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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona baseball defeats No. 16 Cal State Fullerton 2-0

Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics
3/2/2016. Senior pitcher Nathan Bannister (35) during the Wildcats 2-0 win over the Cal-State Fullerton Titans. Hi-Corbett Field, Tucson, AZ.

Jay Johnson’s home opener as head coach of the Arizona
Wildcats was a successful one, as the Wildcats shut out Cal State Fullerton
Wednesday night by a score of 2-0.

Coach Johnson described his emotions prior to the game as
excitement. However third baseman and pitcher Bobby Dalbec revealed some of the
pregame jitters that Johnson was experiencing on top of his immense elation.

“Before the game he [Johnson] was kind of pacing around,”
Dalbec said after the game. “I asked him if he was fired up and he said ‘yeah’
and gave me a big chest bump.”

The Arizona Wildcats, dressed in red shirts and hats, emulated
Johnson’s ecstatic behavior, as they were noisily cheering on their teammates
all night from the top steps of the dugout for all of Hi Corbett to hear. After
every top half of the inning, seemingly the entire team would depart from the
dugout to high five every player exiting the field for the dugout.

 The energy was
reciprocated by the fans who came out to get a look at the new squad for the
first time under the Johnson regime.

The fans did not leave disappointed as the Wildcats were
able to hold off the Titans thanks to a remarkable performance on the mound by
senior Nathan Bannister. Bannister went 6.2 strong innings while allowing two
hits with no walks and four strikeouts. The Phoenix native only allowed three
men to reach base in his entire 6.2 innings of work.

After the game, Bannister acknowledged utilizing the large
dimensions of Hi Corbett to his advantage by allowing the hitters to put the
ball in play knowing he has a strong defense behind him.

“You get rewarded if you hit the ball hard on the ground.
Anything in the air is usually an out,” Bannister said. “Trying to get some
ground balls, let my defense work and I think they did a pretty good job of

Junior Bobby Dalbec came on from third base to relieve
Bannister in the seventh with two outs and was able to get the third out via
ground out to first. Dalbec would go on to shut down the Titans in the eighth
and ninth to earn his first save of the season.

The offense did not provide the explosiveness we saw last
weekend in the Tony Gwynn Classic where they put up 28 runs in three games, but
they didn’t need to thanks to Bannister and Dalbec.

Arizona struck first, which is a reoccurring theme early on
in the season, in the bottom of the second after designated hitter JJ Matijevic
hit a triple off the left center wall, barely missing his first homerun of the
season. Matijevic came around to score on a Bobby Dalbec RBI single.

Center fielder Justin Behnke and shortstop Louis Boyd
followed up Dalbec’s single with back-to-back singles of their own which loaded
the bases for catcher Cesar Salazar. The freshmen would drive in Dalbec with a
sacrifice fly to left fielder Josh Vargas who almost threw out Dalbec at the

Coach Johnson was all smiles after the game, deservingly so.

“It was a pretty special night. Couldn’t have drawn it up
any better.”

The Wildcats face Northwestern State on Friday night to kick
off the Wildcat Invitational this weekend at Hi Corbett Field.

Follow Ross Olson on Twitter

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