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Huskies await Pac-leading Wildcats

Branden Berry and the Huskies will look to improve their postseason chances this weekend in a three-game set with Arizona. Photo by Joshua Bessex

When asked Tuesday whether his baseball team was ready to take on No. 16 Arizona, Washington head coach Lindsay Meggs replied honestly. No, he said, they were not.

“But we’ll be ready by Friday,” Meggs continued. “We haven’t had the opportunity to practice much in the past couple weeks, so tomorrow and Thursday are going to be great days for us to get ready for [Arizona coach] Andy Lopez’s team.”

The UW (19-15, 5-7 Pac-12) has shown it has the talent to beat good teams, easily taking a series from now-No. 11 Oregon and playing No. 10 Stanford close earlier in the year. The Huskies have what it takes to beat a school like Arizona (24-12, 10-5), but will need to play near-perfect baseball to do so.

“Make no errors, give up no free bases for pitchers, and get the leadoff guy on for offense,” pitcher Austin Voth said when asked what the Huskies need to do in order to win.

That’s easier said than done. The Huskies have slumped of late, losing eight of their past 11 games. A team that once seemed like a great bet for the postseason is now on the outside of the NCAA tournament bubble.

“We felt like we were on the right track heading into conference play, and then winning the Oregon series was big,” outfielder Caleb Brown said. “Then this last kind of slump happened. I think we’re looking to start that process again and show everybody what we can do.”

While the team is better than it has shown lately, righting the ship against a team that is tied for first atop the prestigious Pac-12 is a tall order indeed.

“We’re going to have to do a lot more than just score some runs,” Meggs said. “We’re going to not let their leadoff guy on; we’re going to have to hold runners. They probably have the best offensive balance in the league.”

The UW is running out of opportunities to prove its worth with quality wins. While series against Utah, USC, and Washington State should provide a chance to pad the Huskies’ conference record, only by beating teams such as Arizona, UCLA, and perhaps Arizona State can the Huskies prove they’re tournament-worthy.

This team needs a statement win, and it’s running out of time. The UW has done a good job of playing with the top teams and avoiding being swept, but too often the team has lost close decisions in series-deciding games.

“Honestly, when we go out on the field, nobody that we’ve played has blown us out,” Brown said. “So we always feel like we can win. A lot of it is taking care of ourselves, taking care of our defense, not worrying about what the other team is doing.”

The Huskies’ first crack at the Wildcats will come with junior Aaron West on the mound this Friday at 5 p.m. at Husky Ballpark. Then freshman Tyler Davis will start at 2 p.m. Saturday, and sophomore Jeff Brigham will finish things off for the Huskies on Friday in a game slated for 1 p.m.

Reach reporter Jacob Thorpe at sports@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @Jacob_B_Thorpe

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