The Arizona Wildcats are taking coach Andy Lopez on a bit of a ride right now.
Following a five-game losing streak, the UA opened the Hi Corbett Classic with wins in its first two games on Friday and Saturday.
Sunday, the ride went for a dip.
The Wildcats lost their final two games of the tournament at Hi Corbett Field, losing to UC Santa Barbara 10-2 and then dropping the finale to Mississippi State 6-4.
Arizona is back below .500 on the season at 8-9 and has lost seven of nine.
It has to feel like a bit of a roller coaster to the coach who underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery in October, right?
“No, this is like being in the Bahamas,” a sarcastic Lopez said. “I feel like I’ve been in the Bahamas the last five or six days. This is exactly what my cardiologist ordered.”
Lopez and the Wildcats were under plenty of stress from the start on Sunday.
Tyler Crawford, the starter in the opening game, failed to get out of the first inning for the second time in five starts this season. The junior left-hander gave up five runs in one-third of an inning to put the Wildcats in an immediate hole.
UC Santa Barbara eventually stretched its lead to 10-0 before the Wildcats, the designated visitors, scored two runs in the top of the ninth.
Arizona pitchers walked seven batters, the defense made a pair of errors in the loss and the offense stranded 13 runners on base.
Crawford fell to 1-3 on the season with 9.78 ERA in 19⅓ innings. His time in the starting rotation appears to be over.
“He has to go back in his role; he’s a bullpen guy,” Lopez said. “He was never recruited here to be a starter. He’s been doing it by default more than anything. He’s a good guy and he’ll work out well out of the pen, but we have to find a Sunday starter.”
The second game was cleaner than the first of the day, but produced the same result.
The Wildcats, the visiting team again, scored two runs in the first for an early lead, but stranded four runners over the next two frames. The Bulldogs scored one in the second and two each in the fifth and sixth to take a 5-2 lead. Zach Gibbons came through with a two-run, two-out single in the seventh to cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 5-4, but Mississippi State added an insurance run in the eighth and then held the Wildcats down in the ninth to close the door.
“That second game was a really good ballgame,” Lopez said. “We just left some runs on the table early and you have to cash those in. We’re definitely still a work in progress and that showed today.”
The pair of losses provided a frustrating end to a weekend that started with plenty of promise with a couple of wins.
“Doubleheaders can be hard, but to get swept is rough,” said second baseman Trent Gilbert, who was 11 for 19 with eight extra-base hits and 10 RBIs during the four-game Hi Corbett Classic. “I do think we showed some positive signs and can take some good from the weekend.”
One positive emerged in the second game. Freshman Austin Schnabel made his first career start and despite giving up four runs in 5⅓ innings, earned himself some points with Lopez.
The coach said Schnabel will likely get another weekend start.
“He showed us a lot,” Lopez said. “He competed and gave us a chance. He’s developing his second and third pitches, which is why we held him back a bit, but he definitely deserves another shot.”
After playing four games in three days, the Wildcats will host Air Force on Tuesday and Wednesday before opening Pac-12 play on Friday at home against Washington State.
Nine games in 10 days isn’t exactly the best medicine for a team still trying to find its way.
“The season is getting in the way a little bit,” Lopez said. “It will work itself out.”