Citizen Staff Writer
TEMPE – Sloppiness has been a recent problem for the University of Arizona baseball team, but it was nothing a nine-run seventh inning couldn’t overcome in a 14-5 victory over Arizona State on Friday.
The Wildcats, 40-15 overall, 15-9 in Pacific-10 Conference play, are still optimistic they can host an NCAA regional at Sancet Stadium despite losing the first two games of the series to ASU (43-13, 19-5).
Before even talking about the big offensive explosion, UA coach Andy Lopez first brought up the eight errors made in the series against the Sun Devils.
“It was sloppy baseball and is something we have to address,” Lopez said at Packard Stadium. “We need to improve (on our sloppy play) before we get into post season.”
While the Sun Devils were making diving play after diving play defensively, constantly getting their uniforms dirty by stealing would-be hits and runs, UA has hurt itself with 13 miscues in the past four games.
Arizona’s bats made up for the problems in the seventh inning Friday against the bottom rung of the ASU bullpen. ASU rested many of its best position players and relievers after already clinching the Pac-10 title and the series over the Wildcats.
“Every team gets that big inning. We needed that inning,” UA first baseman C.J. Ziegler said. “We got a couple of breaks and a couple of bloopers. We needed them.”
Arizona stranded plenty of base runners throughout the series, but that was not the case in the seventh Friday.
The Wildcats had 10 straight batters reach base after the first two made outs.
Brad Glenn and T.J. Steele singled and Jon Gaston walked to load the bases. Dwight Childs was hit-by-a-pitch to force in a run, narrowing the gap to 5-4. Erik Castro’s grounder to shortstop was misplayed, allowing two runs to score for a 6-5 UA lead.
But UA was just getting warmed up. Hunter Pace walked to load the bases, and sophomore Colt Sedbrook then set the UA career record for being hit by pitches to drive in a run. Sedbrook was hit for the 39th time to pass Jason Donald for the record.
Ziegler had a red-hot series at the plate, going 5 for 12 with three homers and seven RBIs, including a two-run double in the seventh.
Bill Rhinehart added an RBI triple into the gap and Brad Glenn put the finishing touches with another single.
“We have not had a two-out base hit in six months it seems,” Lopez said. “It has been a long while. It felt like a long while.”
The offense was desperately needed after ASU got to starter David Coulon for a five-run fifth inning to take a 5-3 lead.
Coulon was cruising with eight strikeouts after getting the first out in the fifth inning. He quickly ran into trouble by hitting a batter, walking the next and then giving up five straight singles.
Now it comes down to where, and who, the Wildcats play next.
“We won 40 games. I don’t know how (the NCAA committee) can deny 40 wins, but we will see what happens,” Ziegler said about the prospects of hosting a region. “Hopefully the baseball gods are on our side.”