Arizona pulls away for wild win over Utah
Despite blowing a seven-run lead, fourth-ranked Arizona won its eighth straight weekend series Saturday with an 11-7 series-clinching victory over Utah at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
Arizona (23-9, 9-3 Pac-12) raced out to a 7-0 lead and chased Utah starter Kesley Kondo from the game in the third inning. The Utes (8-22, 4-8 Pac-12) answered with a five-run fifth inning against UA starter James Farris, forcing him from the game after just four-plus innings of work.
But the Wildcats would win the battle of the bullpens. Tyler Hale, Stephen Manthei and Mathew Troupe combined to throw five innings of shutout ball, scattering four hits and registering five strikeouts.
Hale (1-0) relieved Farris in the fifth inning with no outs and a two-run lead. The right-hander was unable to keep two inherited runners from scoring, but he did pick up two key strikeouts to strand a pair of runners and end the inning with the score tied 7-7.
The Wildcats did just enough offensively the rest of the way, starting with a response in their next at-bat in the top of the sixth. Joey Rickard hit a one-out single and later scored on Alex Mejia’s RBI single up the middle as UA regained the lead 8-7.
Arizona added an important run in the top of the eighth, loading the bases and getting a sacrifice fly from Mejia to extend the advantage to 9-7.
In the ninth, the Wildcats tacked on two more insurance runs. Seth Mejias-Brean singled and later scored on Riley Moore’s two-out triple to right-center, and Moore scored on a wild pitch by reliever Tony Vocca.
Manthei pitched a scoreless sixth inning and recorded two quick outs in the seventh before hitting a batter. That brought on Troupe, who earned his sixth save of the season. Troupe struck out James Brooks to end the inning, then got another inning-ending strikeout in the eighth with two runners in scoring position.
Arizona opened the scoring with a pair of runs in the second inning. Robert Refsnyder hit a solo home run – his third of the season – to lead off. One out later, Bobby Brown drew a walk and Trent Gilbert singled to left. Moore followed with a single to right to drive in Brown and spot the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
Arizona set 10 hitters went to the plate in a five-run third inning that marked the end of the day for Kondo. Mejias-Brean hit a two-run double with the bases loaded, Bobby Brown delivered a two-run single and Joseph Maggi drove in another run with a two-out single to extend UA’s lead to 7-0.
Kondo left after just 2 1/3 innings. The right-hander gave up seven runs – all earned – on eight hits and three walks.
Reliever Tanner Tripp (0-2) entered and pitched five strong innings of relief but allowed two runs in the sixth and eighth innings before taking the loss. Tripp scattered four hits, struck out four and walked one.
The Utes scored two unearned runs in the bottom of the third following an error by Trent Gilbert, who was unable to hold on to a throw on a potential inning-ending double play. Connor Eppard followed with a run-scoring groundout, and Parker Morin then delivered a two-out RBI single to cut UA’s lead to 7-2.
Farris ran into trouble in the bottom of the fifth inning, giving up five consecutive base hits. Brooks’ double led off the inning, and Eppard followed with a run-scoring single. Shaun Cooper delivered a bases-loaded two-run double later in the inning to cut the deficit to 7-5 before Farris was replaced by Hale.
Hale’s first pitch to Gavin Green bounced in front of the plate and skipped to the backstop, allowing Trey Nielson to score. Green then drove in Cooper with the tying run on a sacrifice fly. Hale eventually escaped the inning with a pair of strikeouts that stranded two runners in scoring position.
Farris did not factor into the decision after pitching four-plus innings. The right-hander gave up seven runs – five earned – on eight hits. He struck out six with no walks and one hit batter.