Arizona Baseball

Hale reflects on season, future of program following Arizona’s exit from Tucson Regional

Chip Hale is the first Arizona head coach to make it to the NCAA Tournament in each of his first three seasons since Frank Sancet did in 1950-52 (Kevin Murphy/All Sports Tucson)

After winning the final Pac-12 regular-season title and the conference tournament championships, Tucson Region No. 1 seed Arizona’s season ended after it lost to No. 2 Dallas Baptist 7-0 in an elimination game on Saturday at Hi Corbett Field.

Immediately following the loss, Arizona coach Chip Hale summarized the season by comparing the team’s toughness to Emilio Corona’s return to the lineup in the regional after injuring his right hand against Oregon State on May 16.

“These guys have been unbelievable,” Hale said. “The culture change of the pitching. The culture change of the bench. Even in the ninth inning today, guys were screaming and yelling for guys to get a hit. I’m so happy for Emilio to get a hit after the tough hand fracture and getting back in there. That kind of summarizes this ball club. They’re just never going to die, and I’m really proud of them.”

Hale credited Dallas Baptist’s starting right-hander Jaron DeBerry (7-1) for limiting Arizona from the plate on Saturday. DeBerry struck out six batters, allowing three hits and four walks in six shutout innings against the Wildcats.

“He obviously was spinning the ball real well,” Hale said. “I think he used a big breaking ball, he used a tighter breaking ball and he used some changeups to some lefties.

When Hale was a senior in 1987, Arizona was eliminated in the Tempe Regional in two games, ending his collegiate baseball career.

The experience gives him some insight into what the outgoing seniors are dealing with.

“It’s different in college baseball at Arizona because we’re on a semester system. So, we’re out of school, we’re done. We’re already kind of starting that life after baseball,” he said. “At that time, I didn’t know if I was going to sign or get drafted, or anything, and I was already looking for interviews with different companies. So, it helps me understand where they’re at.”

Hale was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year in May. He is the first person in conference history to win both Player of the Year and Coach of the Year, earning the honor as a player in 1987.

Arizona’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament this season was its fourth straight, the last three under Hale. It’s a mark that hasn’t been achieved since the Wildcats reached the tournament 14 straight times under Frank Sancet from 1950-63.

Hale is the first Arizona head coach to make it to three NCAA Tournament appearances in his first three seasons since Sancet did it in 1950-52.

He is 2-6 in the NCAA Tournament, going 0-4 in the last two regional appearances in Tucson and Fayetteville after the Wildcats went 2-2 in the Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional in his first season in 2022. The Wildcats have lost five straight postseason games dating to the Coral Gables Regional championship, in which they lost 22-6 to eventual national champion Ole Miss.

“We did pretty well in Coral Gables. We did OK. We got to the championship game. We were not good in Fayetteville, and we were not good here,” Hale said. “So, we have to figure out a better way to do it, and if it’s the way I’m preparing them, I’ll have to check myself. I’ll talk to some older guys who have been doing this for a lot longer than me at the college level and figure some better things out.”

FOLLOW @KEVINMURFEE ON TWITTER! writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.

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