TUCSON, Ariz. – The 10th-ranked Arizona baseball team jumped ahead early and pulled away late, dispatching visiting Coppin State 13-9 on Sunday to complete a three-game sweep before a crowd of 2,680 at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona (3-0) cruised to a pair of victories behind dominant starting pitching on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday’s series finale was a different story, as the Wildcats needed stellar relief pitching in the late innings.
Coppin State (0-3) fell behind 5-0 in the first inning but immediately began chipping away at the deficit, scoring a pair of runs off UA starter Stephen Manthei in the second and third innings, respectively. Even so, Arizona re-extended its lead to 9-4 with a three-run bottom of the third.
Then, just as quickly, the Eagles stormed back against reliever Tyler Hale to tie the score at 9-9 with five runs in the top of the fourth. The big blow came on one of the rarest plays in baseball — an inside-the-park grand slam.
With two outs and the bases loaded, David Hamlett sent a sinking line drive toward right-center field. Arizona center fielder Johnny Field sprinted over and made a diving attempt, but the ball skipped past his glove and rolled all the way to the wall. Hamlett scampered around the bases and crossed home with Coppin State’s first home run of any kind in more than a full season.
That was all the Arizona pitching staff would allow. Lefty Augey Bill took over to strike out the next hitter and end the five-run inning. Bill went on get 10 straight outs before giving up his first hit of the game to lead off the eighth. In 3 1/3 innings – his longest career outing – Bill registered three strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
With a Coppin State runner on and no outs in the eighth, left-hander Tyler Crawford entered to register a strikeout and a harmless fly out to left. At that point, the ball was handed over to right-hander Mathew Troupe, who came on to strike out all four batters he faced to close the game.
Bill, Crawford and Troupe combined to throw 5 1/3 innings with eight strikeouts and no walks allowed. Oly two Eagles batters reached base against them, and none got past first in the final five innings. Bill (1-0) earned the win, while Troupe collected his first save of the season.
Offensively, the Wildcats rapped out double-digit hits and produced double-digit runs for the third straight game. After collecting nine extra base hits in the first two games, UA mustered just one on Sunday, that a double by Field. Nonetheless, the Wildcats extended their streak of games with an extra-base hit to 50.
Cleanup hitter Brandon Dixon was 1-for-2 at the plate but was walked twice and hit by a pitch once to lead to three runs scored. Dixon stole three bases and essentially had a fourth when he scored on a double-steal attempt, although his run did not count as a stolen base due to Trent Gilbert getting tagged out in a rundown on the play.
Designated hitter Tyler Parmenter, the club’s top hitter by average in the first two games, did not record an official at-bat but was walked three times, hit by a pitch once and scored three runs. He also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
The game was still up for grabs into the eighth inning, which started with UA holding on to an 11-9 advantage. The Wildcats got some insurance, though, when Joseph Maggi lined a two-out, bases-loaded single to left field to bring in two and extend the lead to four runs.
Arizona erupted for five runs on four hits in the first inning, sending 10 batters to the plate against Coppin State starter Anderson Burgess. The lefty lasted just 1 2/3 innings and was charged with six earned runs before turning things over to Myles Taylor. Taylor (0-1) gave up five runs — three earned — on five hits over 2 2/3 innings of relief but was charged with the loss after surrendering the lead in the bottom of the fourth.
In the series, Eagles pitchers walked 24 and hit 13 batters. Those 37 free passes helped give the Wildcats, who hit .363 (33-for-91), a blistering .519 on-base percentage. Arizona outscored Coppin State 43-10 in the series.
The sweep pushed Arizona’s winning streak to 14 games dating back to the end of the 2012 season. The Wildcats have also won 19 straight opening-weekend series dating back to 1995.
With Sunday’s attendance of 2,680, a total of 10,794 fans passed through the Hi Corbett Field gates.
Arizona next hits the road for a pair of mid-week games at Long Beach State beginning Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. The brief series concludes Wednesday afternoon.