Arizona baseball defeats New Mexico State 8-7 behind JJ Matijevic

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Emily Gauci | The Daily Wildcat

Arizona baseball infielder J.J. Matijevic (24) swings at a pitch during Arizona's matchup with California at Hi Corbett Field on April 26, 2015. Matijevic helped lift the Wildcats over New Mexico State on Wednesday with three hits and two RBIs.

JJ Matijevic recorded three hits, including a home run and two RBIs, helping the Arizona baseball team overcome a sloppy start on the way to an 8-7 victory over New Mexico State on Wednesday night.

“We did not play well at the beginning of this game, and I was very disappointed about that,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said after the game in a press to Arizona Athletics. “But [we showed] perseverance, toughness, and it’s a really good growth step for our guys to not play well and win against a first-place team from another league.”

Thanks to two errors by the Wildcats, New Mexico State was able to jump out to an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first inning.

With one out in the inning, Greg Popylisen singled and would get to second after Arizona first baseman Ryan Aguilar couldn’t hang onto a pickoff attempt. The next batter grounded out, allowing Popylisen to advance to third.

Arizona starting pitcher Kevin Ginkel was able to get the next batter to hit a should-have-been inning ending groundout, but the ball was mishandled by Bobby Dalbec at third, bringing home the game’s first run. With a runner still on third and only one out in the inning, the Aggies were able to tack on the second run with an RBI groundout.

In the second inning, Mason Fishback reached base on an error to start the frame. He would eventually score on a wild pitch to give NMSU a 3-0 lead.

Ginkel pitched 3.1 innings for Arizona, giving up the three runs, though all three were unearned due to the erratic defense behind him.

But the offense would make up for the defense’s deficiency.

Zach Gibbons made it a 3-2 game with a two-run single through the left side in the bottom of the third. Then, in the fourth, Justin Behnke drove in Alfonso Rivas to tie things up at 3-3, and Gibbons would follow it up with another RBI, singling in Behnke to give the Wildcats a 4-3 lead.

The Aggies would tie things up in the top of the fifth, though, with an RBI single.

But the Wildcats responded in the bottom half of the inning. Matijevic doubled to leadoff the inning and would later score on a wild pitch, putting the Wildcats back on top 5-4.

However, they’d leave the bases loaded in the inning, and the Aggies would take advantage, scoring three runs in the seventh to re-take the lead, 7-5. One of the runs came off Tyler Crawford who made his first appearance at Hi Corbett since 2014.

Matijevic would cut the deficit to 7-6 with a solo homer in the bottom of the seventh and the Wildcats would re-take the lead for good in the eighth.

After Bobby Dalbec hit a one-out single, Aguilar doubled down the left field line, scoring Dalbec all the way from first to tie the game at 7-7.

Then, Matijevic delivered again, singling to right to put Arizona up 8-7.

Lead changes were common throughout the game, but that wouldn’t be the case in the ninth.

Alfonso Rivas, who got the final two outs in the eighth, pitched a perfect 1-2-3 inning to close the game out, giving him his first win of his career and improving the Wildcats’ record to 23-14 overall and 17-5 at home.

Arizona will now have to leave the friendly confines of Hi Corbett Field to take on California in Berkeley for a three-game series this weekend. The series opener is on Friday, and the first pitch is scheduled for 7 p.m.

The Golden Bears are 22-11 overall this season with a 9-6 Pac-12 Conference record, placing them in a tie for second in the conference standings.

The Wildcats are in eighth place with a 7-8 conference record and 5-8 on the road this season.


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