Arizona Baseball

Arizona comes on strong to beat ASU with its lineup, pitching & Chip Hale getting ejected

Garen Caulfield celebrates after scoring a run (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona showed resolve from its starting pitching, potency from its lineup, errorless defense with spectacular plays and some fight from its coach Sunday to clinch the Pac-12 series with ASU this weekend at Hi Corbett Field.

With the 14-4 victory in front of 3,583 fans, the Wildcats have defeated ASU in a conference series in consecutive years and four times out of the last five seasons. The rivals split the season series with two wins apiece (ASU won a non-conference game in Phoenix earlier this month).

Arizona’s win Sunday included Garrett Irvin providing a lift to an embattled starting rotation with his solid six innings, Daniel Susac awakening at the plate in the series and leading an 11-hit attack and Chip Hale getting ejected.

Hale was tossed by home plate umpire Jeffrey Macias in the fifth inning after Chase Davis was hit by a pitch from reliever Jacob Walker. Macias ruled that Davis did not try to avoid the pitch, which drew Hale’s ire,

The rule in college baseball is the batter does not have to avoid the pitch. He can’t move into a pitch to get hit. Davis, a left-handed batter, stood still as the pitch hit his right leg.

“He had to throw me out because it was basically arguing balls and strikes,” said Hale, who watched the remainder of the game from the clubhouse. “I know it’s a college rule that you can’t lean in and get hit. I didn’t feel like he moved his knee at all. He didn’t give up the box.

“Guys who get hit in the back, they don’t try to get out of the way. … It’s just frustrating and I knew when I stayed out there he was going to throw me out. I apologized to him after the game because I started losing it after that.”

Hale was ejected five times as the Arizona Diamondbacks manager in 2015 and 2016 and a couple of times for arguing balls and strikes as the Washington Nationals bench coach in 2018.

Irvin, a left-hander, had an effective start after Hale mentioned following Saturday night’s loss that the performance of late from his starters is a “concern.”

TJ Nichols lasted 4 2/3 innings in Friday’s start, allowing seven hits with four walks in Arizona’s 7-6 win in 10 innings on Davis’ walk-off home run. Chandler Murphy gave up six hits with two walks in three innings in Saturday’s 8-5 loss.

Irvin scattered six hits in six innings with two strikeouts and one walk. He was on point with most of his pitches throwing 53 strikes out of his 80 pitches.

“It was important,” Irvin said of his performance. “I want to make it so our bullpen doesn’t have to pitch as many innings. Everyone’s kind of banged up right now. It’s the middle of the season. I tried to go as long as I could … I was glad I got six (innings).”

Arizona’s lineup staked him to a 6-0 lead through five innings before Ironwood Ridge grad Nate Baez belted a three-run home run with two outs in the sixth.

Susac’s bat awoke in this series after a 1-for-10 performance in Friday and Saturday with a two-run home run in the first inning.

“His worst games … the next day has always been his best games,” Hale said. “He’s very good at erasing things.”

Susac was coming off an 0-for-5 performance Saturday. In the nine games after a hitless performance, he is batting .462 (18 for 39) with three home runs, 11 RBIs and nine runs.

“I think it was from when I was little,” Susac said. “Having two brothers 10 and 11 years older than me. For lack of a better word, they kicked my ass in the backyard. I had to get back up and deal with it. I cried a little bit but my dad would tell me, ‘Just deal with it. Grow up.'”

O’Tremba continued his torrid hitting, reaching on a single before Susac’s home run. He also hit an RBI single in the third that scored Garen Caulfield, who doubled to lead off the inning, to increase the lead to 3-0.

Susac then singled and he advanced to second while O’Tremba moved to third on a wild pitch. Mac Bingham singled to center field, scoring O’Tremba and Susac to give Arizona a 5-0 lead and increase his streak to 28 consecutive games reaching base. He finished 2 for 4 with two runs and three RBIs.

Tommy Splaine walked before Tony Bullard lined a single to left field to score Bingham with two outs.

Susac finished 2 for 3 with three runs and three RBIs.

He claimed that Hale’s ejection got him “riled up — I like it.”

“Obviously, you don’t want your coach gone but I think it motivates the team sometimes,” Susac said. “The team was motivated, got some energy in the dugout.”

O’Tremba, who was 3 for 5 with three runs and three RBIs, finished 9 for 15 with seven RBIs in the series.

A seven-run seventh inning against shaky ASU pitching was the knockout blow for Arizona.

The Wildcats sent 11 batters to the plate and had two hits with five walks and a hit-by-pitch off four ASU pitchers in the inning (one of whom was third baseman Ethan Long).

Arizona had only two errors in the 27 innings of the three games against ASU.

The Wildcats had highlight-reel defensive plays Sunday of shortstop Nik McClaughry barehanding a bouncer and throwing out a runner, Davis running down a long fly ball at the left-field wall with his back turned to end a bases-loaded rally for ASU and Caulfield making a leaning stop of a grounder and doing an acrobatic turn while throwing that appeared to get the runner out at first base.

The first-base umpire Scott Letendre blew the call ruling the runner safe because he thought Splaine’s foot was pulled off the base from Caulfield’s throw. But replays showed his foot was squarely pinned against the bag as he made the catch in time to get the runner. Baez ultimately hit his three-run home run that inning.

Hale said the victory was “huge” coming off series losses to Washington State and Utah. Arizona is second in the Pac-12, a game-and-a-half behind Oregon State (31-8, 13-5).

“It was important for us to protect the home turf and win the rivalry series,” Hale said. “I’ve told the guys I’ve played in this so many times and watched us play ASU in so many different sports that you really have to take your emotions out of it sometimes and just breathe.

“As a player, they need to understand that and they did a good job today with that.”

Arizona stays out of conference this week with a game at New Mexico State on Tuesday and a four-game series with Nevada next weekend at Hi Corbett Field starting on Thursday.

FOLLOW @JAVIERJMORALES ON TWITTER! 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, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports,, 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.

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