UA baseball holds off North Dakota in opener
TUCSON, Ariz. -- The fifth-ranked Arizona baseball team scored three first-inning runs to ignite an opening-day throng of 3,997 fans at Hi Corbett Field on Friday evening, and those turned out to be the only fireworks until the postgame display capped a festive day for the storied program.
Arizona withstood a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first by answering with three runs in the home half, and from there the Wildcats used steady pitching from Kurt Heyer and Stephen Manthei to limit visiting North Dakota State to just one run in a 3-1 victory.
Heyer struggled in the first inning, giving up two hits and a walk to load the bases with just one out. But a strikeout and a flyout ended the threat and set the stage for a big inning for the Wildcats' bats.
Joey Rickard reached on an infield single and moved to second on a wild pitch. One out later, Robert Refsnyder drove in Rickard for the first run of the season. Johnny Field followed with an RBI triple to left-center, and Seth Mejias-Brean tacked on the third run with a sacrifice fly.
Heyer settled down on the mound for UA and collected seven strikeouts in seven innings while scattering five hits and issuing two walks.
Manthei earned his first career save by working scoreless eighth and ninth innings. The junior righty registered three strikeouts and allowed only one batter to reach on a soft single in the eighth.
John Straka suffered the loss for the Bison (0-1) despite limiting the UA offense to three runs on seven hits. Straka tossed five innings with a strikeout and two walks.
Field set a career high by collecting four hits, including two doubles and a single to go along with the run-scoring triple in his first at-bat.
Prior to the game, Hall of Fame coach Jerry Kindall joined Hank Rowe, the grandson of legendary coach Frank Sancet, in throwing out the ceremonial first pitches. Kindall threw his pitch to longtime friend and assistant coach Jim Wing. Over 100 letterwinners circled the mound behind the coaches to ring in a new era of Arizona baseball at Hi Corbett Field.
The opening-day crowd of 3,997 was one of the largest in school history and the best single-game attendance for the school in four seasons. The largest crowd in 2011 was 2,238 against Arizona State at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium.
The two teams will continue their three-game series on Saturday at 4 p.m. Two-time world-champion manager and 1980 Golden Spikes Award winner Terry Francona will throw out the ceremonial first pitch.