It’s bad enough when your baseball team loses at home. But when it gets beat by 15 runs in front of the home folks, the embarrassment reaches a new level.
But that’s what can happen when you invite the big boys to your party. And Grand Canyon University, which plays in the Western Athletic Conference, were reminded of that again this week, going down in a 16-1 rout to Pac-12 power, the University of Arizona Wildcats.
A crowd of 2,819 showed up Tuesday night at Brazell Field at GCU Ballpark, anticipating an entirely different game experience. After all, the Antelopes were riding a five-game win streak, had 10 victories in their previous 11 games, and had won their last eight games at home.
Hey, what’s to worry about…right?
Last year, the ‘Lopes didn’t seem intimidated in the least, holding then-No. 13 Arizona to three runs and losing by a single run in the first meeting, and dropping the re-match with the Cats, 7-3, when Arizona was the No. 7-ranked team in the country.
But there’s that difference in the level of play between WAC and Pac-12 competition that is hard to get past, and it showed Tuesday night when the Wildcats ran right past the ‘Lopes, using a three-run homer by Nick Quintana in the first inning to get the offensive barrage started. Four more runs in the second and three more in the third put the ‘Lopes in a 10-0 hole – and brought a solemn quiet to the fan faithful who had showed up hoping for more of a game.
GCU took advantage of a pause in the shelling in the fifth inning by putting up its lone run. A single up the middle by Austin Bull brought Tyler Wyatt home to make it a 10-1 game. Head coach Andy Stankiewicz found both players by beating the in-state recruiting bushes. Bull, a junior infielder from Perry High School in Gilbert, has made an immediate impact on the program, stepping into a starting role as a freshman. Wyatt is another junior, a utility player from Liberty High School in Peoria who has also seen considerable playing time all three years.
Quintana, a sophomore from Las Vegas, went on to finish the game 3-for-5 at the plate, added a second homer, scored three times, and knocked in four RBIs. Junior catcher Cesar Salazar and junior outfielder Alfonso Rivas each added three hits on the night.
Arizona started with Juan Aguilera on the mound and went with the senior righty for five innings before Jonathan Guardado came in to throw three scoreless innings, and Ryan Gowens slammed the door shut by striking out the side in the ninth.
UofA batters made 42 trips to the plate over the nine innings, not surprising since Arizona ranks 12th nationally in on-base percentage, and piled up 15 hits in the process.
To stop the bleeding, GCU used nine pitchers, but the Cats never let up. After their 10-0 start, they began scoring again in the sixth and posted six runs over the final four innings to put an exclamation on a nasty beating.
“We’ve got to get better,” Stankiewicz affirmed after the game. “We’ve got to let this go. We’ve got to learn from it, though.”
But Arizona’s third-year head coach, Jay Johnson, had some words of praise for the GCU program, which is in its first season of Division I competition after completing a four-year transition from D-II, saying, “this is a program that’s going to win a lot of games in the WAC.
“The (new) stadium is unbelievable. They are just going to keep getting better.”
Unfortunately, GCU won’t have much time to accomplish that goal before they have to deal the Cats one more time this season. The two teams are scheduled to meet again on May 8 in Tucson.
If things go south again for the ‘Lopes, at least it won’t be on their home turf.
However, it’s also no fun when there’s a two-hour bus ride home to ponder the lessons of another lopsided loss.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)