The Arizona baseball program recently rolled out a preseason television commercial that ends with an announcer enthusiastically relaying the team’s slogan for the season: “Arizona baseball: There’s a standard here.”
Not on Saturday night, there wasn’t.
The Wildcats gave up 11 runs in the first inning Saturday and went on to lose 14-5 to Kent State before 3,442 fans at Hi Corbett Field.
“Obviously you have to give credit where credit is due, they came out really ready to play,” Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. “The first inning was the ballgame. It’s tough to chase 11 runs.”
A night after nearly everything went their way in a 13-1 season-opening win, the Wildcats couldn’t do much right Saturday.
Junior left-hander Tyler Crawford, who went 7-2 with a 3.83 ERA last season, didn’t record an out until the seventh batter of the game. By the time that happened, Kent State had already racked up four hits, two hit batsmen and four runs scored.
The lefty gave up an RBI double to the eighth batter, Tommy Monnot, to make it 5-0 and was pulled in favor of sophomore right-hander Nathan Bannister.
“He was very non-competitive,” Lopez said of Crawford. “He didn’t have much presence. He didn’t look like a starter, that’s for sure. It didn’t look like he wanted to compete.”
Bannister didn’t fare any better.
The Peoria native faced seven batters and recorded just one out. By the time he was yanked for lefty Cody Moffett, the score was already 11-0.
“You never plan for something like that, but unfortunately it happened,” shortstop Kevin Newman said of the first inning. “I think this was very eye-opening for the whole team. It’s only the first series, but tomorrow is huge. We have to find a way to win.”
Kent State’s 39-minute half inning marked the first time the Wildcats surrendered 11 runs in the first inning since Arizona State did it in 2003 en route to a 16-0 win. The loss was the UA’s most-lopsided loss since a 23-1 setback to Washington last May.
Crawford’s final line read one-third of an inning, seven runs, all earned, five hits and two hit batsmen. Bannister also went one-third of an inning, giving up four runs and four hits.
“I actually didn’t think Bannister was all that bad; Crawford just set such a bad tone,” Lopez said.
The UA offense could never put together a big inning like Kent State did in the opening frame.
The Wildcats pushed one run across in the second, fourth and fifth and two more in the eighth, but never got closer than nine runs.
The Golden Flashes, on the other hand, pounded out 17 hits — 15 of them singles — and had four players register two or more hits.
First baseman Cody Koch was 5 for 5 at the plate with three RBIs and one run scored. Shortstop Sawyer Polen and center fielder Alex Miklos each went 3 for 6 in the win.
Eric Lauer, who pitched 2º innings of relief, earned the win. Starter Nick Jensen-Clagg had a no-decision, despite being given an 11-run cushion in the first. Jensen-Clagg went 4º and gave up eight hits and three runs.
Newman led Arizona’s offense, going 3 for 4 with 3 RBIs. Cody Ramer and Trent Gilbert each had two hits. Mat Troupe, who is expected to start Tuesday against Utah Valley, made his season debut and pitched two scoreless innings, giving up two hits and striking out four.
“I thought Troupe looked pretty good, which is encouraging for us,” Lopez said.
The converted closer is expected to be the team’s Saturday starter once he recovers from a minor elbow injury. The Wildcats will try to win the series today at noon. Junior college transfer Cody Hamlin will start for Arizona. Kent State hasn’t announced a starter.