Arizona Baseball: Wildcats come from behind, trounce Trojans

Photo care of Shereen Rayan 4/18/2016
Photo care of Shereen Rayan 4/18/2016 /

On a Chilly night in Southern California, a respectable crowd of Arizona Baseball fans huddled near their team’s dugout to watch their Cats who have been on a role beat the Trojans 8-5. 

If the Wildcats (27-14) won this game, they would be helping their new coach Jay Johnson log his 100th career division 1 win. This is a pivotal series for both teams in the race for No. 1 in the Pac-12. Arizona just beat rival ASU on the back of junior pitcher Kevin Ginkel who pitched a shutout! Before taking down the Sun Devils, Arizona swept the Cal Bears in Northern California. USC (18-21) took their series with Wazzu in Pullman, 2-1, then lost to non-conference UC Irvine Anteaters.

Starting pitcher for the Cats was No. 35 Nathan Bannister and for the Trojans, Joe Navilhon.

USC was first on the board scoring three runs in the first inning. They hit some doozies into the outfield; one deep in left that almost hit the fence, and one just inside the foul line over third base.  The Trojans ended up with three runs and four hits. Queue the USC fight song…

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Both teams are within two spots of the top spot, Washington, and Utah in front of them. JJ Matijevic got the Cats going with a line drive down the first-base line good for a double. But the Wildcats came up short leaving to men on base. Still down three to zilch, coach Jay Johnson believed in Bannister and kept him on the m0und.

The third inning got a little more interesting. Arizona’s Corey Ramer scored on a balk, getting Arizona on the board. Bobby Dalbec had a chance to bring home a man on second, but he got caught swinging, and it was USC’s turn. Right away, David Oppenheim hit a double deep, deep into the corner.Both Arizona and USC Scratched in the fourth.

Both Arizona and USC Scratched in the fourth.

Top of the fifth, the Cats started to gain momentum on very calculated combinations of bunts, steals, and sacrifices. Justin Behnke stole second base; then Zach Gibbons earned a bunt sacrifice pushing runners forward a base. Next batter,  Alex Rivas,  grounded out to first base and batted in a run, Ramer advanced to third, and Behnke scored. USC was still ahead but only by one, 3-2.

USC went totally cold, after a single by USC left fielder Corey Dempster, Bannister and the Cats took them down one-two-three. The Trojans failed to bring anyone home, so the score remained at 3-2.

Just as USC went cold, Arizona’s bats started to wake up, and after Dalbec struck out, the next Cats up managed to get the bases loaded. Justin Behnke had a chance at a Grand Slam, instead, Coach Johnson called bunt bringing in Matijevic scored, with runners advancing to second and third.  We called for the Rally Caps, but it wasn’t the 12th inning, and the team reserves those tactics for late inning games. The teams were now tied at three!

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Things were getting interesting and the night was getting extremely cold, it was time for hot chocolate.

Now it was the Trojans turn to load the bases and bunt. Quick learners. Bannister ended up pitching out to Dillon Paulson, who wasn’t necessarily a huge hitter. Johnson decided to pitch to USC Second baseman Frankie Rios who was up with a full-count and yes, the bases were still loaded. Rios took a charge, oh, wrong game, he took a pitch to the body walking him and bringing in a run.

The next USC batter hit a sacrifice fly to left, bringing in a runner: USC was now up two, 5-3. Coach Johnson was extremely patient with his pitcher, all the Cats needed was one more out to end the inning and Bannister finally got one. On to the seventh inning.

We have learned not to count out this Wildcats team.

Marc Huberman walked Ryan Aguilar, and Dalbec came up to bat. He was 0-3, but Arizona has had a base running in every inning. Dalbec struggling offensively as of late hits a single past the second baseman. The drought was over, our Bobby was on base, but it wasn’t meant to be, and the next two batters went down swinging.

Two and a half innings to go! Arizona’s Rio Gomez took over for the Cats on the mound and struck out the first, third and fourth batter. Gomez was throwing some serious heat! Wildcats up!

And there is, Zach Gibbons hit a double up the middle, and Cody Ramer came running on home. Jared Oliva, batting .246, had the tying run on first with two outs. Could he bring him home? Nope.

A one run game at this point, Rio needed to keep throwing the heat, and he did strike out the last batter. This next inning was the Cats last chance to even up the score, or the game was over.

First up, Ryan Aguilar, walked, it was the second walk for him in the game. Next up Bobby Dalbec. The Cats needed his magic, and he got a piece of the first pitch, but no-go. A couple of pitches later, Dalbec killed it and sliced a double right up the middle.

Ryan Aguilar was interfered with, a call you don’t hear much in a baseball game. That advanced  Aguilar to third base. Wildcats fans were gritting their teeth at this point. Manijevic came up to bat and there were NO OUTS!

JJ hit a single to right field and brought home Aguilar to tie the game 5-5. Stil no outs.

That’s what this team does! They come from behind when everyone has counted them out, and they pull another rabbit out of their hat.

Bases were loaded, one out, Justin Behnke was up to bat. And…..Behnke got hit by a ball! Brought in Dalbec to add a run, Arizona up by one run, 6-5, bases still loaded, one out. Cody Ramer walked himself on to first base, bringing home Matijevic. Arizona 7, USC 5, Arizona trying to win their sixth in a row.

One more run and Arizona was up 8-5 going into the bottom of the ninth. USC got a few players on base, but Dalbec took the mound and brought home the Cats!

Arizona wins their sixth game in a row, now 28-14. BearDown Arizona! And with this win, coach Jay Johnson got his 100th D-1 win and was serenaded on the bus by his team on the way to the hotel. BearDown Wildcats!