It’s a good thing next week’s Pac-12 Tournament, as well as each round of the NCAA tourney, are double-elimination formats, because Arizona hasn’t been good at first impressions.
The Wildcats dropped to 4-6 in Pac-12 series openers, losing 10-4 at Oregon on Thursday night. The loss assures the UA (35-19, 16-12) will finish in fourth or fifth place and face the Ducks (33-21, 16-12) in the first game of next week’s conference tourney in Scottsdale.
Up 1-0 after the first inning, when it got the first three batters on base, Arizona didn’t score again until the sixth when it trailed 8-1 despite getting the leadoff man on in five of the first six frames. For the game the Wildcats had 12 hits but left 11 runners on base, going 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position.
Right-hander TJ Nichols had another rough start, lasting only three innings and allowing seven runs and seven hits. He had a 10-pitch, 1-2-3 first but then gave up five runs in the second on a pair of home runs and then two more in the third.
Nichols was followed by a quartet of relievers who have started games and could end up doing so in Scottsdale, as Arizona could play as many as six games over a 5-day span depending on how far it goes in the Pac-12 tourney. That included 1-2-3 frames by righties Dawson Netz and Chandler Murphy, both of whom have dealt with injuries this season.
Netz, who had been Arizona’s Sunday starter the first six weeks of the season, made his first appearance since April 12 due to tendonitis.
All told, the UA bullpen allowed three runs and four hits over six innings of work.
Like it did in last week’s series-opening loss to No. 2 Oregon State, Arizona kept battling at the plate after falling behind big. The Wildcats scored a run in the sixth and two in the eighth, loading the bases with one out in the eighth to force the Ducks to bring in closer Kolby Somers, who ended up throwing the final 1.2 innings.
Somers struck out Daniel Susac and Tanner O’Tremba, both of whom represented the tying run, to end the eighth. Oregon got back those two runs in the bottom of the eighth.
Arizona will turn to its most reliable starter, senior lefty Garrett Irvin, for Friday’s 4 p.m. PT start. Irvin is 4-1 with a 2.65 ERA in Pac-12 play this season and Arizona is 26-9 during his career when he starts with a 9-3 record in his starts the day after a loss. That includes last weekend when Irvin allowed a run over seven innings in a 5-2 win over OSU.