The Arizona baseball team played host to California for a three-game Pac-12 series at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, Arizona, which took place from Friday, April 9 to Sunday, April 11. The Wildcats went on to win the series by taking two out of three games from the Golden Bears.
Game 1: Arizona-5, California-1
Top of the rotation pitcher Chase Silseth has really carved out a niche as a tone setter for Arizona this season. He set the tone in game one of the Oregon series two weeks ago and followed suit against California on Friday night. Registering yet another quality start in which he went 6.1 innings, giving up five hits with six strikeouts on a 99-pitch count.
Silseth embraces his role as the tone setter for the team and loves bringing the energy whenever he can.
“It’s awesome when you’re able to set a tone like that,” Silseth said. “It’s an important role and I just want to deliver it for my team as much as I can. I want to bring energy to my squad, and I love the position that I am. I’m going to keep working hard to keep that position and lead the team.
The Wildcats came into this game with a lot of momentum after clobbering Arizona State 14-2 Tuesday night. Looking to keep the bats humming, it wasn’t going to be a walk in the park as they were pitted against California ace pitcher Grant Holman. Holman entered Friday’s game with a sub 2.00 earned run average and has been dominant for the Golden Bears all season.
Arizona struggled to get to Holman in the first three innings as they only went 1-5 with runners in scoring position. The lone run he allowed came in the third inning when Branden Boissiere lined a single up the middle that drove in Donta Williams and put the Wildcats ahead 1-0 early on. Despite not being able to convert on numerous scoring opportunities, Arizona was still able to make Holman throw a lot of pitches in which he finished with an 83-pitch count in four innings pitched.
Holman would be replaced by pitcher Sam Stoutenborough in the bottom of the fifth inning. Arizona seemed rejuvenated to see another pitcher on the mound after mustering only 4 hits against California’s ace. Stoutenborough would go on to face only two batters thanks to the Wildcats’ bats finally waking up.
Arizona collected four hits and five runs off Stoutenborough thanks to patient hitting and not trying to do too much at the plate. Ryan Holgate started things off with an opposite-field hit down the third base line that drove in two runs to put the Wildcats in front 3-0. Daniel Susac would follow with a line drive down the middle that would add an insurance run and stretch the lead to 4-0. Susac would go on to score the final run for Arizona after a sacrifice fly by Mac Bingham which saw them lead 5-0 after five innings.
Arizona head coach Jay Johnson decided to pull Silseth in the top of the seventh after allowing runners at the corners with only one out. Still, Silseth would leave to a standing ovation from the Arizona faithful thanks to pitching a shutout through six innings. Head coach Johnson immediately went to Preston Price out of the bullpen and was successful in getting the Wildcats out of a big jam. In an interesting move, Price would get replaced in favor of pitcher Vince Vannelle to secure the final three outs of the game. Despite losing the shutout and creating a bases loaded jam, he remained calm and collected as he caught California’s Nathan Manning looking on strike three to preserve the 5-1 win over the Golden Bears.
Game 2: Arizona-4, California-3
After a big win to open the series the previous night, Arizona was seeking its third straight Pac-12 series win with a victory in game two. Starting pitcher Garret Irvin got the call and delivered a fine outing. He went six innings while allowing five hits on only two earned runs with six strikeouts. Irvin picked up the win as he is now 2-1 overall in eight appearances with a 3.12 earned run average.
Irvin’s solid performance didn’t come without some adversity. He was a little shaky to start the game as he allowed California to plate a run and take a 1-0 lead in the first inning. The inning would have been a nightmare for Irvin and Arizona if it wasn’t for Mac Bingham’s great diving catch in left field that saved at least two runs from scoring.
The Golden Bears would pick up another run in the third inning and extend their lead to 2-0. Arizona’s bats went dormant for the first three innings of the game but woke up in the fourth as they put up a three-spot. After his second double of the night, Ryan Holgate would be drove home thanks to a single up the middle by Daniel Susac. Mac Bingham would then rip a pitch down the third base line that would bring Susac across home plate and tie the game 2-2. Top of the order hitter Donta Williams decided that he wanted in on the fun as he hit a sacrifice fly to left center field that scored Kobe Kato. Wildcats would take a 3-2 lead into the fifth inning.
Arizona would get an insurance run in the fifth as they extended their lead to 4-2. However, California would get a run back in the seventh inning and shrink the Wildcats’ lead to only 4-3. Arizona took their slim 4-3 lead into the top of the ninth inning hoping to stave off a California rally and secure the series win. Getting the final three outs of the game wasn’t going to come without some drama as the Wildcats quickly found themselves in a jam with multiple runners on base and only one out. Arizona would call on sophomore Randy Abshier to get the final two outs of the game. In a high-pressured situation, Abshier would more than deliver as he froze California’s Nathan Manning on a perfectly placed curveball for strike three to end the game and secure the 5-4 victory for Arizona.
Game 3: Arizona-1, California-9
This game certainly had a different feel to it as Arizona looked flat all game. Much like the second game, the Wildcats struggled to generate any kind of offense in the first three innings. Their first hit didn’t come until the fourth inning after a beautiful bunt by Branden Boissiere down the third base line. It was an uncharacteristic like performance by the offense as they only mustered 5 hits and one run for the game. Their only run came via a home run to right center field off the bat of Ryan Holgate.
Arizona starting pitcher TJ Nichols started the game strong as he retired the side in the first two innings while picking up three strikeouts in the process. Right when it looked like Nichols’ was in for a quality start, everything quickly went south for the right-handed freshman in the third inning. He gave up a leadoff home run to Steven Zobac that pushed California to a 1-0 lead early. His woes would continue as he loaded the bases and proceeded to give up what was initially a grand slam to Nathan Manning. However, Manning’s grand slam would be ruled a three-run single after getting called out due to passing one of the baserunners while rounding second. As a result, California had to settle for a 4-0 lead instead of a 5-0 advantage.
The lone bright spots for Arizona in this game were relief pitchers Gil Luna and Austin Smith. Leading up to this game, Luna had made only one appearance in relief all season. The left-hander made the most out of his opportunity as he logged in 3.1 innings pitched allowing zero hits and runs on two strikeouts. Smith would replace Luna with one out in the eighth inning and deliver a strong performance out of the bullpen as well. He went on to finish the game at 1.2 innings pitched allowing zero hits and runs on two strikeouts.
Arizona head coach Jay Johnson was very pleased with what he saw out of Luna and Smith out of the bullpen.
“Good to get Gill back out there,” Johnson said. “To his credit he has continued to work through the length in between outings and I think that showed today. He’s got a terrific arm and one we can use if he can go out and execute like that. That’s definitely a bright spot along with Austin Smith performing well again today. I’m very happy with what we saw out of those two guys.”
Despite the tough loss on Sunday and failing to complete the sweep over California, the win on Saturday still marked Arizona’s third straight Pac-12 series win and first home series win over the Golden Bears since 2013. Going 7-3 combined against Oregon, Arizona State and California in the past two weeks is no small feat. The Wildcats are humming right now, putting everyone in the conference and the nation on high alert.
Arizona will look to continue its dominant play of late as they travel up north to Phoenix for a single non-conference game against Grand Canyon University on Tuesday, April 13.
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