The fairytale season for the No. 5 Arizona baseball team came to an end on Monday, June 21 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. The Wildcats lost to Pac-12 rival Stanford 14-5 in an elimination game, ending Arizona’s run at the College World Series title.
“Tough day today obviously,” head coach Jay Johnson said. “You have to tip your hat to Stanford because they were ready to play. They hit everything.”
The pressure was on pitcher Garret Irvin to keep Arizona’s title hopes alive. Irvin opened the game a little shaky, allowing back-to-back singles in the first inning to put runners on with one out. Irvin escaped the inning by getting the next two batters out. Irvin regrouped for the top of the second and had a 1-2-3 inning. It was looking as if it was going to be a different game for the Wildcats.
Then all hell broke loose in the top of the third inning.
It started when left fielder Eddie Park singled to centerfield, followed by second baseman Tim Tawa’s double that put runners in scoring position for center fielder Brock Jones. Jones hit the first pitch he saw for an RBI double to drive in both runs. Catcher Kody Huff came up next looking to keep the scoring going for the Cardinal. Huff got ahead in the count 3-1 and drove a single to left field to score Jones. Right fielder Christian Robinson got the fifth consecutive hit of the inning for Stanford with a single to center field.
Arizona’s coaches had seen enough and just like that, Irvin’s day was done. Irvin finished the day with 2.1 innings pitched, surrendering seven hits, five runs and only two strikeouts.
“[Stanford] had a really good plan against [Irvin,]” Johnson said. “[Irvin] made some mistakes and those are some strong physical guys, at least in terms of the Pac-12 the two most physical teams made it here.”
Chandler Murphy came in to relieve Irvin, but the game only got worse when a wild pitch caused both base runners to advance to scoring position. Murphy did manage to get first baseman Nick Brueser to pop out, but third baseman Drew Bowser batted next and singled off Murphy to score both base runners. Stanford threw the final punch of the inning when designated hitter Tommy Troy lifted a 2-0 pitch over the left-field wall. Just like that, it was 7-0 Stanford.
Stanford’s pitcher Alex Williams quieted the entire Arizona offense, holding the Wildcats to one hit through three innings.
“We knew Williams was going to be tough,” Johnson said. “[Williams] made it hard on us in the regular-season matchup and there was not a lot of margins for error.”
It only continued to get worse for Arizona in the top of the fourth inning when Stanford pushed three more runs across the plate to grow the deficit to 10-0. At that point, even Johnson knew it was unlikely that Arizona was going to win the game.
“When it was 10-0 it was going to be hard to come back and win that game against that quality of a team,” Johnson said. “We met in the dugout, and I told them, let us be realistic about what is going on here. There is no way a group of this good of character that are this good of competitors are going to go out like this.”
There was a gasp of life for Arizona in the bottom of the fourth inning. After back-to-back walks were issued to first baseman Branden Boissiere and third baseman Tony Bullard, catcher Daniel Susac came to the plate with two on and two outs. Susac drove both runs in, but that was all Arizona could get and still faced a 10-2 hole.
The Wildcats pushed back again in the bottom of the sixth inning, with Susac again opening the scoring by driving in Bullard on an RBI double. Second baseman Kobe Kato was up next to face Stanford’s new pitcher Jacob Palisch. With the count 1-1, Kato smacked a fastball deep to left-center field for an RBI triple. Left fielder Tanner O’Tremba capped off the sixth with a sac-fly to cut the Stanford led to 10-5.
Just as Arizona crept back into the game, Stanford would respond in a killer fashion.
Bowser opened the seventh inning with a double to right field, immediately putting a runner in scoring position. Shortstop Adam Crampton drove in Bowser with an RBI double to get one of Arizona’s run back. After a four-pitch walk put Park on base, Jones came up looking to do some damage, and he did just that. On an 0-1 pitch, Jones crushed the ball for a three-run homer that stretched the Cardinal lead back to 14-5.
Those were the last runs either team would score, and it was the last game of the season for the Arizona Wildcats. It may have also been the last game for center fielder Donta’ Williams in a Wildcat uniform. He is only a junior, but after the stellar season he had many will not be surprised if he were to declare for the draft. Either way, Donta’ Williams is happier for what the team accomplished than his personal accomplishments.
“I am blessed to be a part of this team,” Donta’ Williams said. “I am very grateful with the group of men that we have and what they developed to become … and I am just thankful for everything.”
While this loss will be hard to recover from, Donta’ Williams reminded everyone where the team ended their season.
“We made it to the College World Series,” Donta’ Williams said. “That is everybody’s dream growing up. This team was special.”
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