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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball drops two of three

Lisa Beth Earle /Arizona Daily Wildcat 

5-year-old Leo Foust cruises around campus on Sunday, April 25. He and his family spend quality time together riding their bikes on the weekends.
Lisa Beth Earle
Lisa Beth Earle /Arizona Daily Wildcat 5-year-old Leo Foust cruises around campus on Sunday, April 25. He and his family spend quality time together riding their bikes on the weekends.

One out was all the No. 17 Arizona baseball team needed to knock off No. 6 UCLA Friday night and grab hold of the momentum for the remaining two games of the series.

But with a 2-1 lead and two outs in the bottom of ninth, Arizona (28-11, 8-7 Pacific 10 Conference) freshman third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean was handcuffed by a hard-hit chopper to third, allowing the Bruins (29-7, 7-5) to tie the game and ultimately win 6-3 in the 10th inning.

UCLA’s comeback took the air out of a young Arizona team, and the Bruins went on to take two of three games from the Wildcats at Sancet Stadium.

“”Really if you look at one play Friday night we roll out of this thing winning two out of three,”” said head coach Andy Lopez after a 6-4 Arizona victory in Game 3. “”We’re one ground ball away from winning three out of four against the No. 1 and No. 6 teams in the nation.””

Arizona Friday-night starter Kurt Heyer went pitch for pitch with Bruins ace and former Yankees first-round draft pick Gerrit Cole, and the Wildcats grabbed hold of the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning in Game 1.

Cole struck out 10 through eight innings and touched 99 mph on the radar gun, but Heyer was equally as impressive through six innings — one run off of five hits and eight punch-outs — and Arizona appeared to be on its way to stunning one of the nation’s top arms.

“”Overall I thought I did my job,”” Heyer said after Game 1. “”It was an intense game. We battled back in the eighth and we had it.””

Sophomore lefty Bryce Bandilla relieved Heyer in the seventh and carried Arizona into the ninth as he yielded only one hit through 2 1/3 scoreless innings.

Lopez turned to closer Nick Cunningham to seal the deal. The freshman right-hander allowed a single but picked up the second out by inducing a grounder to Mejias-Brean.

With a runner on second and two outs, UCLA’s Dean Espy sent a chopper down the third base line, and this time Mejias-Brean couldn’t make the play, allowing the tying run to score.

“”When (the ground ball) was hit I was charting it as five-three and then someone said it just kind of beat him up,”” Lopez said. “”Tough night for him.””

The Bruins went on to beat up UA relievers Augey Bill and Joe Allison in the top of the 10th and stole one from the Wildcats.

“”I have some friends on UCLA and they know they should’ve been 0-1 going into Saturday and 1-1 going into today,”” sophomore right fielder Steve Selsky said after Game 3. “”They got pretty lucky in that last inning. I feel like we played better than them.””

The Bruins carried the momentum from Friday into Saturday’s game when UCLA starter Trevor Bauer stole the show. Bauer went the distance, holding the Wildcats to only two runs off of 10 hits, while fanning 13.

UCLA got to UA starter Kyle Simon — six runs in five innings — and the Wildcat bats failed to capitalize on some early opportunities, resulting in a 6-2 UCLA win.

The Pac-10 Conference’s top hitting team collided with one of the nation’s best pitching staffs, and the Bruins’ arms proved to be too much for the Wildcats.

“”They’ve got some real good arms and we haven’t done a real good job competing against those arms,”” Lopez said after Game 2.

“”That might be the best pitching staff in the country,”” Lopez added after Game 3.

But Arizona finally got to UCLA on Sunday and avoided a sweep with a 6-4 victory. The combination of starter Daniel Workman and Bandilla held the Bruins to three runs through 6 1/3 innings and the Wildcats chased UCLA starter Rob Rasmussen after 3 2/3 innings.

“”To win today was very important,”” Selsky said. “”We were pretty upset about losing Friday and we wanted to win badly today and did exactly what we came here to do.””

The victory gave Arizona something to smile about, but this series will undoubtedly be remembered for what could have been. One ground ball out and the nation would be talking about how the youngest team in the Pac-10 took two of three from the once-No. 1 Bruins.

“”That’s always in the back of your mind, like what if what if what if,”” Selsky said. “”But we’re 2-and-2 on the week facing the No. 1 team and No. 6 team, that’s not bad.””

He said it: Youth no longer an excuse

Arizona head coach Andy Lopez spoke to his team for over an hour and a half after Sunday’s 6-4 victory. He made it clear to his team that, although the Wildcats are the youngest team in the Pacific 10 Conference, they can’t use it as an excuse.

• “”I’m not trying to be a tyrant with these guys, but we are in the Pac-10; no one’s going to say at the end of the year, ‘Oh they’re young.’ They’re going to say, ‘Where did they finish up?'”” Lopez said.

• “”That’s what I told them right now, no one’s going to give you brownie points because you’re young,”” he added. “”What you’re doing is nice. Applaud yourself. But we’ve got to get old pretty quick because we’re going down the stretch run here.””

• Although Lopez was pleased with the team’s showing on Sunday, he wanted to make sure his team doesn’t think about age, but simply performance.

• “”He doesn’t want to hear that as an excuse, he doesn’t want to hear that ever again,”” said sophomore Steve Selsky. “”We’ve been doing this for seven months, it’s not an excuse anymore.””

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