Utah rallies, puts end to Arizona's win streak
Fourth-ranked Arizona saw its six-game conference winning streak snapped in a wild back-and-fourth game that was won by Utah, 7-6 on Friday at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
UA (22-9, 8-3 Pac-12) appeared well on its way to a seventh straight Pac-12 victory, taking leads of 1-0, 5-2 and 6-5 throughout the game, but a bizarre turn of events in the bottom of the eighth inning doomed the Wildcats.
Trailing by a run in the eighth, Utah (8-21, 4-7 Pac-12) had two outs and no runners on against reliever Stephen Manthei until Gavin Green drew a walk. Manthei then struck out Bliss Larsen swinging to presumably end the inning, but the pitch bounced in the dirt and rolled away from catcher Riley Moore.
Moore raced to pick up the ball, but his throw to first base was low and skipped into right field. That allowed Green to race to third base and Larsen to start toward second. But Larsen was caught between first and second base on right fielder Robert Refsnyder’s throw back to the infield.
Larsen found himself in a rundown but avoided a tag and slid in safely at second. Meanwhile, Green was caught off the bag at third. A throw to third forced him to try to score, and third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean’s throw to Moore at home was in time to retire Green, but Moore dropped it, allowing the tying run to score.
Utah's Tyler Relf followed and roped a double down the left-field line to drive in Larsen with the go-ahead run.
The Wildcats, stunned by the turn of events, put the tying and potential go-ahead runs on base with two down in the top of the ninth against reliever Tyler Wagner. But Wagner got Mejias-Brean to ground out to end the game and preserve the 7-6 win for the Utes. It was Wagner’s first save of the season.
Utah mounted a rally in the bottom of the seventh against UA starter Konner Wade to overcome a three-run deficit. Wade gave up a walk and a single to open the inning, and Relf then drove in a run with a run-scoring groundout. With two down in the inning, James Brooks hit a two-run homer to right field that tied the score at 5-5.
The Wildcats quickly recovered to grab the lead in the eighth. Bobby Brown reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a groundout. Then, with two strikes and two outs, Moore singled to center to drive in Brown and give UA a 6-5 lead before the wild turn of events in the home half of the inning.
Arizona went on top early by scoring in the first inning for the second straight game. Joey Rickard led off the game with a double to the right-field corner. He was advanced to third on Johnny Field’s flyout to right and then scored on Alex Mejia’s sacrifice fly to center to plate the game’s first run.
Wade retired the Utes in order over the first three innings before Brooks led off the bottom of the fourth with a single up the middle. Conner Eppard followed with a double to left field to place a pair of runners in scoring position, and Parker Morin then singled to left to drive in both runners and give the Utes a 2-1 lead.
The Wildcats answered in the top of the fifth. Trent Gilbert singled to lead off, moved to second on Moore’s sacrifice bunt and went to third on Joseph Maggi’s line-drive single to center. Rickard then drove in Gilbert on a sacrifice fly to right to tie it at 2-2.
Arizona regained its lead with three runs on four hits in the top half of the sixth. With two outs, Brown singled to center to plate a pair of runners before Trent Gilbert doubled home Brown to give UA a 5-2 edge.
That marked the end of the day for utah starter Brock Duke, who was charged with five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings. The right-hander allowed eight hits, walked one and struck out five in a no-decision.
Wade did not factor into the decision after tossing 6 2/3 innings. He gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out six.
Mitch Watrous (2-0) earned the win in relief for the Utes after pitching 2 1/3 innings. He gave up one run on three hits.
Manthei (5-3) suffered the loss after being charged with two unearned runs in the eighth. He went 1 1/3 innings, allowed one hit, walked one and struck out two.