Wildcats walk off with eighth straight win
TUCSON, Ariz. -- Robert Refsnyder's only hit of the game extended his hitting streak to 17 consecutive games and, more importantly, drove in Bobby Brown for the game-winning run in walk-off fashion as the No. 7 Arizona baseball team rallied to defeat Eastern Michigan 9-8 for its eighth-straight victory Sunday afternoon at Hi Corbett Field.
With the game knotted at 8-8 entering the bottom of the ninth, Brown reached on an error to open the inning. A sacrifice bunt by Joey Rickard advanced Brown to second base before Alex Mejia was intentionally walked. Refsnyder followed by ripping the first pitch he saw from Neil Butara into left field. Brown, who scored three runs, beat the throw home from Daniel Russell and slid under the tag of catcher Matt Hitt.
Arizona (13-2) had a seemingly comfortable 7-4 lead going to the eighth inning, but Eastern Michigan (3-11) quickly turned the tide. Reliever Tyler Crawford surrendered a one-out single followed by an RBI triple before handing the ball over to freshman closer Mathew Troupe.
Troupe issued a walk and then gave up back-to-back doubles before striking out the final two batters of the inning. But by then, the Eagles had taken an 8-7 lead.
The Wildcats, like they had done all series long, answered immediately in the home half of the inning with a run of their own to tie the score. Refnsyder was a hit by a pitch for the third time in the game, which tied a school record, to lead off the bottom of the eighth. Johnny Field's sacrifice bunt advanced Refsnyder to second base, and Seth Mejias-Brean followed with a single up the middle that skipped past shortstop Tucker Rubino to tie it at 8-8.
Troupe (2-0) cruised through the top of the ninth inning to keep the momentum in the Wildcats' dugout. The right-hander made quick work of the Eagles, getting a groundout, a popout and a strikeout to set up the walk-off heroics.
Refnsyder's key ninth-inning hit bucked a trend of leaving runners on base, as Arizona had left 10 runners on before the ninth inning and was just 5 for 15 with runners in scoring position before the final frame.
Eastern Michigan claimed a 1-0 lead in the second inning before UA struck for four runs in the bottom half of the inning. The clubs traded single runs in the fifth, and each had a pair of runs in the sixth inning. In the eighth, the Wildcats answered EMU's four runs with the game-tying run before prevailing with the winning run an inning later.
EMU scored in eight innings throughout the series, and each time, the Wildcats responded with at least one run in the bottom half of the frame. In six of those innings, UA tacked on two or more runs.
James Farris started on the mound for the Wildcats but did not factor into the decision. The sophomore gave up four runs -- three earned -- on six hits and had four strikeouts and zero walks.
Eagles starter Brian Valente was let off the hook by the late-inning rally that saw EMU take a one-run lead. Valente surrendered seven runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. He did not factor into the decision.
Arizona hitters were hit by a pitch six times in the game, which tied a school record. Entering the weekend, the Wildcats had been hit by a pitch just seven times, but they were plunked nine times in the three-game series.
Offensively, Mejias-Brean and Bobby Brown paced the Wildcats' attack. Both tripled for the Wildcats, part of a combined five-triple day for the two clubs. Mejias-Brean collected three hits, a run scored and two RBIs, while Brown scored three runs and drove in a pair. Rickard and Refsnyder also chipped in a pair of RBIs.
The victory completed UA's second straight weekend sweep. The Wildcats' 13-2 mark to open the season is the best under head coach Andy Lopez in his 11 seasons at the school, and it's the best season-opening record for the program since a 14-2 start in 1999. A year prior, UA began the season 15-0.