Arizona baseball faced a challenging opponent this past weekend when it traveled to Los Angeles to play the No. 1 team in the country, the UCLA Bruins, in Jackie Robinson Stadium. All three games were won by UCLA, but the series served as a learning experience for the ‘Cats in how competitive the Pac-12 is going to be this season. Here are some of the highlights from the matchup with the Bruins:
Game one: Bruins win 10-5
The Wildcats struck early with a 2-0 lead on a two-RBI double from third baseman Nick Quintana in the top of the first inning, but the lead did not last long. The Bruins bounced back in the bottom of the first inning, when junior third baseman Ryan Kreider hit a solo home run. The Bruins were able to score runs in the first five innings of the game, and the lead the Wildcats had was gone.
Junior left-handed pitcher Randy Labaut got the start for the ‘Cats, and it was rough outing for him on the rubber, falling to a 2-2 record on the year. Labaut went four innings and was charged with seven earned runs on nine hits, four walks and four strikeouts. After seven innings, Arizona found itself down by a score of 10-2, and the game was pretty much out of reach with Bruins right-hander Zach Pettway pitching. Pettway finished the evening going seven innings and striking out 10.
UA did make things interesting in the eighth inning, when left fielder Matthew Dyer delivered an RBI single and catcher Austin Wells drove in two more during the inning. Dyer finished the night going 2-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI, while Wells put together a 2-for-4 performance with one run scored and two RBI.
Game two: Bruins win 12-10
Saturday’s game was quite the offensive affair, as the two teams combined for 22 runs through the nine innings. The Wildcat offense once again started the scoring, but just like game one, the Bruins jumped right back into the game and retook the lead.
Freshman right-handed pitcher Quinn Flanagan started the game and found himself in the same situation as Labaut the night before. Flanagan allowed seven earned runs on eight hits, one walk and three strikeouts in a no decision. The Bruins scored four times in the second inning and found themselves leading by a score of 4-1 heading into the top of the third.
The Wildcat offense came alive in the top of the third and jumped all over Bruins starter Jack Ralston. Arizona was able to put together a six-run outburst in the top of the third and was highlighted by home runs from second baseman Cameron Cannon and Quintana.
Cannon’s three-run dinger was his team-leading fifth of the year, while Quintana’s two-run shot was his second home run on the season. The Wildcats found themselves leading the Bruins by a score of 7-4 after the third inning, but the Bruins clawed their way back into the lead, scoring four runs in the bottom of the fourth inning and taking an 8-7 lead.
Quintana continued his strong game, as he delivered an RBI single in the top of the fifth, tying the game at 8-8. Quintana led UA on offense, finishing the afternoon 2-for-5 with two runs scored and three RBIs. Shortstop Jacob Bilas reached on a fielding error that brought in two more runs. The ‘Cats led 10-8 at the end of the top of the fifth inning, but Arizona couldn't hold on again. The Bruins scored four runs in the next three innings and ultimately took game two of the series by a score of 12-10.
Game three: Bruins win 3-1
Despite a gem from left-hander Andrew Nardi, Arizona dropped its series finale 3-1 to UCLA on Sunday afternoon.
Nardi, in his fifth start of the season for the Wildcats, turned in one of the best outings of the year. He went 6.2 innings and allowed just one run on five hits while striking out six Bruins. It was Nardi’s longest outing of the year, both in innings pitched and total pitches (106).
The game was scoreless for the first six and a half innings before the Bruins jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning on a solo home run from first baseman Michael Toglia. The ‘Cats answered quickly, as shortstop Dayton Dooney delivered a two-out RBI single into right field, tying the game at one. The Bruins were able to retake the lead in the bottom of the eighth inning, scoring two runs and creating the final score of 3-1.
The Wildcats now find themselves with a 13-10 record on the season and 2-4 record in the Pac-12, while the Bruins will certainly find themselves again in the No. 1 ranking for this upcoming week with a record of 17-5 and 5-1 in the Pac-12. The Wildcats have to rebound quickly as they face the San Diego Aztecs on Monday night at Tony Gwynn Stadium in San Diego, Calif.
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