Prior to tonight's game, I stated that Carolina would need to improve its offensive production to hang with the high-octane Arizona Wildcats. Unfortunately, that didn't happen; Arizona score its runs as expected, but Carolina couldn't keep up and lost 5-1.
Pitching-wise, the game went about like we should have expected it to. I had hoped that Forrest Koumas would pitch better than he did, but in hindsight, we shouldn't be surprised that Arizona got to him early. Koumas has been injured and hasn't been one of our best arms this year, and with Arizona coming into the game red-hot at the plate, we should have expected the Wildcats to hit the ball well against a starter who we wouldn't have gone to if not for necessity. Evan Beal did a little better, but Arizona got to him at times, too, although Beal was particularly good at getting out of jams, as was Nolan Belcher in his short stint. Really, even though Carolina fans aren't accustomed to seeing their team give up five runs in a game, it's hard to get too upset over our pitching tonight. Frankly, things could have been worse than they were. Arizona is perfectly capable of scoring closer to ten runs, but we did manage to force them to leave quite a few runners on base.
The good news is that Michael Roth will be getting the ball tomorrow night, and if anyone is capable of slowing down Arizona, it's Roth. However, the end result is probably going to be the same if Carolina's bats don't wake up. Even with Roth on the mound, it's unlikely that we're going to win a game against this opponent when we hit the ball like we did tonight. Granted, we very well could have put more runs on the board. Arizona made some very good defensive plays, such as the diving grab / double play in the first inning, and the throw from the outfield to retire Adam Matthews at third later in the game. There were also a couple of times when our batters got good contact with runners in scoring position, but they hit the ball straight to a fielder. Even if a couple of those plays work out for us, though, we're still only looking at a couple more runs, not enough to win the game. Other than Evan Marzilli, Christian Walker, and L.B. Dantzler, our guys just weren't getting solid contact tonight. We were getting down in the count and hitting way too many popups to be healthy. It seemed like we were uppercutting for the fence a bit too much for such a large ballpark; it would be a better strategy to shoot for line drives and ground balls to try to get more guys on base. (We could learn from Arizona in this regard; the Wildcats go for singles and they score lots of runs.) Unfortunately, things won't get any easier tomorrow night. Tonight's starter for Arizona, Konner Wade, had a 4+ ERA on the season, and he pitched a complete game against us tonight, giving up only one run. Tomorrow night, we'll get Kurt Heyer, Arizona's ace and a second-team All-American. The Gamecocks are going to have to figure out how to do better than they did tonight, or our run as national champions will be over. It's going to be tough, but at least we know we have Ray Tanner on the assignment.