Arizona starts off season strong with series sweep over Albany
The spotlight was on the Wildcats' pitchers this weekend under new pitching coach Nate Yeskie as he made his official in-season debut here at Hi Corbett Field. Let’s take a look game-by-game at how they, along with the rest of the team, fared in the opening series against Albany.
The improvement of the pitching staff was already evident from the start. Garrett Irvin, a transfer from Riverside City College, opened up the game, going five innings and allowing just two runs while striking out seven hitters and allowing just one walk as he picked up the victory. Vince Vannelle and Nate Brown followed, combining for three hitless innings with seven strikeouts. The Wildcats' pitching staff combined for 14 strikeouts, topping last year's season-high, which was 12 strikeouts in April of last year against Washington, in a single game.
Dayton Dooney opened up the scoring for Arizona, singling in Donta Williams before Matthew Dyer eventually scored on a passed ball to give the ‘Cats a 2-0 lead after one inning. The Wildcats didn’t look back as they eventually scored four runs the following inning, including an Austin Wells three-run home run blasted to right field.
Williams, Dyer, Wells and Ryan Holgate combined for 10 hits and 10 runs driven in, leading the way for the Wildcats' lineup.
They had a 12-2 lead going into the ninth inning before Zach Sherman came in to close out the game. He struggled early on, allowing the first five batters he faced to reach base. He eventually finished the inning, but not before he had allowed four runs and five innings with two walks. The Wildcats were still able to hang on as they took home the victory 12-7.
Quinn Flanagan opened up the game Saturday night, going seven strong shutout innings with ten strikeouts, allowing just two hits and walking just two batters. Wesley Scott, a freshman out of California, made his first appearance at Hi Corbett, closing the game throwing two hitless innings with three strikeouts. The only baserunner he allowed was on an error.
The lineup continued where they left off, as Dyer hit a two-run double before Dooney homered to give the Wildcats a 4-0 lead after one inning. They didn’t stop there, however, as they poured in nine runs alone in a third inning that saw 14 batters get a chance at the plate. Every starter reached base and eight of the nine starters recorded a hit as they took home the victory for the second straight night 15-0.
We saw flashbacks from last year’s Arizona defensive unit as the middle infield committed three errors, leading to two unearned runs. However, the pitching and lineup were able to overcome the defensive struggles and sweep Albany in the opening series this season.
Freshman pitcher Chandler Murphy impressed in his collegiate debut, throwing five shutout innings and allowing three hits while walking two and striking out seven Albany hitters. He escaped multiple jams, stranding five men on base, four of them being in scoring position.
Dooney opened up the scoring in the first inning, smashing a triple down the first base line to score Dyer before Williams hit an RBI single in the second inning to give the ‘Cats an early 2-0 lead. Arizona added in another run in the fourth inning on a bases-loaded walk from Austin Wells.
Randy Abshier came into the game in the sixth inning, where he got into an early bases-loaded jam. Abshier threw a perfect pitch that led to a groundball to Kyson Donahue at shortstop, but an overthrow from second baseman Jacob Blas over Branden Boissuere at first base led to Albany plating two runs. Abshier ended up going 2/3 of an inning, allowing two runs (one earned) on one hit with two walks and two strikeouts. Gil Luna came into the game to finish the inning and keep Arizona in front 3-2 through six innings.
Arizona quickly answered the following half-inning as a two-run single by Wells and sacrifice fly by Dooney gave the ‘Cats a 6-2 lead. Luna stayed in the game in the seventh inning, getting into some trouble thanks in part to an error from Donahue at shortstop. However, he was able to overcome the error and allow just one (unearned) run to hold the lead at 6-3.
Dyer, who walked three times, was the only starter to not record a hit as Arizona won 11-3 after combining for eight runs in the last three innings. Williams and Wells combined for four hits and seven RBIs.
Head coach Jay Johnson on series sweep:
“It is really kind of like we picked up where we left off,” head coach Jay Johnson said. “It is almost like it is an expectation of them to eventually crack the game open because we won a lot in a row. I don’t know how many going back to last year, so I think that was not a surprise. I was very pleased with the flow of the game. I think Chandler [Murphy] did an outstanding job today. I think Gil [Luna] was impressive.”
Johnson said the defensive errors Arizona had on Sunday afternoon were “very correctable.”
What’s next: The Wildcats head to Tempe to meet Minnesota Monday afternoon , with first pitch scheduled for 11 a.m. MST.
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