UA baseball takes two of three from Utah first conference series
It has been a very up and down beginning to the 2018-19 season for Arizona’s baseball team. After originally being projected to finish fourth in the Pac-12 going into the season, Arizona found itself sitting at 10-6 in seventh place going into conference play last Friday night against Utah. Despite a rough first game, the Wildcats went on to win the final two games of the series.
UA's Avery Weems was on the mound, but things got ugly very quickly for the Wildcats as they found themselves down 10-2 after three innings.
Weems was stuck in a bases loaded jam right off the bat in the first inning, before surrendering a two-run double to Utah’s designated hitter Issac Deveaux to give the Utes an early lead.
It didn’t get any better for Weems as he was lifted after just 2-plus innings, allowing six runs on six hits with two walks and a strikeout. Head coach Jay Johnson had enough from his starter in the third inning as he took Weems out in the middle of an at-bat with runners on first and second and nobody out.
Reliever George Arias Jr. couldn't stop the bleeding as he struck out the first hitter he faced before allowing the next four hitters to reach base. Johnson stuck with Arias Jr. through two rough innings in the third and fourth, where Utah scored a combined 11 runs to put the game at a 15-2 deficit for Arizona after four innings.
The theme of the season so far for this Wildcats lineup has been resilience, and that certainly showed up in the seventh inning as the Wildcats poured in seven runs to make it an 18-10 game. The inning lasted over 40 minutes, as the Wildcats batted around the lineup, bringing thirteen hitters to the plate. They ultimately left the bases loaded for the second inning of the game, and couldn’t get any rally going in the final two innings, falling 21-10 in the first conference game of the season.
Coming off a disastrous pitching performance in game one for the Arizona Wildcats, starter Quinn Flanagan put the team on his back in game two, throwing a complete game shutout en route to an 8-0 victory for the Wildcats in game two of this three game series against Utah.
One of the key moments of the game, after getting off to a slow start in game one Friday night, was when Flanagan struck out Utah’s designated hitter Briley Knight with runners on the corners to end the top of the first.
“That was big,” Johnson said after the game. “We had the magic moment of the game when we win a game, and that was it. I mean obviously a great performance with the shutout, but striking out [Briley] Knight right there with first and third was a big deal.”
The Wildcats’ bats carried that momentum going into the bottom half of the first, as a Donta Williams walk to lead off the bottom half of the first was followed by back-to-back home run hits by Cameron Cannon and Nick Quintana.
Flanagan used that momentum to go the distance, throwing nine shutout innings while allowing six hits and three walks and four strikeouts. He got into a little jam with two runners on and two outs in the ninth inning, but coach Johnson wanted to let him finish this gem.
“He deserved the opportunity to finish that deal off, and that’s all that it takes is to pitch to your capability, and we’ll give you that opportunity.”
Flanagan wouldn’t have been able to go the distance without some help, as there were several brilliant plays by the infield behind him, including several great plays at first base by Austin Wells.
“That was huge. I’m super proud of him [Austin Wells] as well,” Cannon said after the game. “I know all the first baseman work really hard because really all of them haven’t gotten much time playing first base in their baseball career. That’s a big adjustment for them, and I think Wells and everyone else are handling it pretty well.”
Cannon had himself a day as well, belting two home runs. He went 3-3 with a walk on the day with three RBI’s and three runs. Cannon has now hit four home runs this season.
The ‘Cats continued on the momentum they built Saturday evening, as they faced off against Utah Sunday afternoon in the rubber match of the three game weekend set.
This was the offensive game UA was hoping for as the Wildcats’ bats erupted in the second, fifth and eighth inning, scoring five runs in each frame. They added one run in the seventh inning to take the game 18-7 and win the first conference series of the year.
UA starter Bryce Collins got off to a slow start in the first inning, walking two batters before surrendering a three-run home run to clean-up hitter Erick Migueles.
Collins was able to settle down after the first inning, allowing just one run the next three innings before being replaced by Randy Labaut in the fifth inning with a runner on second and nobody out.
The final line for Collins was 4-plus innings while allowing five runs (four earned) on six hits with four walks and two strikeouts.
Labaut surrendered two runs (both unearned) in the fifth inning off errors by third baseman Quintana and shortstop Jacob Blas. However he was able to finish the final five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits with three walks and six strikeouts.
Matt Frazier went 4-5 with four RBI’s, while Cannon, Quintana, Wells and Blas also enjoyed multi-hit games.
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