Arizona baseball’s late rally comes up short

TUCSON, Ariz. — Reliever Nate Cole faced only one batter, but he got a much-needed final out for the Abilene Christian baseball team, which held off a late rally by Arizona to win 6-5 on Saturday evening at Hi Corbett Field.

Arizona (21-33) trailed 6-1 in the bottom of the eighth inning before breaking through with three two-out runs. With two on, Riley Moore tripled off the right-field wall, and Willie Calhoun followed with a run-scoring single that skipped over the shortstop to cut the deficit to two.

In the ninth, Kevin Newman singled against reliever Nick Palacios to allow the tying run to step into the box with one out. Scott Kingery flew out to center field for the second out, but Trent Gilbert ripped a double down the right-field line to get Arizona within one and get himself into scoring position.

Palacios fell behind 1-0 to Tyler Krause, and Abilene Christian elected to bring in Cole. Krause turned on a 1-2 pitch, but left fielder Taylor Waters easily tracked the ball down in the gap to thwart the late rally and give Cole his second save.

Abilene Christian erased an early one-run deficit with a three-run third inning against Arizona starter Cody Hamlin (L, 5-5). After facing the minimum through the first eight batters, Hamlin walked Connor Messman. Colton Hall later singled home Messman to the game, and ACU took the lead for good on Taylor Eager’s two-run single.

The top of the lineup did the damage against Hamlin, who was charged for six runs — four earned — on eight hits over 7 1/3 innings. The first three hitters in Abilene Christian’s lineup combined for seven hits, four runs scored and four runs batted in.

Starter Garrett deMeyer (W, 5-8) was effective for the visiting Wildcats over 6 2/3 innings. He allowed only one run and scattered six hits and a pair of walks.

Arizona was threatening when deMeyer left with two outs in the seventh. Down 5-1, the host Wildcats had two runners on when Kevin Sheets was brought in to face Zach Gibbons. Sheets struck out Gibbons swinging, stranding two of the nine runners Arizona left on base in the contest.

After claiming the 3-1 lead, Abilene Christian tacked on single insurance runs in the fifth, seventh and eighth inning. The final run proved crucial.

Eager led off the top of the eighth with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. One out later, Nathan Bannister took over for Hamlin, and Heath Beasley greeted the reliever with a bloop-double down the right field line.

Arizona out-hit its Wildcat counterparts 11-9 but went just 2 for 10 with runners in scoring position. Gibbons, Newman, Gilbert and Calhoun each had two hits.

Aaron Draper paced the Abilene Christian offensive attack with three hits out of the leadoff spot. He scored two runs.