It's won't be about the Wildcats' 6-9 conference record or the grim reality that the team has dropped 19 spots in the national polls during the last six weeks; it's much simpler than that. Tuesday night is about answering a very simple question: Can the Wildcats win a game against a good opponent when it needs to most?
In the sport of baseball, the phrase is heard all the time, "it's a mental game." Well mentally right now Arizona can't be feeling very good, dropping eight of its last 12 contests, while being outscored 68-30 in those loses. The good news is; all of that can start to change with one win over ASU.
No, a win over the Sun Devils won't suddenly spring Arizona to the top of the conference standings or even lock up a spot in the postseason, but it would be one of the bigger wins of the season. This considering ASU's only loses since the last time these two teams hooked up has been to the conference leading Oregon State Beavers.
Yes, the Wildcats have beaten ranked opponents (see Rice, Arizona State, Oregon State, California, and UCLA), but Arizona's record in playing those same teams the very next game after a win is a discouraging 1-4. If the Wildcats can find a way to win Tuesday night, that isn't a stat it will have to worry about going into the weekend series against USC.
Here are the three things the Wildcats will have to do in order to get back in the win column against ASU.
1. Remember whom you're playing: No doubt, it's been a rough stretch for the Cats lately, but the Sun Devils will only prey on that negative energy if they see it. If you think for one second ASU is going to show any sympathy whatsoever, you obviously don't know this rivalry too well.
In fact, these two teams were involved in quite the scuffle last time the two squads met in Tucson. The energy picked up for Arizona from that point on, but by that time it was already too late. If you're Arizona, have that intensity from the get go and sustain it.
2. Back to basics: Remember a time when Joey Rickard led the nation with a near .500 batting average? Remember when Arizona knocked around Oregon State for 12 runs in an inning, or when Josh Garcia led the Pac-10 in homers? Well guess what? Those players are still in this Wildcat offense and it's not like these guys have suddenly forgotten how to hit. Over the last six games, Arizona hitters have struck out 50 times, and a lot of those have been looking. This is the Pac-10; guys throw strikes, so take your hacks.
3. Be aggressive: Along with Arizona hitters trusting their swings, the Wildcat base runners need to trust their speed on the bases and pitchers need to trust their stuff. The Wildcats rank second in the league in stolen bases, but only had one last weekend in Eugene. Arizona can't rely on the long ball or station-to-station baseball to win this game, ASU pitching is just too good for that. On the pitching side of things, it's pretty simple: just throw strikes. The Wildcats have already seen what happens when they don't.