After an all-around showing and series clinching 16-3 victory over Ole Miss to punch their ticket to the College World Series last week, Arizona entered Omaha as a legitimate contender for winning the national championship.
However, the road to capturing their fifth national title in program history was not going to be easy, as they had to go up against the defending national champions in Vanderbilt and arguably the best pitcher in the nation in Kumar Rocker. The Wildcats went on to lose their opener to the Commodores 7-6 in the bottom of the twelfth inning. Our full recap can be found here.
Here are notable key stats that arose from the stat sheet in the loss:
Chase Silseth goes 6.1 innings strong for Arizona
Vanderbilt entered the College World Series as the headliner and rightfully so. They have two of the best pitchers in college baseball and the top two pitching prospects in this year’s upcoming Major League Baseball draft. One of those pitchers is Kumar Rocker who is nothing short of brilliance on the mound for Vanderbilt this season.
Arizona knew coming into tonight’s contest, Silseth had to match Rocker pitch-for-pitch if they were going to be within striking distance and potentially have a chance to win the game at the end. Arizona head coach Jay Johnson touched on Silseth’s terrific outing and applauded how his ace competed against a stout Vanderbilt lineup.
“[Silseth] did a great job tonight,” Johnson said. “I think he ran out of gas at 105 pitches, competed extremely hard and we didn’t make it easy on him. I don’t think it went as an error, but we should have made that play in the first inning in the outfield. He had to make more pitches there to get out of an inning with a runner on scoring position. I thought he competed great. I’m very pleased with what Chase did and I think he showed his ability tonight in terms of how he executed and made it hard on them.”
Silseth gave it his all and left everything on the field for the Wildcats tonight. Arizona’s ace was in full command of the strike zone and did an excellent job painting the outside and inside corners with strikes. His mix of fastballs, changeups and sliders kept Vanderbilt hitters off-balance for most of the game as he was able to work out of some big jams that kept his team in the game.
Silseth gave the performance that Arizona was seeking as he went 6.1 strong innings. Facing 27 batters in total while allowing four earned runs on seven hits and picking up six strikeouts in the process. Silseth more than delivered for the Wildcats in the biggest game for the program in five years.
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Arizona only hit 4-12 with runners in scoring position
After hitting 9-17 with runners in scoring position against Ole Miss in their series-clinching game three victory to win Super Regionals, the Wildcats couldn’t quite replicate that performance in tonight’s matchup as they only hit 4-12 with runners in scoring position. A large part of Arizona being unable to come through in key scoring situations was due to the great outing that the Vanderbilt bullpen delivered tonight.
Right when Arizona was oozing with confidence after chasing Rocker for five runs and a two run no-doubter by Ryan Holgate to cap it off and seize momentum in the top of the sixth inning, the Wildcats still had to deal with Vanderbilt’s bullpen, who have arguably been just as dominant as their starting pitching all season.
Vanderbilt’s bullpen is largely responsible for Arizona’s hitting woes in prime scoring opportunities throughout the game. After knocking Rocker out of the game in the sixth inning with two outs and having runners on second and third thanks to back-to-back errors committed by Vanderbilt, all Arizona needed was a base hit, potentially taking a 7-3 lead and full control of the game. However, Vandy reliever Nick Maldonado was able to strand the runners on second and third after striking out Nik McClaughry to end the inning. Failing to stretch their lead to four runs really came back to hurt, however, it didn’t doom them.
The Wildcats found themselves in another prime scoring opportunity in extra innings as Donta' Williams led off the twelfth inning with a double to get something going for Arizona. This was Arizona’s best opportunity in extras to take the lead and possibly win a crucial game one. However, the Wildcats couldn’t come through when it mattered most as their heart of the order recorded three straight outs and stranded Williams at second base.
Arizona will look back knowing that they had so many chances to win this game. That great scoring opportunity that they had in the twelfth will certainly haunt them as it was the difference between being in the winner’s bracket and staring at possible elimination for a game in the loser’s bracket. Vanderbilt’s bullpen finished the night with a combined outing of 6.1 innings pitched, responsible for only one earned run on four hits and an impressive twelve strikeouts.
Bullpen allowed nine runners to reach base through five innings pitched
Chase Silseth delivered a commendable performance that kept Arizona in the game in the later innings. Now, it was up to the bullpen to do its part. In an interesting decision, coach Johnson elected to go with Preston Price in relief with one out and a runner on first in the seventh inning.
Price has been on the injured reserve list for a long period due to suffering an injury earlier in the season. Price immediately gave up a run against the first batter he faced and then followed his next batter by giving up a two-run home run that made it 6-5 Commodores and completely swung the momentum in Vanderbilt's favor. Coach Johnson defended his decision to go with Price in that situation instead of Riley Cooper who has delivered a very strong showing for the Wildcats so far this postseason.
“We had liked what [Silseth] had done against [Enrique Bradfield] and [Carter Young] the first couple times through the order and he [Price] was the most similar. Obviously being a fifth-year guy [Price], we thought he’d be poised, come in and throw strikes. [He] pitched down in the zone and left a fastball right over the middle of the plate and Young hit it.”
Minus the two-run home run given up by Price in the seventh inning, the Arizona bullpen pitched really well. They received strong innings from the likes of Riley Cooper, Dawson Netz, T.J. Nichols and Vince Vanelle. All four combined to go 4.2 innings, allowing five hits and four walks on only one earned run.
They left everything on the field against a great and seasoned Vanderbilt lineup but allowed runners to reach on base in several key moments in the game that ultimately gave the Commodores the upper hand and allowed them to pull away at the end.
Arizona will look to keep their season and aspirations of hoisting a national championship trophy alive as they meet Pac-12 foe, Stanford, in a win-or-go-home elimination game in the loser’s bracket on Monday, June 21, at 11 a.m. MST.
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