Arizona Baseball

ARIZONA NOTES: Clark Candiotti to start Friday in Tucson Regional opener against GCU

Arizona will start right-hander Clark Candiotti, son of former big-leaguer and current Arizona Diamondbacks broadcaster Tom Candiotti, against Grand Canyon in the opening round of the Tucson Regional in the NCAA tournament (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona coach Chip Hale on Monday told the local media that the Wildcats will have their “best pitcher” going against Grand Canyon in Friday’s first opening-round game of the NCAA Tucson Regional at Hi Corbett Field.

At the time, Hale did not want to commit to who that “best pitcher” would be, but we learned Wednesday that he and pitching coach Kevin Vance will go with right-hander Clark Candiotti (7-3, 3.11 ERA) as the starter against Grand Canyon left-hander Grant Richardson.

Arizona, the No. 13 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, will host its first regional since 2021 when play begins Friday, starting with Dallas Baptist (44-13) faces West Virginia (33-22) at noon (ESPN2).

The Wildcats (36-21) will play Grand Canyon (34-23) at 6 p.m.

Left-hander Jackson Kent (3-4, 4.08) was the normal Friday pitcher when Arizona opened a Pac-12 series throughout the season. Kent has struggled of late with three consecutive losses after winning six straight.

In the three defeats to Utah (May 10), Oregon State (May 16) and California (May 23), Kent posted an ERA of 10.29 (16 earned runs in 14 innings) with 11 strikeouts and five walks.

“I think some of it’s confidence,” Hale said of Kent was asked about the recent struggles. “We watched him pretty carefully in the conference tournament against Cal. There was not the conviction that he’s had most of the year.”

Hale added that the coaching staff will look at video of Kent and that “Kevin will get him back to where he was. His arm’s good. The velocity is fine. He just to execute his pitches better.”

Hale on Wednesday afternoon told the “Eye on the Ball” radio show that Kent will be his third starter in the regional, after Candiotti on Friday and right-hander Cam Walty on Saturday. Candiotti will be on his normal days of rest after pitching last Friday at the Pac-12 tournament.

“(Candiotti) and Cam have been really good of late and Jackson has not been where he’s been in the past,” Hale said. “We have a little more time now, two more days to work on some stuff and throw an extra bullpen. We feel comfortable with him throwing the third game of the regional.

“You have to go with your hot hand, whether it’s your offense or your defense and we feel at this point that Clark’s our best matchup with Grand Canyon.”

Arizona was 1-2 during the regular season against Grand Canyon in three mid-week games that did not include the normal rotation of Kent, Candiotti and Walty — all first-team All-Pac-12 selections.

“This will be different,” Hale said. “We’ll face their supposed Friday night starter and we’ll have our best pitcher going against them. So it will be a little bit different.

“They put good at-bats together. They put the ball in play with two strikes. They’re a good team, and we’ve always said that’s why we play them three times a year. They’re very tough team. We know them well. They know us well. It’s going to be a good battle.”

Richardson (4-1, 4.03) with 65 strikeouts and 26 walks in 44 2/3 innings. He had 13 appearances, including eight starts, but did not pitch against Arizona in the regular season. An interesting note: Richardson was coached by Dick Tomey’s son Rich, a former Arizona player, during Richardson’s Scottdale Horizon career.


Salpointe graduate Mason White has adapted to playing shortstop this season after being used in a utility role as a freshman last year (Arizona Athletics photo)

Arizona’s fielding percentage of .971 ranked fifth in the Pac-12 and the double-play combination of former Salpointe Mason White at shortstop and Garen Caulfield at second base helped turn 44 double plays (third-most in the Pac-12).

Caulfield, a captain of the team as a junior, is experienced at second base while White replaced Nik McClaughry at shortstop this season.

Caulfield has only six errors in 243 chances (putouts and assists) for a .975 fielding percentage.

Last season, White was a utility player for Hale. White made 31 starts at second base, 11 at third base, five at designated hitter, and one at shortstop. He posted a .953 fielding percentage on nine errors across 193 total chances. He assisted in 23 of the Wildcats’ 46 double plays turned.

White’s fielding percentage is .930 this season (16 errors in 228 total chances). He has assisted in 28 of Arizona’s 44 double plays while Caulfield has assisted 30.

“It’s been awesome,” Caulfield said when asked about playing in the middle infield. “Mason and I have grown a lot closer than last year. It’s nice knowing we’re out there together everyday.”

White earned the Pac-12 Tournament MVP award and was selected to the All-Pac-12 first team behind the pop in his bat — 19 home runs and 60 RBIs while batting .303 this season.


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Arizona’s magical run with eight walk-off wins is reminiscent to Hale of the Washington Nationals’ journey to the 2019 World Series championship when he was the team’s bench coach.

Hale told the “Eye on the Ball” show that Arizona’s miraculos wins remind him of that year because “you find a way to win games, and all of a sudden, guys get confident at it.”

“We talked about it today (at practice) — you don’t always want to depend on winning in the ninth inning,” he continued. “But it’s a good feeling when you feel like you’re going to win the ninth.

“We haven’t started out great with our offense of late, and those guys (pitchers) have really held them down and have given us a chance to score runs late in the game. Without that, you kind of get buried.”


Arizona reliever Dawson Netz is a fifth-year senior who is showing his most control this season following the addition of Vance as the pitching coach.

Netz, a reliever who has not started the last two seasons after making 14 starts in his first three years, has allowed only three walks with 27 strikeouts in 21 innings. He is 2-0 with a 3.43 ERA. In his career spanning 131 innings in 93 appearances, he is 6-2 with a 3.85 ERA.

What is it about Vance that has impacted Netz and Arizona’s pitching this season?

“It’s been very structured,” Netz said. “Everybody has a plan. Everybody knows how to use their stuff. They know what their arsenal looks like, how to approach different hitters and just ultimately what works best for each guy.

“I’ve been fortunate to be under some really good coaches and learn a bunch of philosophies and I think that’s helped me personally just to really flourish this year and figure out what works best for me. Coach Vance has been awesome and he’s done a really great job of making sure every guy knows what they need to do to get the best out of themselves.”

Brian Pedersen of indicated this week that Netz and fellow reliever Trevor Long are the first Arizona baseball players to play in four NCAA tournaments.

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 in 2016 and is presently a special education teacher at Sunnyside High School in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

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