Wildcat baseball wins two close games against Charleston, fall in series finale
Arizona pitcher Bryce Collins throws a pitch during a game against the College of Charleston on March. 8, 2019 at Hi Corbett Field.
Following a disappointing loss to the then-1-9 Michigan State Spartans last Tuesday night, Arizona baseball was able to get back on track, hosting the College of Charleston at Hi Corbett Field and winning two of the three games in the series. Here’s a recap of the weekend:
It seems like close games are inevitable for the Wildcats at this point in the 2019 season, as they edged out the Cougars 7-5 Friday night, making it their fifth game decided by two runs or less.
Arizona used a four-run third inning to build on lead starter Avery Weems posting five scoreless innings before being relieved in the sixth.
After grabbing a commanding 6-0 lead heading into the sixth, junior Cameron Cannon continued his struggles defensively at shortstop, committing his second error of the night in the sixth. From there, Charleston was able to build momentum, scoring five runs on six hits, trimming the Arizona lead to 6-5.
Cannon finished the game with three errors, making it his fourth-consecutive game with at least two.
The Wildcats did the majority of their damage in the third, scoring four of their seven runs in the inning. Four Arizona batters were able to gain RBIs in the inning, capped off with a double by freshman Dayton Dooney to drive in freshman Ryan Holgate from first.
Head coach Jay Johnson shook up the hitting order, giving the ‘Cats a different dynamic. Two moves seemed to benefit Arizona in Friday night's contest; one of them was having sophomore Donta Williams lead off. Williams was a catalyst, reaching base in all five of his at-bats. He finished with a pair of singles, a double and a triple and scoring four runs.
“I was obviously excited,” Williams said, when asked about what his reaction was to being told he was batting leadoff. “But it’s about being able to stay focused and have the right state of mind through the whole game.”
The other change: moving junior center fielder Matt Frazier to the three spot. Frazier finished with three hits and four RBIs, ironically driving in Williams all four times.
“Frazier batting three hole, I loved what I saw in him,” Williams said after the game. “The aggressiveness, I think that potentially he can be a really good three-hitter.”
The Wildcats were able to escape with another narrow victory, putting them at six games decided by two or less, beating Charleston again by a score of 7-5.
After being moved to second base because of defensive mistakes at shortstop over the past four games, Cannon was able to respond by giving the ‘Cats a spark at the plate. A double by Williams started the game, then Cannon followed it with a double of his own to bring in Williams. Austin Wells singled in the second baseman and the ‘Cats took a 2-0 lead after one.
From there, the ‘Cats never looked back scoring two more in the second and Cannon finished the game going 3-4, with a pair of doubles, and two RBIs.
Freshman Quinn Flanagan started on the mound for the ‘Cats, making it his third start of the year. Aside from the solo shot he surrendered in the sixth, this was Flanagan’s strongest outing yet, finishing the night with six innings pitched, the most he has pitched this season. He ended giving up three runs, only one earned, and striking out four.
After one solid inning of relief coming into the game in the seventh, Arizona’s Randy Labaut struggled to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard and the base paths. They scored two off Labaut, once in the eighth and once in the ninth to bring the lead down to two, before he was replaced by freshman Tucson native George Arias Jr.
Johnson spoke highly after the game of his freshman pitching rotation after their performances in the first two games of the series.
“That’s really good pitching performances by Bryce [Collins] last night, Quinn [Flannigan] to start the game, George [Arias Jr.] to finish the game,” Johnson said. “We believe in those guys, that’s why they are in those spots, and I anticipate they will get better, which is good for the now and the future.”
The ‘Cats found themselves down for the first time in the series, as they attempted to break out the brooms and go for the sweep.
A 3-1 advantage was the only time the the ‘Cats held a lead in their final game against Charleston on Sunday afternoon. The Cougars were able to take control of the game in the top of the third, when they exploded for five of their ten runs.
Junior Vince Vanelle drew the start for the Wildcats but did not last long, as he struggled and was pulled after just 12 pitches. Vanelle finished zero strikeouts, walking two and allowing one run on two hits.
The Wildcats brought in junior Andrew Nardi to replace Vanelle in the inning, but he also had a difficult time keeping the Cougars off the board. Nardi received the loss, pitching only 1.2 innings, allowing three runs on four hits and a rare zero-strikeout performance.
UA would make it interesting, as they were able to send in a run in the third, sixth and seventh innings, trimming the Charleston lead to just one run heading into the eighth. The Cougars were able to put the last nail in the coffin that inning, however, driving in three more runs to push their lead to 10-6. Arizona would go down without a fight in the ninth, as it went down 1-2-3 in order.
The ‘Cats now sit at 10-6 on the season, as they will continue their 13-game homestand hosting the Xavier Musketeers on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. MST.
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