Arizona baseball gets back on track with sweep of Washington
Home sweet home. Arizona baseball returned to Hi Corbett Field over the weekend to face Washington. After putting up a goose egg in the win column on their recent seven-game road trip, the Wildcats broke out their broomsticks and swept the Huskies, putting them at 16-14 on the season. Here are some highlights from their series sweep of UW.
The Wildcats exploded for four home runs early in game, one of which helped them cruise to a 9-3 victory over the Huskies on Friday night to snap the losing streak.
Arizona used two sets of back-to-back homers in the first and third innings to gain an early lead and from there never looked back. The win was backed by two strong pitching performances from UA’s bullpen.
In the first, freshman Austin Wells smacked a two-run bomb over the Terry Francona Hitting Center in right field. It was directly followed by junior Nick Quintana blasting a solo shot off the video board in left field, giving the UA a 3-0 lead.
Quintana’s night wasn’t done there, as he continued using the video board as target practice, smashing another solo homer off the video board in the third inning. Freshman Dayton Dayton followed immediately after with a solo missile of his own.
Junior Randy Labaut drew the start for Arizona. He earned his third win of the year, pitching six solid innings, allowing three runs and striking out six Huskies before his night was done. Junior Vince Vanelle relieved Labaut in the seventh. Vanelle dominated Washington with three flawless innings, raking up five strikeouts and earning him his first save of the season.
The Wildcats were an offensive juggernaut in game two on Saturday afternoon, as they were able to outscore the opposition 14-2, taking command of their series with UW.
Arizona used another three-run first inning, followed by a four-run third, to help propel it over Washington, it was an onslaught from there on out, as UA finished with 12 RBIs on 14 hits.
Zona’s offense carried its momentum from the first game into game two, as sophomore Donta Williams led off the first inning with a double and was able to score off a one-out single by Wells. The ‘Cats added to their lead with a two-run rocket over the Terry Francona Hitting Center in right field by Dooney, making it his second consecutive game with a homer, giving UA an early 3-0 lead.
Arizona batters continued to stay hot in the third inning, as sophomore Matthew Dyer led the inning off with a triple. The bases were then loaded after Wells and Dooney drew walks, bringing up junior Cameron Cannon with one out. Cannon was able to stroke a double into left center driving in Dyer, Wells and Dooney, giving them a 7-1 lead after three.
Wells was a spark the first two games of the series, going a combined 6-8 at the plate with six RBIs.
UA head coach Jay Johnson had nothing but high praise for the freshman’s performance through the first two games, saying, “he’s a superstar player,” and adding, “he’s so consistent mentally, that allows his talent to show up.”
Freshman Quinn Flanagan started on the rubber for the ‘Cats. Flanagan kept UW in check as he finished with two strikeouts, allowing just two runs on seven innings pitched and earning his fourth win of the season.
The ‘Cats were able to complete the sweep Sunday afternoon, extending their home record to 14-5 on the season. Led by the strong starting pitching performance by junior Andrew Nardi and another 10-plus hit game for Arizona, the team secured them the victory with a final score of 7-4.
After giving up an early run in the first run, Nardi locked in. He finished with 5.2 innings pitched and surrendering three runs and setting a career-high for strikeouts, fanning 10 Husky batters to earn his third win of the year.
“He really responded well today. He had to pitch well for us to win,” Johnson said.
UA hitters continued their success at the plate in game three, as they combined for 11 hits. After taking a 2-1 lead in the second inning, the Wildcats added insurance runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings.
The offensive attack was led by the duo of Dyer and Cannon. Cannon ended the game going 3-4 with an RBI off a double he roped into left center in the bottom of the fifth inning. That marks Cannon’s 17th double of the season, leading the Pac-12.
Dyer finished the game perfect at the plate going four for four, scoring twice and driving in one run off a single in the bottom of the sixth inning, giving the UA their seventh and final run of the game.
“Offense came out and swung it really well all three games, pitching was phenomenal, our defense was top notch … the whole team unity finally came together and it showed this weekend,” Dyer said.
Johnson was pleased with the way his bullpen responded this weekend, being able to hold onto late-inning leads.
“That’s really been an area of the team that needs to get better,” Johnson said “After the previous two games, it was five scoreless innings out of the bullpen. Then Avery came in and did a really nice job for three and a third today. That’s one run in eight and third innings, and it had to be that way.”
The phrase “there is no place like home,” from the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz, seems to be the exact expression to define the first half of Arizona baseball this season. It’s no secret the team seems to be more comfortable playing at home, getting outscored on the road 74-88, compared to playing at Hi Corbett, where they have outscored their opposition 208-125.
The Wildcats will try to improve their road record (2-9) and extend their winning streak, as they head to Brazell Field for the first game of their home-and-home series with the Antelopes of Grand Canyon University. Game time is set for Tuesday at 6 p.m. MST.
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