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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

Arizona baseball takes the series against Air Force in epic fashion

The Wildcats improve to 25-20


Jackie Cabrera

Arizona baseball player Mason White slides onto home base and scores a point for the Wildcats on April 8 in Hi Corbett Field. The Wildcats went on to win the game against the University of Washington 13-1.

Nathaniel Levin

The Arizona baseball team hosted the Air Force Academy for a three-game series that started on Friday, May 5. The Wildcats took the series, going 2-1 over the weekend. With the series win, the Wildcats hold a record of 25-20 (9-15 in Pac-12 play).

Game 1: Friday, May 5, at 6 p.m

After a leadoff single, Arizona starting pitcher Cam Walty got two quick outs before giving up a long 2-run homer, as Air Force took an early 2-0 lead in the first inning. However, in the bottom half of the inning, the Wildcats were able tie the game up at 2-2 following back-to-back RBI singles by Kiko Romero and Emilio Corona

In the following inning, Cameron LaLiberte hit an RBI single up the middle to give the Wildcats a 3-2 lead for the first time in the game.

Romero led the third inning off with a double, and soon scored on a wild pitch to give the Wildcats a 4-2 lead. However, the Wildcats were not done scoring, as a solo shot by Mason White — his fourth of the seasonextended the lead to 3 runs. The Wildcats added 1 more run before the inning ended, as they held a 6-2 lead through three innings. 

The Wildcats would go scoreless in the fourth and fifth innings, but an RBI single by Tony Bullard in the sixth gave the Wildcats a 7-2 lead

After struggling in the first inning, Walty was able to settle down and keep the Falcons scoreless between the second and sixth innings. However, Air Force was able to tack on 1 more run in the seventh inning before his exit. Walty’s final line was 7.0 IP, 3 runs, seven hits and eight strikeouts. Walty now holds a record of 4-0 with a season ERA of 3.12.

“I don’t really get any nerves when I am pitching or when I get behind,” Walty said. “I know that my team has got my back.”

LaLiberte was hit by a pitch to open the bottom of the seventh, and Mac Bingham followed with a double for his fourth hit of the game, putting runners on second and third with no outs. Both runners were then brought in on a 2-RBI single by Nik McClaughry to give the Wildcats a 9-3 lead. McClaughry would then score on an RBI single by Romero for his 60th RBI of the season. The Wildcats scored 4 runs in the inning, and they led 11-3 through seven innings.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, the Wildcats loaded the bases with one out. Romero launched an opposite-field grand slam — his 13th home run of the season — to give the Wildcats a 15-3 lead. Romero’s grand slam gave him his sixth RBI of the game

“I kind of stay locked in no matter what the score is,” Romero said.

Ultimately, the Wildcats picked up the 16-3 win, snapping their four-game losing streak

“Our guys are very comfortable in our ballpark,” Arizona head coach Chip Hale said. “We just need to do a better job on the road.” 

Game 2: Saturday, May 6, at 6 p.m. 

After a scoreless first inning, the Falcons jumped out to an early 1-0 lead after a solo shot in the top of the second. The Falcons scored 2 more runs before the inning ended, as they held a 3-0 lead early

After going hitless in the first two innings, LaLiberte gave the Wildcats their first hit with a double down the left-field line. The Wildcats then worked two walks to load the bases with two outs. Unfortunately, Romero was unable to come through, leaving the Wildcats scoreless as they still trailed 3-0 through three innings. 

“We swung the bat well early, [and] we hit the balls hard, but we couldn’t get it done,” Hale said. 

After struggling in the second inning, Wildcat starter Bradon Zastrow was able to keep the Falcons scoreless until the seventh inning. He ran into some trouble, leading to his exit. Zastrow’s final line was 6.1 IP, 4 runs (2 earned), seven hits and four strikeouts

The Wildcats were unable to rally after falling behind early, as the offense was quiet all night, producing only two hits, as they fell to Air Force 5-0 in the second game. The Wildcats had 20 fewer hits Saturday than they did on Friday in their 16-3 victory, where they collected 22 hits

Hale was vocally frustrated with the team’s performance.

“We were not prepared to play; it was my fault and our staff’s fault [that] we did not have our guys ready to play,” Hale said. “We should not be getting shut down at our home ballpark.” 

Game 3: Sunday, May 7, at 1 p.m

Prior to the start of Sunday’s game, there was a flyover featuring two Arizona alumni and two Air Force Alumni

After a leadoff single by Bingham to open the bottom of the first inning, Chase Davis soon followed with a double, giving the Wildcats runners on second and third with one out. Both runners were then driven in by Romero who lined a single up the middle to give the Wildcats an early 2-0 lead. Before the end of the inning, the Wildcats scored another run, giving them a 3-run lead early

The Wildcat bats were alive after a lousy two-hit showing in game two. Nevertheless, Air Force had a response in the top of the second when the team scored 2 runs after a trio of hits helped them to cut their deficit down to one

There wasn’t much action in the third inning, but the fourth was a different story. Air Force scored 5 runs to take their first lead of the game. The inning was highlighted by some sloppy defense and powerful hitting by the Falcons as the Wildcats trailed 7-3 heading into the bottom of the fourth

Wildcat starter Aiden May had a rough outing. His final statline was 3.2 IP, 10 hits, 7 runs and five strikeouts

After a strong first inning, the Wildcat offense went quiet through the fourth inning, but they were able to pull through in the fifth inning. The inning was highlighted by a 2-run home run by Bullard —his eighth of the season — as the Wildcats trailed the Falcons 7-6 through five innings

Arizona brought in TJ Nichols in the fifth inning, and he got three quick outs. However, he ran into some trouble in the sixth, as he gave up 3 runs, two hits and a walk. The Wildcats trailed 10-6 in the sixth inning after cutting their deficit to 1 run

In the bottom half of the inning, Davis lined a 2-run double to cut the Air Force lead in half. As the game entered the eighth inning, the Wildcats trailed 10-9 after scoring 1 run in the seventh

After Romero fouled out to open the bottom of the ninth, Corona launched a double off of the center field wall. White, who was already 3-4 on the day, picked up his fourth hit of the day, by ripping a game-tying RBI double to right field

An intentional walk and an infield single loaded the bases, as the game was knotted up at 10-10. Tyler Casagrande came in to pinch hit, and walked it off with a sacrifice fly, as the Wildcats defeated the Falcons 11-10.

“I looked for the first pitch that really strikes me,” Casagrande said. “It would’ve been pretty hard to not get that run in.” 

Hale was thrilled with the team’s ability to come back, but he shared his concerns about the team’s aggressiveness in certain situations.

“We’re just trying too hard, whether it’s a pitcher making a perfect pitch, whether it’s guys trying to make something happen,” Hale said. “We just got to read the scoreboard. The scoreboard tells you how aggressive you can be.

Looking ahead:

The Wildcats host the University of Nevada Reno on Wednesday, May 10, at 6 p.m. before heading to the San Francisco Bay Area to play against No. 4 Stanford University next weekend from Friday, May 12 to Sunday, May 14.

Follow Nathaniel Levin on Twitter

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