The Arizona baseball team’s ninth-inning follies during a 20-3 loss to No. 3 Arizona State are a microcosm of the season.
The Wildcats (19-21) knew they were in a rebuilding stage when the season started, but they thought they had security in closer Jason Stoffel and they hoped their defense would limit runs.
Neither happened as the Sun Devils (32-9) broke open up the nonconference game against three pitchers Wednesday in the top of the ninth, scoring 13 runs at Sancet Stadium.
“It was a nightmare,” UA coach Andy Lopez said. “Momentum gets going and momentum gets started by base on balls. When you walk two or three guys in a row you are not going to have anything good happen. That is going to be a bad inning. You hope you can get out unscathed. When you walk that many guys something bad is going to happen.”
It did for Arizona, and Stoffel, who has a UA record 26 career saves. But he has a 10.50 ERA since March 20, as opponents have hit .338 against him in that span.
Stoffel allowed six runs on six hits while walking three against ASU in a March game. He didn’t get an out this time, throwing only seven strikes among his 24 pitches, while facing five batters.
He allowed five runs and walked three hitters.
“It is the most frustrated I have been with a performance this year,” Stoffel said. “I just didn’t have any command of anything. It is tough to be effective when you can’t throw a strike.”
Stoffel entered the game with UA down 7-3.
“When you have an inning like that it is like ‘wow,’ you have to keep rooting for the pitcher and stay behind him, and cheering him on and hope for the best,” UA third baseman Jett Bandy said.
Catching fly balls has been an issue for the Wildcats. A pair of drops cost the Wildcats two victories at Washington State two weeks ago.
This time, left fielder Bobby Coyle had a line drive bounce out of his glove with the bases loaded in the ninth.
The Sun Devils finished with eight hits, four walks and a hit batter among its 17 players to come to the plate in the ninth.
Arizona closed to within 6-3 in the fifth on a pair of RBIs by Bandy.
“I thought it was going to help us out,” Bandy said. “I wanted time but the umpire was not going to give it to me so I stepped back in there and swung and squared it up pretty good.”
Arizona starting pitcher Bryce Bandilla didn’t get an out and faced only four batters in a start against the Sun Devils earlier this year.
Bandilla fared better on Wednesday, allowing only one hit through three innings before running into trouble.
Jason Kipnis and Carlos Ramirez both walked to open the fourth before Matt Newman singled to load the bases.
Riccio Torrez made Bandilla pay with a grand slam to give ASU a 4-1 lead.