After losing to Ole Miss Saturday night to open the Coral Gables Regional, the Arizona baseball team immediately faced an uphill battle to get back to the Super Regional. They were able to show toughness and fight with two wins on Sunday, but their season came to an end Monday afternoon against the same Rebels team after a four hour rain delay.
Chandler Murphy started the game for the Wildcats. After a quick out and a four pitch walk to Jacob Gonzalez, Tim Elko opened up the scoring with a two-run home run.
Tanner O'Tremba, the hero from Sunday night, followed a Daniel Susac single with a two-run home run of his own to tie the game.
Two batters into the second inning and Ole Miss took a two-run lead right back following another walk and home run.
It was home run after home run early as Blake Paugh, who hit two home runs in the first game Sunday against Canisius, went deep for Arizona before Elko homered again for the Rebels in the top half of the third inning. It was 5-3 Ole Miss at this point with home runs being hit in every half inning for each team. Paugh hit his second home run of the game and fourth in two days, a two-run long ball to once again tie the game at 5-5.
After Murphy was taken out with one out in the second inning, Chris Orloff pitched 2.2 solid innings for the Wildcats outside of the second Elko home run. He got into trouble in the fifth frame when he was taken out with runners on the corners and one out.
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George Arias Jr. entered the game, walking Elko to load the bases before he allowed an infield hit and a grand slam to extend the Rebels lead to 10-5. It only went further downhill for Chip Hale and Arizona as Ole Miss went on to plate eight runs in the sixth inning with relief appearances made from Holden Christian, Chris Barraza and Jonathan Guardado during that inning.
Cameron LaLiberte came in to catch for Daniel Susac, which put an end to his Arizona Wildcat career. He piled up the accolades during his two years in Tucson and is going to be a first-round pick in the upcoming MLB Draft. Susac's two hits Monday put him at 100 on the season, becoming just the 10th Arizona player all-time to collect at least 100 hits in a season.
"I was telling my family the other day, I think I think the second best decision I ever made was coming to Arizona, but I think the best one was staying here [through the coaching transition from Jay Johnson to Chip Hale]," Susac said. "I don't think the program could be in better hands."
Josh Randall pitched the final three innings for Arizona and Ole Miss went on to win 22-6, advancing to the Super Regional where they will take on Southern Miss who defeated LSU in the Hattiesburg Regional Final.
It was a year full of ups-and-downs for Hale in his first season as the Arizona baseball coach. Hale reflected on his first year Monday night after the loss.
"I think about it all the time," Hale said. "I have done a lot of things in pro ball whether it is playing or coaching or managing. The joy that this season gave me to be back at my University that I'm so proud of, fill the position that Jerry Kindall filled and I hold in the highest regards, it is very special and it's special because of the people. The program is about the people who are in it."
Now begins an offseason full of recruiting and looking to improve as Hale heads into his second season as coach of the Wildcats baseball team.
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