Citizen Staff Writer
The appearance of Jason Stoffel used to be a sign for opponents to pack up their bats and head for the bus.
The University of Arizona closer is struggling. The right-hander blew a save for just the second time in his career in Oregon State’s 9-5 victory Thursday night at Sancet Stadium.
Stoffel, who has a school-record 23 career saves, was not fooling anybody in the eighth inning, giving up four runs and five hits.
“This will eat at me,” Stoffel said. ” . . . I pitched (bad). I couldn’t hit my spots. They did a good job of hitting my mistakes. That is going to happen if I can’t make pitches.”
Stoffel entered in prime condition to give the Wildcats the opening game of the series, with UA leading 5-4 and needing just six more outs.
But the Beavers’ Ryan Ortiz opened with a single and then took third as Stoffel’s pickoff attempt went wildly into the right field bullpen.
It only got worse.
Jared Norris tied the game at 5 with a single before Logan Lotti, a .111 hitter, stroked a run-scoring double off Stoffel for a 6-5 lead.
A walk and two more singles gave the Beavers an 8-5 lead.
“They beat our guy who has been pretty good for the last couple of years,” UA coach Andy Lopez said. “He has been a sure thing for two years.
“You have to be better in the late innings when we get the opportunities. It is all mapped out. It is not like you are talking to a freshman. He has been in that situation before.”
UA (13-15, 2-8) needed a win, but the last-place Wildcats lost for the eighth time in 10 games.
UA starter Preston Guilmet did his part, going seven innings and giving up only two earned runs on five hits.
Stoffel, who is expected to be a high draft pick in June, has not had the magic this year that made him almost unhittable in the past.
The junior has been great in five saves, with a 0.90 ERA, giving up one run and striking out 20, while walking three in 10 innings.
Stoffel’s Pac-10 ERA, however, increased to 13.00, with 13 runs allowed in nine innings. He has walked seven and struck out four in those outings.
“I have no idea what is going on,” Stoffel said. “I just have not been as consistent as I have been in the past. It is not fun to lose, especially when it is on my back.”
Arizona didn’t have the offense to make up for the blown save. Bryce Ortega went 3 for 5, including a game-tying single in the sixth. Hunter Pace, who was 2 for 5, then added a single to put UA up 5-4.
Oregon State feasts on closer Stoffel’s mistakes for 9-5 win
NOTABLE: Friday’s game with Oregon State has been moved to 2 p.m. because of the threat of evening rain. The noon Saturday game concludes the three-game series.