Arizona Baseball

No. 13 Arizona preparing for longtime familiar foe Grand Canyon in Tucson Regional

Arizona coach Chip Hale, shortstop Mason White and starting pitcher Cam Walty during the Wildcats’ press conference at Hi Corbett Field (Javier Morales/

Grand Canyon has six seniors who have been with the Antelopes all four years of their careers, which means they have plenty of experience of facing Arizona at Hi Corbett Field.

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

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

Grand Canyon infielder Dustin Crenshaw, utility players Tyler Wilson and Elijah Buries, outfielder Cade Verdusco, right-hander Carter Young and lefty Bryan Webb have made the trip to Hi Corbett the last four years including the 2021 regional at Hi Corbett Field.

Arizona beat Grand Canyon 12-6 in that game and went on to win the Tucson Regional and Super Regional en route to the College World Series in Jay Johnson’s last season as the Wildcats’ coach.

“It definitely helps,” Wilson said about the Antelopes’ familiarity with Hi Corbett’s spacious outfield with left-center being 410 feet and right-center 405 while dead center is 392.

“Usually, when you go to a regional, you’re going to a brand new ballpark. You don’t know how it plays and what factors in. Coming down here for the last four years … it definitely makes all the difference. Knowing how the outfield plays and what angles you have to take, there should be no surprises.”

Grand Canyon has a 3-4 record against Arizona at Hi Corbett and is 6-6 overall against the Wildcats over the last four years during the length of their four-year seniors’ time with the Antelopes.

The Antelopes have won three of their last five games in Tucson, including a 24-8 victory on April 30.

“It plays a big role, the familiarity with (Arizona) and the biggest thing is we just had to hop on the bus to come down here this morning,” Grand Canyon coach Gregg Wallis said. “The biggest plus for us coming back to Tucson is our families get to be with us.”

Wallis mentioned that the Antelopes were to have a barbecue dinner at the home of first baseman Zach Yorke’s parents in Marana.

Yorke’s mom Robyn, a four-time All-American softball player at Fresno State who led the Bulldogs to the 1998 national championship, is an assistant principal at Ironwood Elementary School in Marana.

Arizona coach Chip Hale said his team is approaching the game with the mentality of playing to its strengths and execute efficiently, especially with pitching and defense.

“We can’t give them extra outs (with errors),” Hale said. “We know how good they are. They’re very tough with two strikes. They put the ball in play. We’re going to have to make all the routine plays.

“I think the teams that win at this point are the ones that execute. They don’t give the other team extra outs and they just play within themselves. We’re not asking anybody to do anything they can’t do.”

Hale made the decision earlier this week to start right-hander Clark Candiotti (7-3, 3.11 ERA) against Grand Canyon left-hander Grant Richardson (4-1, 4.03). He said wanted to “go with the hot hand” of Candiotti rather than struggling lefty Jackson Kent as the first starter to allow Kent more time to prepare for a potential start Sunday.

With Arizona playing mid-week games against Grand Canyon annually, the regular starting rotation rarely faces each other.

That is different in the postseason and Hale feels Candiotti, son of former big-leaguer and current Arizona Diamondbacsk broadcaster Tom Candiotti, gives the Wildcats the best chance to start the regional on the right foot with a victory.

Candiotti has reached seven innings pitched in three of his last four starts, including a complete-game shutout of Stanford on May 4 and an 11-strikeout performance in seven innings against the Cardinal last week at the Pac-12 tournament.

He has 98 strikeouts and 20 walks in 89 2/3 innings.

Stats courtesy Arizona media-relations department

“We had a pretty good feeling that that’s who they were going to go with because of how he has been pitching for them down the stretch,” Wallis said of Candiotti, who graduated from Scottsdale Chaparral before pitching at Wichita State prior to transferring to Arizona this season.

“It’s going to be a challenge but that’s why you’re here, right? Everyone in the country is going to be facing a challenge tomorrow. We know he’s going to be good and that he’s going to be a great challenge for us.”

Richardson, a sophomore from Scottsdale Horizon, is in his first year as a starter and has compiled 65 strikeouts and 26 walks in 44 2/3 innings.

Arizona is 5-8 while batting .258 against left-handed starters this season.

Salpointe graduate Mason White, a left-handed batter who has 19 home runs and 60 RBIs, said Arizona’s lineup will trust the scouting report of Richardson by hitting coach Toby DeMello.

“Look what he tells me to look for, it’s not much more than that,” White said. “I’m the matchup guy with the lefty. It’s what everyone does. I’m used to it. It doesn’t change, righty, lefty. It’s just the same at-bat as I take against a sidearm righty. I just look in different zones.”

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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