Arizona rides big first inning past San Francisco

Box score

TUCSON, Ariz. – A four-run first inning propelled 10th-ranked Arizona to a 5-2, series-clinching win over visiting San Francisco before a crowd of 3,325 on a balmy spring afternoon Saturday at Hi Corbett Field.
 
The Wildcats (10-2) wasted no time getting their bats going against Dons starter Alex Balog, who entered Saturday’s action having allowed just one run in 14 innings pitched this season. The right-hander issued a leadoff walk to Zach Gibbons, and UA pounced on an opportunity to strike first.
 
Riley Moore doubled to the wall in right field to plate Gibbons, who had moved to second on a wild pitch. One out later, Brandon Dixon singled and scooted into second base as a throw home held Moore at third. Trent Gilbert followed with a two-run triple to right, and Kevin Newman drove in the sophomore second baseman with a single through the left side of a drawn-in infield.
 
Despite the 4-0 lead, the early innings were not easy for Arizona starter James Farris. The junior righty labored through the first three innings, surrendering four hits and matching his career high with three walks. Bob Cruikshank’s run-scoring single in the third cut Arizona’s lead to 4-1.
 
However, Farris quickly settled down and pitched solidly over the next five frames. The Gilbert, Ariz., native at one point retired 10 in a row before giving up a leadoff single to pinch hitter Harrison Bruce in the seventh. Bruce eventually scored on a sacrifice fly, but that was all the Dons could muster offensively.
 
Farris (W, 3-0) won for the third time in as many starts on the young season after allowing only the two runs over eight innings. He did not walk a batter after the second and finished with six strikeouts.
 
Leading 4-2 in the eighth, the Wildcats tacked on an insurance run. Dixon, who has reached base in all 12 games this season, led off with his second single of the game. He was bunted to second by Trent Gilbert and then stole third. Newman tallied his second RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly to center to extend the margin to 5-2.
 
Nick Cunningham pitched a scoreless ninth inning, allowing only a two-out double to Brendan Hendricks. The right-hander then induced a game-inning groundout to earn his first save since March 5, 2011.
 
Balog (L, 1-1) suffered the loss after giving up the four first-inning runs but pitched well for the ensuing six innings. The right-hander finished with seven hits and three walks allowed to go with three strikeouts over seven innings, all of which came in the sixth.
 
The Wildcats have now won 20 of their last 23 weekend series dating back to the final month of the 2011 season.
 
Arizona will try for its third straight weekend sweep Sunday when the two clubs conclude the series. San Francisco will send lefty Christian Cecilio to the mound against UA righty Stephen Manthei. First pitch is scheduled for noon at Hi Corbett Field.