The Arizona baseball team opened up their Pac-12 play with a series against the UCLA Bruins at Jackie Robinson Stadium in Los Angeles, California that began Friday, Mar 19 and ended Sunday, Mar 21. The Wildcats went on to lose the series two games to one.
Game 1: Arizona-2, UCLA-3
Top of the rotation starter Chase Silseth started the game pretty strong. He seemed extremely confident and had a good command of the strike zone. Through the first three innings he gave up one hit. It would have been two if it weren’t for a potential catch of the year worthy play by center fielder Donta Williams. However, things would take a turn after this.
In the fourth inning, Silseth gave up a single followed by a double and a walk immediately after to load the bases. Two batters later, he gave up another single which sent the runners on second and third home to give the Bruins a 2-0 lead at the bottom of the fourth.
In the seventh inning, Riley Cooper took over on the mound for Silseth. He was pitching very well much like Silseth at the start of the game but things looked bleak as the amount of time left for the Wildcats to make a comeback began to shorten drastically. But just when all hope was lost there was a spark of magic at the top of the eighth inning. With two outs already on the board, Williams who had been playing phenomenally all game hit a double deep left field. Right after, Jacob Blas knocked one out of the park to send both him and Williams home to tie the game at 2-2. The dugout was elated as the momentum had shifted at the perfect time.
During the bottom of the eighth inning, Cooper was replaced by Preston Price on the mound. Cooper gave up no hits and pitched well, head coach Jay Johnson preferred Price as the matchup for the upcoming batters. This seemed to be smart as Price was able to take them to the next inning without giving up any hits and had two strikeouts.
Unfortunately, everything fell apart for the Wildcats in the bottom of the ninth. Price intentionally walked the first batter, who would later be thrown out, and gave up a bunt to the second. He then allowed a double and walked the next batter as well. This positioned the Bruins to have the bases loaded with only one out. With a full count, Price would end up walking to batter, sending the runner on third home for a true “walk-off”.
Both teams would finish with six hits and one error a piece. As close as this game was, it was simply not meant to be for the Wildcats.
Game 2: Arizona-7, UCLA-3
This game went phenomenally better for the Wildcats. Two major differences from this game and the last were the number of hits and the number of pitchers used in the rotation by both teams. The Wildcats rotated through six pitchers and had 10 hits, while the Bruins rotated through seven pitchers and had nine hits.
The first pitcher at the top of the rotation for the Wildcats was Garrett Irvin who was pitching extremely well. It did not seem like he should have been taken off the mound at all and a lot of the people in the stands were not happy with that call by Coach Johnson.
While Irvin was still at the helm, the Wildcats were able to take a very early 2-0 lead in the second inning after back to back home runs from Jacob Berry and Kobe Kato. These two played well all game and were responsible for another run in the fourth inning. Berry hit a double and was sent home right after due to a double from Kato.
Kato finished the game with three hits, two RBIs, and one run while Berry finished with two hits, one RBI and two runs. This duo as well as Williams stood out the most in this game. Williams had two hits and a run while continuing his stellar outfield play.
The Bruins eventually tied the game at 3-3 in the seventh inning. But this would not last long due to a single from Daniel Susac that sent Branden Boissiere home to make the score 4-3 in favor of the Wildcats in the eighth inning.
The Wildcats owned the ninth inning. Williams hit a double and two pitches later Ryan Holgate sent one out of the park to send himself and Williams home to make the score 6-3. The next pitch, Jacob Blas hit a Home Run as well to put the nail in the coffin and increase the Wildcats’ lead to four in the final inning.
The Wildcats were able to show their true abilities in this game and tie up the series at one a piece.
Game 3: Arizona-3, UCLA-11
Arizona looked in control early on, going up 2-0 in the first inning. That lead would not last long, as the Bruins scored 11 runs in six straight innings. Arizona managed to score one more run in the seventh inning, but it was already too late. Coach Jay Johnson credited UCLA pitcher Nick Nastrini for his phenomenal play.
“[Nick Nastrini] has a good arm,” Johnson said. “There were a number of pro scouts there to see him … we had chances the next couple of innings and we did not cash in on those.”
Those chances Johnson was referring to were the eight runners Arizona left on base. Johnson summed up the game as plainly as one could.
“They played better than us,” Johnson said. “They definitely won the battle of the bullpen. They played really good defense all weekend and I thought they handled the baseball really well.”
Arizona will remain in Los Angeles to face Loyola Marymount on Monday, March 22 at 1 p.m. MST at Page Stadium.