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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Close call

 

When Arizona senior outfielder Bobby Rinard came to the plate with a chance to win the game in the bottom of the ninth, baseball head coach Andy Lopez was planning for the extra innings.

But Rinard delivered with a two-out single to deep left-center field with runners on first and second, handing Arizona a 6-5 victory over Washington.

“”I didn’t really have much of a thought process, I was just telling myself to relax for a little bit,”” said Rinard, who hit .462 in his last 11 starts. “”My plan was to hit the first fastball that I saw, and that first one was a little bit over the plate. I was able to put a good swing on it and get it into a gap.””

Rinard, one of four Arizona seniors honored on Saturday, had five family members in Tucson for his last weekend playing at Sancet Stadium.

“”Unless it’s like a game winning hit in Omaha or something like that, I don’t think (it could feel any better),””Rinard said. “”These have been two good nights for me and for the team.””

Arizona (35-19, 14-12 Pacific 10 Conference) pitcher Kyle Simon allowed only run through the first eight innings of the game, but struggled in the ninth trying to protect a 5-1 lead. Washington’s Troy Scott led off the frame with a single, but Simon was able to record the next two outs without incident.

But the 6-foot-5 right-hander plunked the next two Huskies that came to the plate and allowed a run-scoring single before being removed from the game in favor of closer Matt Chaffee.

Lopez said that he wanted to remove Simon after his second consecutive hit batter, but no one was ready to pitch because of miscommunication with the bullpen.

“”We did a poor job in the pen and didn’t have the pen ready,”” Lopez said. “”That’s a poor job coaching on our part.””

By the time Chaffee was ready to enter the game, Washington had already grabbed momentum. After closing the gap to three, the Huskies tagged Chaffee with back-to-back singles, tying the game at five.

Washington (17-36, 6-20 Pac-10) nearly took the lead in the ninth, but Arizona second baseman Bryce Ortega made an acrobatic play to grab a grounder up the middle and record a force out at second base, ending the Husky threat.

Shortstop Alex Mejia paced the Wildcats on offense, going 3-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs scored –– accounting for all five of Arizona’s runs in the first eight innings.

“”Coach is always telling us, ‘Just be mentally tough,'”” Mejia said. “”With the way (Kyle) Simon was going, it didn’t seem like we needed (the runs). It was a real big win, it’s always exciting to win with a walkoff … that’s always a good feeling.””

Mejia credited Rinard’s approach at the plate for his recent success.

“”He has one of the best strokes I’ve seen in a while, to be honest,”” Mejia said. “”He has a real smooth stroke. It doesn’t look like he’s doing a whole lot up there, just letting his hands do the job. So I’m real confident at the plate right now. I always have been, but he’s never really gotten the shot. But he’s really showing what he can do out there with the chances he’s been getting.””

Catcher Jett Bandy also had a standout day at the plate, going 2-for-3 with two doubles.

Arizona’s ninth-inning rally started with a Bobby Brown pinch-hit single to right with one out in the inning. Rob Refsnyder then grounded out, advancing Brown to second. Washington then elected to intentionally walk Bandy, setting up Rinard’s first career walkoff hit.

Sunday’s game pits Arizona freshman Konner Wade against Washington’s Jacob Clem as Arizona tries for the sweep at noon.

 

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