The Arizona baseball team hosted the Utah Utes for a three-game series at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, which started on Friday, April 30, and concluded on Sunday, May 2. The Wildcats went on to win the series by sweeping Utah.
Game One: Arizona-11, Utah-1
Arizona’s ace pitcher Chase Silseth has been nothing short of dominance all season. He has fully embraced his role as the number one guy and has made a knack for turning in brilliant performances on Friday nights. This night was no exception as Silseth was spectacular against the Utes that saw him go seven innings pitched, allowing only two hits, one walk and eight strikeouts to help his cause. It was yet another quality start and web gem worthy performance for the Wildcats’ top of the rotation guy.
Arizona tied a season low in walks allowed this game as they only gave up one through the combined efforts of Silseth and relief pitcher Dawson Netz. Silseth understands how great of a priority it is to limit free bases as much as possible.
“It’s huge; you want to make the other team earn it,” Silseth said. “Walks ignite things, especially leadoff walks. Lowering [walks] makes things tougher on the other team. [Nate Yeskie] has this equation that we kind of go by. It’s usually how many free bases, walks [and] hit-by-pitches that we have. Say we have four in a game; we give up five runs that game. Limiting those is just huge because it gives us momentum and just make the other team earn it so we don’t ignite anything on that side.”
Game one was a prototypical game from Arizona’s offensive juggernaut this season. They jumped out to a big early lead and never looked back. As a team, they finished with 13 hits, marking their eighteenth game this season in which they have collected 10 hits or more in a game.
The Wildcats raced off to an early 4-0 lead in the first inning. The scoring festivities began when Utah’s starting pitcher Justin Kelly threw a wild pitch past home plate that plated the first run of the game. Jacob Berry would follow with a sacrifice fly that drove in another run to make it 2-0. Kobe Kato decided to make it a 4-0 advantage when he lined a two-run single up the middle.
Arizona’s scoring barrage would continue in the fourth inning as they would expand their lead to 6-0 over Utah. The Wildcats would deliver a base hit up the middle that made it five, and then Daniel Susac served an RBI groundout that made it six runs unanswered. In the bottom of the fifth, Donta' Williams would get in on the action as his first hit of the game came via a two-run single that fell in shallow center field to make the score 8-0.
The Wildcats would continue to flex their muscles in the bottom of the sixth as they would tack on a couple more runs. The Utes would induce another wild pitch that would score the first run of the inning. Jacob Blas, who has been in a hitting funk as of late, came through with an infield RBI single making the score 10-0.
Arizona would add one more run thanks to an absolute rocket that was smoked to right field by Berry for an RBI triple. Despite losing the 11-0 shutout, relief pitcher Netz would get the last batter of the game to fly out to right center field to secure the 11-1 victory and the Wildcats’ seventh win in a row.
Game Two: Arizona-4, Utah-3
This game was the opposite of the first as Arizona’s high-powered offense looked pretty pedestrian for most of the game. They went hitless for four innings in a row during one stretch and were only able to muster four hits on Utah’s starting pitcher Kyle Robeniol. The Wildcats committed three errors and left six runners on base.
Despite Arizona’s struggles and finding themselves down 3-2 in the eighth inning, the team would salvage the game by rallying in the bottom frame of the inning by plating two runs and ultimately pulling out a gutsy 4-3 victory. Arizona head coach Jay Johnson knows there is no such thing as a bad win and that he envisioned this outcome taking place.
“There are no bad wins in Division-1 baseball,” Johnson said. “I thought Kyle Robeniol did an exceptional job for them tonight. I legitimately had a dream last night that I was miserable for three-and-a-half hours of this game tonight. We scored two in the bottom of the eighth and won 5-4. I was a run off, but I legitimately had that dream, and it was very eerie. Really proud of our team. Hallmark of good teams is you find a way to win when you don’t play your best.”
The Wildcats would quickly find themselves in unfamiliar territory as they fell behind Utah 3-0 by the second inning. The Utes came out as more of the aggressors and really got to starting pitcher Garrett Irvin. Utah had a simple offensive approach in which they stuck to the fundamentals. Their three runs came via singles, sacrifice bunts and heads-up baserunning.
Arizona would answer with two runs of their own in the bottom of the third inning. Berry would be responsible for the first run for the Wildcats thanks to a sacrifice fly to right field. Ryan Holgate soon followed with a two out single that brought in another run.
Irvin would be pulled in the top of the fourth inning with one out and runners at the corners. He finished his night at 3.1 innings pitched, allowing three runs on five hits and six strikeouts all on an 81-pitch count. Chandler Murphy would come in relief and quickly get out of the jam thanks to inducing a groundout double play to end the inning. The bullpen would go on to turn in yet another dominant performance as Murphy, Riley Cooper and Vince Vannelle combined to go 5.2 innings pitched, permitting no earned runs on only three hits and logging six strikeouts in the process.
The score remained 3-2 in favor of Utah from the fourth to the seventh inning as both teams' bats went dormant. Utah’s center fielder Jaylon McLaughlin robbed Arizona of extra bases on three different occasions thanks to his stellar defense all game. If any of those balls dropped, it could have easily swung the momentum in the Wildcats’ favor and change the course of the game.
Finally, in the bottom of the eighth, Arizona’s bats would awaken as they went on to tie the game at 3-3 thanks to a clutch single by Holgate. Next batter Susac played hero ball as he gave the Wildcats the lead thanks to beating out a potential double play that would have ended the inning. Instead, Susac’s hustle down the first base line allowed the team to score the decisive run that put them ahead for good. Vannelle would come in and retire the side in the ninth and preserve the hard fought 4-3 victory for Arizona.
Game Three: Arizona-15, Utah-3
Going into this game, it was up in the air of who would get the start in the Sunday afternoon rubber game. The Wildcats elected to go with their regular out of the bullpen in Austin Smith, who would make the most of his opportunity as he finished the day at 3.2 innings pitched, giving up two earned runs on only four hits and striking out seven.
It was bullpen by committee once again for Arizona as has been the case for some of their Sunday games this season. The bullpen had their struggles early in the season however they have been dominant during the team’s current eight-game winning streak. The arms out of the pen would continue this trend as Quinn Flanagan, Cooper and Netz combined to go 5.1 innings pitched, allowing only one earned run on three hits and logging four strikeouts. The only blemish were the five walks given up, however the bullpen turned in yet another strong performance, nonetheless.
This game mirrored the first game of the series as Arizona’s bats just could not be put on hold. They scored at least one run in every inning except for the first and seventh. The Wildcats looked more like the team that we have been accustomed to seeing all season. They jump out to big leads and go for the knockout early in games. That was certainly the case in this game as Arizona had a commanding 8-2 lead in the fifth inning.
Arizona finished with 16 hits in total for the game marking the nineteenth time this season in which they have collected 10 or more hits in a game. The Wildcats also had eight hitters in their lineup record at least one RBI. Kato has been sensational for Arizona as of late as he extended his hitting streak to nine games and finished the day with three RBIs.
A sweep over Utah marks Arizona’s second consecutive series sweep and their sixth straight Pac-12 series win. This team is absolutely humming right now and have been playing their best brand of baseball during their current nine-game winning streak. The Wildcats are no longer a well-kept secret as everyone in the Pac-12 and the nation understand this is a great team and have the potential to win it all in Omaha, Nebraska.
Arizona will look to build on their nine-game winning streak and exact revenge on Grand Canyon University as they host the Antelopes for a single non-conference game at Hi Corbett on Tuesday, May 4.
Follow Bryan Savic on Twitter