The Arizona baseball team swept the USC Trojans this past weekend, winning their sixth straight game. Here is a quick recap of how each of the three games went down.
Game one: Arizona – 8, USC – 5
Starting pitcher Chase Silseth bounced back in a huge way coming off his worst performance of the season, tossing a season-high eight innings and even pitching into the ninth inning. Silseth allowed five runs (four earned) on eight hits with four strikeouts and one walk.
The Wildcats put at least one runner on base in each of the first three innings, but it wasn’t until the fourth inning where they were able to drive those runners in. Arizona plated seven runs in that inning, which started with a two-run home run hit by Daniel Susac. The Cats then piled on hit after hit the rest of the inning, which included RBI singles from Donta' Williams and Branden Boissiere followed by a two-run triple from Mac Bingham.
It was a long inning at the plate for Arizona, which also meant a long time for Silseth to be in the dugout. He allowed hits to each of the first three Trojan hitters that next half inning, but that was it for USC all the way until the ninth inning. After those trio of hits from USC, Silseth turned on a different level, retiring 12 straight USC hitters before allowing a solo home run to open up the ninth inning when he was taken out of the game.
“Sometimes when the offense is doing a great job like that, it sometimes just takes a couple of bullets,” Silseth said. “Sometimes it takes a couple of bullets to get going again, and that’s what I did. I came in there and told skip, ‘Hey, you guys picked me up and that shouldn’t happen,’ because them picking up the seven runs and then going out there and three, four straight hits and after that being able to retire, I think I just started pitching with an edge after that. I started getting mad, and then after that it was just pitching with an edge.”
This might have been the best defensive performance from the infield all season, which included a plethora of tremendous plays made by Jacob Blas at shortstop.
“Really good game,” head coach Jay Johnson said. “I mean [Nik McClaughry] made three really good plays. [Blas], it felt like he had like 10 assists tonight. I don’t know what the number was, but he handled the ball well. I thought coach [Dave Lawn] did a good job with the positioning in terms of the scouting report and putting the guys in the right places, and then the unsung hero of the game was [Boissiere]. I think he picked three balls in the dirt for key outs and you add that up, that’s three pretty big outs with three guys not on base.”
RELATED: Maturity of freshman catcher Daniel Susac stands out as the Arizona baseball team welcomes USC to Hi Corbett this weekend
Game two: Arizona – 10, USC – 6
The Wildcats got to an early 2-0 lead on RBI doubles from Jacob Berry and McClaughry in the first two innings.
USC cut the lead to 2-1 in the third inning before plating three runs in the fifth inning to take a 4-3 lead off starter Garrett Irvin.
That was the sole poor inning for Irvin, however, as he pitched into the seventh inning allowing five runs on eight hits over 6.2 innings with four strikeouts and two walks.
After falling behind 4-3 in the fifth inning, the Wildcats scored seven unanswered runs in the next three innings including four runs in the seventh inning. Susac tied Berry for the team lead in home runs with a solo blast in the seventh inning before Berry took the team lead right back the next inning with a solo home run of his own.
Chandler Murphy earned his fifth win of the season, recording the final out of the seventh inning.
Game three: Arizona – 8, USC - 4
The Wildcats got off to a fast start, taking a 4-1 lead after two innings. After Boissiere scored on an error by USC in the first inning, McClaughry laced a two-run double down the third base line before Williams drove him in on a single.
Austin Smith started the game for the Wildcats, tossing 3.1 hitless innings, allowing one run with one strikeout and three walks. Chandler Murphy replaced him, allowing two runs on three hits and also going 3.1 innings with six strikeouts and two walks.
The Wildcats ran into some trouble in the seventh inning when Riley Cooper replaced Murphy on the mound. Cooper failed to record an out against the three batters he faced, before Vince Vannelle made his first appearance of the series and recorded the final out of the inning on one pitch. He went on to close out the game for Arizona, tossing 2.1 perfect innings for the save.
Vannelle said his recent change in focus from worrying about the next hitter he was going to face to just focusing on the batter at the plate is a huge credit for his success in Sunday’s appearance.
“I felt like all of my pitches so far this year have been good, but this week I really just decided to focus on the mental aspect,” Vannelle said. “I noticed in my recent outings, my mind was going like a thousand miles an hour, and I was always thinking about what’s next and who’s on deck. I got to get this guy out. Today, I was really just thinking about this pitch right now, and I wasn’t really focusing on what’s going on besides this pitch right now because it is the most important time when I’m on that mound.”
Susac continued his recent hot streak, going 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBIs and two runs. He is currently 14-for-28 in his last six games, making a case and a run towards teammate Berry for Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and potentially even Pac-12 Player of the Year.
“I think they’re special talents, no doubt about that,” Johnson said. “I think what’s unique about them is they’re able to take that talent and it’s usable skill right now. That says more about their maturity than their ability because there’s good freshman all over the Pac-12 right now because of the shortened draft. I think they’re unique and incredibly mature for their age. They understand baseball. They understand what we’re asking them to do and most importantly, they understand their role in helping the team win.”
The Wildcats return to Hi Corbett next weekend against Utah in a three-game series, seeking a sixth consecutive Pac-12 series win.
Follow Ari Koslow on Twitter