Has a new tradition begun in Arizona college baseball?

“We hope to continue to do this every year.”  So said Grand Canyon University baseball coach, Andy Stankiewicz, a couple of weeks back when discussing this year’s in-state series with Arizona’s two Pac-12 schools.

But that was before the four-game series wrapped up.

That was before the University of Arizona Wildcats unloaded on his GCU squad in a runaway 13-2 victory that left little doubt that the first meeting between the two teams was not a true picture of the lack of parity between the programs.   The Antelopes beat the Cats, 5-4, in that April 13 game on a walk-off home run by shortstop  Channy Ortiz in the 10th inning.

Arizona (32-13) is the 13th-best team in the nation, according to the latest NCAA rankings, and the win over GCU last week marked the 19th time this season that the Cats have scored in double digits.  It also extended the Cats’ win streak at the time to 10 games, giving Arizona two double-digit win streaks in a singe season for the first time since 1976.

In the re-match with GCU, the Cats had 13 base hits, six of which went for extra bases, as five different players had multiple hits.  Jacob Berry, a freshman from Queen Creek High School, led the parade with a 3-for4 day at the plate.  And the Arizona pitching staff allowed just five hits and was backed up by a defense that played errorless ball.

But that loss likely didn’t sour Stankiewicz on the idea of what could become a new tradition in college baseball in this state.  “It’s just made for the state of Arizona,” he points out, “for all of us to play a round robin.  I think it lines up well to continue to play each other.”

Actually, the ‘Lopes, who have won 30 games so far this season playing in the Western Athletic Conference, held their own through the four games against the Power 5 programs.

GCU lost the first game against Arizona State, 10-13, on ASU’s home field at Phoenix Municipal Stadium in a back-to-back midweek series.  The ‘Lopes gave up 13 hits, but showed they could handle the ASU pitching, collecting 11 hits of their own.

In the second meeting, the GCU bats hadn’t cooled off, as the ‘Lopes collected 11 hits on the way to a 4-1 win.  They used five pitchers to notch the win, but ASU (28-15) went through 12 pitchers to try to stave off the loss.

GCU is 30-17-1 on the season, the third straight season of 30 or more wins (excluding last year when the coronavirus cancelled the 2020 season after 18 games), with eight games left on the regular schedule.

Cade Verdusco, a freshman outfielder from Corona del Sol High School in Tempe, summed up the team’s formula for success this season following the win against ASU:

“We’re a good ballclub.  We work our asses off.  We play gritty baseball.”

Looks like that was the right formula for being able to play both Pac-12 schools to a draw.  This time, at least.

(Photo: GCU Athletics)