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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball bounced by the Baylor Bears

After a one-year hiatus, the Arizona baseball team’s return to the NCAA tournament was short lived as the Wildcats dropped their second game of the Fort Worth Regional with a 4-2 loss to Baylor University on Sunday.

Arizona (34-24) defeated the Bears (36-23) 10-9 in Fort Worth, Texas, on Friday but couldn’t hang on to a 2-1 lead heading into the seventh inning, bringing their up-and-down season to a screeching halt.

The Wildcats had everything working for the better part of seven innings and were nine outs away from taking on host TCU, who they lost to Saturday, with a chance to beat them twice and win the Fort Worth Regional.

In his first collegiate start, freshman Tyler Hale was stellar through six frames and with two outs and a runner on third in the seventh inning. But the ball skipped into the dirt and got away from catcher Jett Bandy, allowing the runner to score from third and tie things up.

From that point on nothing went Arizona’s way. The Wildcats appeared to take a 3-2 lead after freshman shortstop Alex Mejia, who drove in Arizona’s only two runs, blasted a shot over the left field fence. But the ball drifted barely foul and Baylor got out of the inning unscathed.

Freshman reliever Stephen Manthei then came on for Hale – who yielded two runs on three hits and five walks while striking out seven in seven innings of work– in the eighth and quickly found himself in a hole with runners on first and second and one out.

Manthei induced a ground ball in the next at bat, but Mejia bobbled the ball, loading the bases for the Bears. Baylor then took the lead with a sacrifice fly to right, which would have been the third out of the inning if it weren’t for Mejia’s error.

Baylor tacked on another run in the eighth and Arizona couldn’t mount a comeback against 6-foot-6 senior right-hander Willie Kempf, who stole the show by going eight innings and allowing two runs off of seven hits while fanning eight. Brooks Pinckard closed the door for the Bears, and Wildcats’ postseason was cut short.

Arizona struggled to figure out Kempf as it hit only .212 (7-for-33) on the day and didn’t walk once. Hale and company did hold the Bears to an even uglier batting average, .188 (6-for-32), but yielded six walks and committed a pair of errors and a wild pitch that proved to be costly.

The Wildcats were far from stellar this postseason, and there is no doubt they are disappointed with the final outcome. They weren’t very sharp in their three games in the Fort Worth Regional, and the team that won 15 straight games earlier in the year didn’t quite show up.

But Arizona surpassed all expectations this season, as it took the nation by storm early on despite battling the growing pains that come along with being the youngest team in the Pacific 10 Conference with 17 freshmen.

Needless to say, the early exit won’t bring smiles to the faces of the Arizona baseball team, but to even earn a postseason bid one year after what head coach Andy Lopez called a “”nightmare”” of a season says a lot about the character of the new-look Wildcats.

 

 

 

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