Arizona baseball comes back to take two out of three from Oregon Ducks
Arizona's Rio Gomez pitches during the UA-Oregon game on Saturday, April 15. Gomez picked up his fourth victory of the season.
After falling in the opener Thursday night, the Arizona baseball team responded with two straight wins over the Oregon Ducks on Friday and Saturday at Hi Corbett Field to take the series. The two wins moved the Wildcats to 26-9 in the season.
The UA won 5-4 on Friday behind a solid performance from ace J.C. Cloney during his first start back from injury. The Wildcats also got some help from the Oregon defense, which committed five errors.
Cloney lasted only one batter in his previous start last weekend against Washington State before leaving with a bicep injury. The lefty ace did not make his usual start in the series opener Thursday night, but he reported felt fine after throwing a bullpen session on Wednesday.
“I felt great,” Cloney said. “It was nice to get back out there. We wouldn’t have put [me] back out there if I didn’t feel normal. Once the bullpen [on Wednesday] went well, it was a no-brainer to start today.”
Cloney went six innings while allowing three runs with five strikeouts in his seventh win of the season.
The Wildcats got off to a hot start in the first inning when they loaded the bases with one out for Mitchell Morimoto, who grounded into what looked like an inning-ending double play, but Ducks’ second basemen Morgan McCollough threw the ball away allowing two to score for the UA.
The UA took advantage of another costly Oregon error in the fifth when Morimoto singled to right with runners on first and second. Arizona head coach Jay Johnson held up Cal Stevenson at third, but Oregon catcher Tim Susnara tried to back pick Stevenson, causing the ball to sail into left, allowing Stevenson to score and give the Wildcats a 3-0 advantage. Nick Quintana followed it up with a two-out, two-run single to left to make it 5-0 UA.
The Ducks showed signs of life in the seventh when they were able to scrap three runs together with a double and two sacrifice flies off Cloney and Cameron Ming, who came on in relief. Ming was able to hold off the Ducks until the ninth when they narrowed the deficit and nearly came back.
After Ming hit Kyle Kasser, Jake Bennett drove him in with an RBI double to right center. Cody Deason came in to shut the door, and did so after getting Gabe Matthews to flyout and pinch-hitter A.J. Balta to ground out.
The Ducks lead the Pac-12 in ERA, but Johnson called his staff “comparable” and said that they were a big reason the Wildcats were able to take game two.
“They have a really good pitching staff over there,” Johnson said. “They just seem to make pitches, and I’m really proud of our hitters. We finally got the barrel to the ball with runners in scoring position.”
The Wildcats’ offense exploded on Saturday in their 18-4 victory over the Ducks.
Like Friday’s game, the Wildcats got off to a fast start with three straight hits from Stevenson, Alfonso Rivas and Jared Oliva, which loaded the bases for J.J. Matijevic with no outs. Matijevic came through with a single to left center to score Stevenson and gave the UA a 1-0 lead. Morimoto followed it up with the fifth-straight single of the inning to score Rivas. After Nick Quintana popped up, Cesar Salazar hit a two-run bloop single to center to extend the lead to 4-0.
The UA added another one in the second when Rivas doubled to left and went to third on an error. Oliva drove in Rivas with a sacrifice fly to make it 5-1. They tacked on another after Matijevic singled, stole second and scored on a double by Morimoto. Then Quintana launched a two-run home run to left to open the flood gates and make it 8-1.
The carnage did not stop there as Matijevic doubled in the fourth then scored on a questionable play at the plate after a single by Quintana. The Wildcats added another in the fifth courtesy of a Matijevic RBI single giving UA a 10-1 lead. The junior was 4-4 by the fifth inning.
The Wildcats offense exploded again in the seventh inning for six more runs to make it 18-4. Rivas finished 5-5 with four runs and two RBIs. The UA has now scored 18 or more runs six times this season.
Rio Gomez gave the Wildcats an efficient start as he went 6.2 innings, allowed four earned runs on nine hits and struck out three.
“The readiness of the team is what I was most proud of today,” Johnson said. “There was no doubt about who was going to win the game today from the first hitter of the game. The offense was relentless with quality at-bats.”
Up next for Arizona baseball is a three-game set against the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City that begins on Thursday, April 20, at 6 p.m. MST.
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