Arizona baseball wins finale vs. Houston, but drop two of three
There’s a quote by head coach Jay Johnson that sums up the Arizona Wildcats baseball season so far through eight games.
“You know you’re going to have to work through dealing with success, which we will have some success, and failure, and respond in the way that you need to in order to be the best that you can be,” Johnson said.
After the Wildcats got off to a blazing start through five games, outscoring their opponents 85-22 and seemingly dominating UMass-Lowell and Rice in every facet of the game, they hit a wall this past weekend, losing two of three games against the University of Houston. Here’s a rundown of each game:
UA starter Randy Labaut put up an admirable performance, going 7.1 innings while allowing just two runs on six hits. Labaut threw seven strikeouts to just one walk in a quality start, but was unfortunately handed a loss as the Wildcats could not get any offense going. Labaut’s seven strikeouts tied a career high, which was initially set in a start against Arkansas on Feb. 21 of 2018. The left-hander surrendered a solo home run to Joe Davis in the eighth inning which turned out to be the difference as the Wildcats lost 2-1.
Sophomore designated hitter Blake Paugh hit a solo home run in the top of the third inning, the first homer of his collegiate career. The Wildcats were not able to back up Labaut’s performance. A single by Cameron Cannon in the first inning and the home run by Paugh was all the offense UA could produce.
It was looking bleak for the Wildcats early in game two on Saturday, as Andrew Nardi lost the command of his pitches he had in his first start of the year. Nardi went just 2.1 innings, surrendering six runs on six hits. He also walked four batters, while striking out just one.
After the Wildcats got off to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first, Nardi’s struggles on the mound put them down 6-1 after three innings.
Following Paugh’s home run on Friday, sophomore Tate Soderstrom had his own first collegiate dinger, a two-run bomb in the fifth inning on Saturday. That cut the lead to 6-3 in favor of Houston as the Wildcats finally showed some life.
Sophomore reliever Jonathon Guardado entered the game in the sixth inning, surrendering two runs right back to Houston.
Heading into the eighth inning trailing 9-3, the Wildcats continued to fight, putting up a mini-rally in the last two innings. Following back-to-back singles by Dayton Dooney and Matt Frazier in the eighth inning, Cannon mashed a home run that cut the lead to 9-6.
In the following inning, UA loaded the bases with two outs following a single by Cannon. The next batter, Ryan Holgate, grounded out to the pitcher, killing the rally for the Wildcats as they fell 9-7 for their second consecutive loss.
The Wildcats looked to salvage one game from the series on Sunday afternoon as freshman Bryce Collins took the mound. First inning RBI singles by Nick Quintana and Matthew Dyer got the team off to an early 2-0 lead.
Collins’ command wasn’t quite there early on as he walked a batter in the first inning and hit a batter in the second and third inning. However, he was able to get out of each inning unscathed, not allowing any hits or runs. Collins ran into trouble in the fourth, as he allowed a lead-off home run that cut the lead to 2-1, followed by back-to-back singles.
Tucson native George Arias Jr. entered the game as a reliever with runners on first and second and nobody out. He was able to retire the next three batters, including a huge strikeout with runners on second and third with one out.
The Wildcats offense was able to find its groove in the fifth inning, breaking the game completely open. RBI singles by Frazier and Quintana got the scoring started in the inning, followed by an RBI walk by Dyer, a two-run double by Soderstrom, and RBI single by Holgate that got the lead up to 8-1.
The big inning was capped off by a throwing error by Houston pitcher Brayson Hurdsman after Justin Wylie laid down a well-executed bunt. The error allowed Soderstrom to score, capping off a seven run inning by Arizona and increasing the lead to 9-1.
The Wildcats controlled the rest of the game, taking the series finale 9-4.
Cannon saw his seven-game hit streak come to an end on Sunday, but he still leads the team in average (among players who have 20+ plate appearances) as he is now hitting .469.
The Wildcats will head back to Tucson, looking to remain undefeated at home as they get set to host New Mexico for one game on Wednesday followed by a three-game series over the weekend against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
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