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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    “Colla, offense anchor baseball’s road victory”

    The ups and downs of the Arizona baseball team’s season might be close to making the team sick at this point.

    Coming off a 5-1 loss to Washington on Sunday, the Wildcats’ roller coaster ride continued last night as starting pitcher Mike Colla went six strong innings to lead Arizona (16-11, 3-6 Pacific 10 Conference) to an 11-6 victory at San Diego State (18-14) to take the first of a two-game series.

    “”Colla pitched great tonight,”” said first baseman C.J. Ziegler. “”He came out pitching with enthusiasm and when (the pitchers) show confidence (the offense) shows (its) confidence. Things just worked out for everyone (last night).””

    Coming into last night’s contest, Colla did not jump out on teams’ stat sheets. The right-hander was posting an ERA of over seven with an opponent batting average of .324.

    But against the Aztecs, with the Wildcats’ offense putting up 11 runs, Colla could have asked for much less.

    In what was arguably one of the most dominating performances by an Arizona starting pitcher this season, the hurler allowed only one run on four hits while striking out six.

    “”I just felt good for the first time in a while,”” Colla said. “”I just wanted to pick up the defense and the offense has been struggling so I also wanted to go in there and give them a chance to swing away.””

    With a pitch-count reaching the high 90s, and the possibility of Colla being used in the upcoming weekend series with Indiana State, head coach Andy Lopez pulled his starter after six innings.

    Despite the strong effort, Colla’s performance was threatened in the seventh inning when the Aztecs used a shaky performance from Daniel Schlereth to mount an attack.

    After allowing a leadoff hit by Aztec right fielder Cory Vaughn, Schlereth allowed a walk and then hit two consecutive batters allowing Vaughn to score while leaving the bases loaded.

    Then up came third baseman Nick Romero who blasted a grand slam to left field, bringing the Aztecs to within four.

    From there, Schlereth retired three of the next four batters to stop Arizona’s bleeding.

    “”I was never nervous because (Schlereth) has been one of our best pitchers all season,”” Colla said of watching Schlereth struggle in the seventh. “”That stuff happens, sometimes you struggle. But most of the time he’s on the money so I wasn’t worried at all.””

    Schlereth remained in the game through the eighth inning, allowing no further damage. But Lopez brought in closer Jason Stoffel in the ninth to shut the door on the Aztecs, which he did with three consecutive strikeouts after a leadoff single by shortstop Troy Hanzawa.

    Despite the bottom of the seventh inning, last night’s game was one of the best Arizona has played all season. In addition to strong overall pitching, the Wildcats’ offense hardly skipped a beat – a rare sight of late.

    For the first time in 11 games, the Wildcats broke double digits in runs while knocking San Diego State pitching around for 17 hits.

    Arizona began its onslaught in the third when back-to-back RBI singles by second baseman Colt Sedbrook and Ziegler gave Arizona its first lead of the night.

    While Colla held the Aztecs dormant, the Wildcats continued adding to their lead with the team’s biggest offensive inning coming in the seventh.

    With Arizona having already scored four runs in the frame, the Wildcats threatened again loading the bases with two outs. But an inning-ending strikeout by Ziegler put a stop to Arizona’s opportunity.

    “”The guys were swinging (the bats) really well,”” Colla said. “”Once they got in the game their approaches were great and they were seeing everything and driving the ball up the middle. It was good to see those guys getting that confidence back.””

    While the Wildcats managed to put together a solid all-around performance last night, they have yet to put together a string of similar performances since the teams’ 12-game winning streak which ended March 16.

    Arizona is 3-3 in its last six games while alternating wins and losses. But with last night’s strong play, Ziegler said he feels the team is ready to get back its consistency.

    “”It felt good out there (yesterday),”” Ziegler said. “”We decided we’re done with what’s been happening. Now, we’re just gonna work our way toward getting back on that hot streak.””

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