Wildcats hit a lull midway through — that his team must “keep the offense going” after sporadic production lately in series losses to Washington State and Utah.
Although Arizona had 12 hits on Saturday against ASU, the lineup could not keep up with the Sun Devils’ production, especially early, in front of a season-high 6,617 crowd at Hi Corbett Field.
Tanner O’Tremba did his part with his second four-hit game of the season. Tommy Splaine, Cameron LaLiberte and Garen Caulfield each had two hits.
Leadoff hitter Nik McClaughry and No. 3 batter Daniel Susac, a Golden Spikes Award candidate, went a combined 0 for 10 at the top of the order.
Arizona struck out seven times and hit 18 groundouts with only one fly out the entire game.
‘That’s how baseball goes — a lot of times you’re gonna hit balls hard and you’re gonna make the plays and you’re just gonna live and die by putting the ball in play,” O’Tremba reasoned. “I don’t think we had an insane amount of strikeouts. I don’t think it’s a bad thing to get down on for the offense.”
Hale mentioned that ASU starter Kyle Luckham (6-2) induced 11 ground outs in his five innings by “doing a really good job of sinking the ball down and in on righties.”
Murphy (1-2) conversely allowed six hits with four earned runs in his three innings with two walks and a strikeout.
“Just seemed like they were in a rocking chair hitting off of him,” Hale said. “I would’ve left him out there. I just didn’t feel like he was our best option at that point.”
Hale said “there’s definitely concern” about Arizona’s starting pitching as a whole after TJ Nichols walked four and allowed seven hits in 4 2/3 innings on Friday.
Hale took a mound visit when reliever Eric Orloff was pitching mostly trying to get Arizona to refocus.
One one play, Splaine at first base left to field a slow grounder, leaving the base open allowing Jacob Tobias to reach safely.
“Unacceptable play,” Hale said. “Not only are we playing our rival in a Pac-12 matchup but you don’t cover first after making a great pitch. You alllow that guy to get on base which now causes all sorts of stuff to happen. … It’s just sloppy baseball. It’s unacceptable.”
Arizona (27-13, 12-8 Pac-12) fell to 1 1/2 games behind conference leader Oregon State (30-8, 12-5) with the loss.
The Wildcats will try for the series win Sunday at noon against ASU (20-20, 9-8) at Hi Corbett Field. They have not won a conference series since sweeping Washington on the road three weeks ago.
Arizona had only four hits and did not advance a runner past second base in the first four innings Saturday. Meanwhile, ASU built a 6-0 lead.
Arizona finally strung some hits together in the fifth inning against Luckham to cut the Sun Devils’ lead in half to 6-3.
Caulfield led off the inning and moved to third on O’Tremba’s third hit of the game, a double, with one out. Susac’s slowly-hit groundout to third base scored Caulfield for Arizona’s first run.
Chase Davis, who hit the walk-off home run in the 10th inning of Friday’s 7-6 win, followed with a double that barely landed inside the foul line in right field that scored O’Tremba.
The last run of the inning scored with Davis coming home on Mac Bingham’s single that increased Bingham’s hitting streak to 27 games.
The Wildcats’ five hits in the inning were more than the four they had in the first four innings.
O’Tremba now has a team-best batting average of .386 after his 4-for-5 performance.
“Tanner’s been great,” Hale said. “Tanner’s a team leader. He’s in there exhorting everybody trying to get everybody fired up doing it with his bat, doing it with his defense. When you talk about model players, whether it’s the classroom or on the field or in the clubhouse, he’s a model guy.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.