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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ‘Cats finish strong

    Catcher Dwight Childes lays down a bunt to advance shortstop Bryce Ortega to third base in an 8-4 win yesterday over No. 23 UCLA at Sancet Stadium. The Bruins got the best of the Wildcats after winning the series 2-1.
    Catcher Dwight Childes lays down a bunt to advance shortstop Bryce Ortega to third base in an 8-4 win yesterday over No. 23 UCLA at Sancet Stadium. The Bruins got the best of the Wildcats after winning the series 2-1.

    The No. 6 Arizona baseball team may have turned a corner yesterday.

    Following arguably their worst defeat of the season, the Wildcats (14-9, 2-4 Pacific 10 Conference) responded with a strong 8-4 victory in the series finale against No. 23 UCLA (12-10, 2-1).

    The Bruins pounded Arizona for 20 runs on 22 hits Saturday night, both marks being season highs allowed by the Wildcats.

    But a determined Arizona team retaliated
    yesterday with 12 hits of its own en route to the Wildcats’ first win in six games.

    “”We played better (yesterday),”” said head coach Andy Lopez. “”We didn’t play flawless but we scored some runs which is a bright light for us.””

    With runs being hard to come by in the last six games, Arizona used a small-ball approach mixed with timely hitting to pick apart the Bruins.

    Tied at one in the bottom of the second inning, shortstop Bryce Ortega began the frame with a double to left field. Catcher Dwight Childs successfully moved Ortega to third with a sacrifice bunt.

    The strategy didn’t take long to pay off as second baseman Robert Abel laced a single into left field to drive in Ortega and give Arizona an early 2-1 advantage.

    UCLA answered in the third with an RBI sacrifice fly off Arizona starting pitcher Eric Berger to tie the game at 2.

    The Wildcats used another sacrifice, this time in the form of an RBI sacrifice fly to center field to score left fielder Hunter Pace and give Arizona a 3-2 lead.

    “”Execution is always the game plan,”” Childs said. “”Whatever they give me I try to get (the bunt) down every single time. It definitely helped us a bit. I can honestly say now that we’re out of our rut.””

    In addition to Childs’ efforts, the rest of Arizona’s offense did its part by adding four runs over the next three innings to give the Wildcats a lead they would not relinquish.

    On the tail of an eight-run effort in Saturday night’s loss, Arizona’s seven runs in yesterday’s contest made it the first time the team recorded back-to-back series games with at least eight runs of offense since March 2 against Sacramento State.

    “”We got a couple hits (yesterday) when we needed them and that makes the game a lot easier,”” Lopez said. “”When you’re averaging five runs in seven games or something like that it’s hard to win baseball games.””

    In addition to the team’s strong offensive performance, starting pitcher Eric Berger held the Bruins in check for the majority of his five inning effort. The southpaw allowed only two runs on four hits with three strikeouts and two walks prior to handing the ball to relief pitcher Daniel Schlereth in the sixth.

    “”We needed a win no matter what (yesterday),”” Berger said. “”I just wanted to do everything I could to help our team win.””

    The most peculiar part of the day came in the fifth inning with Arizona at bat. With no outs and right fielder Jon Gaston on third, UCLA pulled out a classic: the hidden ball trick.

    Gaston began taking his lead as Bruins pitcher Gavin Brooks stood off the mound mimicking as though he had the ball in his glove.

    UCLA third baseman then tagged Gaston but the Arizona outfielder reached the base before any umpire took notice of the play and Gaston was called safe. UCLA assistant coach Brian Green was ejected from the game after he argued the non-call.

    “”To be honest I didn’t see it,”” Lopez said of the play. “”We knew they did the hidden ball trick though, so that was not a surprise. You got to catch a break somewhere.””

    Arizona welcomed any break it could get yesterday after dropping the opening two games of the series by a combined score of 24-11.

    In Saturday’s blowout loss, four Arizona pitchers allowed 16 earned runs in the team’s 20-8 loss. The 12 runs is the largest margin of defeat this season for the Wildcats.

    The loss also extended Arizona’s losing streak to six, bringing itself within one of the team’s largest losing streak since 1998.

    In the series opener, a strong seven-inning, three-run performance by Arizona starter Preston Guilmet was spoiled by UCLA’s Curtis in the 10th inning.

    With the game knotted at three, the Bruin third baseman smacked a one-out triple off Wildcats’ closer Jason Stoffel. Bruins’ second baseman Alden Carrithers then gave UCLA the winning run with a sacrifice fly to left field.

    “”The guys who play college baseball know there are going to be games like (Saturday night) and (losing) streaks like we’ve had lately,”” Lopez said. “”But the beauty of baseball is that you have another game the next day. So you just get (the losses) out of your system and move on.””

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