Timely hits coupled with Arizona pitcher Cody Hamlin’s effort on the mound helped the Wildcats to a 3-2 victory over No. 22 UCLA on Saturday night at Hi Corbett Field.
This year Hamlin has pitched eight innings or more four times with the Wildcats winning each of those decisions. Saturday night was no exception as Hamlin earned the win and improved to 5-2 on the year behind a complete game – his second of the season.
Hamlin allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits, walked two, struck out four.
“I definitely get more comfortable and get more in the zone as the game goes on,” Hamlin said. “[Going longer] feels great. It makes you want to finish the game more and get the win. I know the team is behind me. It’s really nice going out there and knowing I can pitch to contact, let the defense do their work and keep the pitch count down [in the later innings].”
Arizona’s win tied the series between the Wildcats and the Bruins with the decisive rubber match set for Sunday at 4 p.m.
While the Wildcats were shut out 8-0 and limited to six hits during the series opener on Friday, Arizona jumped out to an early lead over the Bruins on Saturday.
After exchanging zeros in the first frame, UCLA was the first to strike when it took advantage of a leadoff walk from Hamlin and subsequently scored in the top of the second inning.
The Wildcats’ bats came to life after Friday night’s shutout and Arizona retaliated immediately in the bottom half of the second as the team strung together five hits and scored three runs.
With runners on first and second, Wildcats’ junior catcher Riley Moore doubled down the left field line to score two runs and pull the Wildcats ahead of the Bruins 2-1. Sophomore left fielder Zach Gibbons followed with a single to score Moore and extend the UA’s lead to 3-1.
“I’m just trying to remain consistent. Hopefully I’m getting my swing down and moving in the right direction,” Moore said. “I’m trying to get my foot down on time and just really see the ball – focus on picking up on the spin. I’m trying to hit every fastball that’s thrown in my direction.”
Moore provided the bulk of Arizona’s offense and finished the night with three hits – two singles and a double – and two RBI.
UCLA threatened Arizona’s lead in the seventh inning, scoring an unearned run after a fielding error by Wildcat second baseman Trent Gilbert allowed the runner to score from second and tightened the score 3-2.
“I thought it was extremely impressive after the error at second base, for [Hamlin] to just keep his poise and pitch right through that and get the third out of the inning,” head coach Andy Lopez said. “[Hamlin] does the one thing that I wish would rub off on some of the other guys; he competes really well. We’ve got a few guys on the staff that would have unraveled in that situation.”
In the eighth, UCLA had a chance to tie it up, but squandered its opportunity, stranding a runner in scoring position after Hamlin’s crafty pitching forced DH Kevin Williams to foul out to junior shortstop Kevin Newman to end the inning.
“[Hamlin] commands his slider and changeup really well [and] since the day he showed up here, he’s had great presence,” Lopez said.
—Follow Evan Rosenfeld @EvanRosenfeld17