Ninth-inning collapse dooms Arizona baseball
It was not the homecoming Arizona baseball was looking for, as the team returned to Hi Corbett Field Wednesday night in a contest against the University of New Mexico Lobos after splitting its road trip 2-2 in Houston this past week.
Arizona blew a 4-2 lead going into the top of the ninth, snapping its four-game home winning streak. It was a chess match, and as Arizona head coach Jay Johnson tried to manage the situation when it came to the bullpen, the Wildcats lost in a nail-biter to the Lobos 5-4.
The ‘Cats used four pitchers alone in the ninth to try to close out their 4-2 lead. Bases were loaded with two outs, and a high flyout was hit to the left field corner as Williams had the beat on the play. Colliding into the fence, the ball landed in his glove, but seemingly in slow motion it snow-coned its way out of his glove.
“I felt my body hit the fence,” Williams said, when asked about the crucial play in the ninth. "The impact after that kind of pulled me away from it.”
Junior Arizona pitcher Preston Price gave up three runs in the inning, bringing the score to 5-4. The Wildcats went down quietly in the bottom half of the inning, as they stranded one.
The ‘Cats used a total of eight pitchers. Freshman Quinn Flanagan drew the start for Arizona, but he was followed by a multitude.
Johnson attempted to play situational ball in the top of the sixth. He counteracted the Lobos' left-handed batter Tanner Baker by bringing in a left-hander of his own, sophomore Gil Luna. New Mexico head coach Ray Birmingham noticed coach Johnson’s tactic quickly and reacted by putting in right-handed pinch hitter, Tyler Kelly.
After a bad pitch advanced the runner to third, Luna was able to throw a knee-buckling, off-speed pitch to leave Kelly frozen at the plate. The ‘Cats left the top of the sixth down 2-1.
UA's offense was able to respond in the bottom half. Junior center fielder Matt Frazier led the inning with a single, followed by a single by junior third baseman Nick Quintana. After freshman Austin Wells was able to draw a walk and a pass ball brought in Frazier, sophomore left fielder Donta Williams was able to drive in Quintana and Wells with a single, giving Arizona a 4-2 lead going into the seventh.
"Baseball is a game of failure. It’s about getting to the next pitch, the next play … just doing my best job in helping the team be successful," Williams said after the game.
“You gotta get to tomorrow,” Johnson said after the tough loss. “The good thing about young people is they are pretty resilient and they get to the next thing. They are going to have to do that.”
Arizona will look to rebound, as they are set to host the Panthers of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in a three game series. The first game is scheduled for Friday at 6 p.m.
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