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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona baseball dominates opening homestand to kickoff its 2024 season

Danielle Main
Junior Emilio Corona celebrates after hitting a home-run during a game against Utah Tech at Hi Corbett Tuesday Feb. 20. Wildcats took the win 24-4.

The Arizona baseball team kicked off its 2024 season with a three-game series against No. 23 Northeastern University from Feb. 16-18 and a single game against Utah Tech University on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at Hi Corbett Field. The Wildcats (3-1) outscored their opponents 46-16 over their first four games, including a blowout 24-4 win over Utah Tech, the most runs in a game for Arizona since 2019.

Arizona vs. No. 23 Northeastern Game 1: Feb. 16, at 6 p.m.

The Huskies opened the first inning with back-to-back hits before a sac fly drove in the game’s first run. However, the Wildcats quickly countered in the bottom half of the inning. Brendan Summerhill and Mason White opened the inning with back-to-back hits and both wound up scoring, giving Arizona an early 2-1 lead.

The Wildcats continued adding to their lead in the second and third innings. Freshman Easton Breyfogle hustled out a leadoff triple in the bottom of the second before being driven in by Richie Morales. Emilio Corona rocketed a 2-run homer in the following inning to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 5-1.

“I’ve gotten better at not chasing pitches,” Corona said. “[It] opens it up for more fastball swarming just because I’m not swinging at those to put myself back down.”

After an up-and-down first inning, Arizona starting pitcher Jackson Kent went to work, striking out eight batters over the next five innings, five of which came in the fourth and fifth innings alone. The sophomore delivered an impressive performance, pitching six innings, allowing only 1 run and four hits while striking out a career-high eight batters. Raul Garayzar relieved Kent, pitching the final three innings for the Wildcats. The junior struck out four Huskies and did not allow a single hit in three innings of relief, picking up the save.

“Jackson was great,” Chip Hale, Arizona’s head coach, said. “Once he got into his rhythm, he was able to mix his pitches.”

The Wildcats tacked on one more run before the night’s end, following a sac fly by Adonys Guzman in the eighth inning to drive in Corona. The Wildcats cruised to the 6-1 victory, picking up their 16th straight opening-day victory.

Arizona vs. No. 23 Northeastern Game 2: Feb. 17, at 1 p.m.

Arizona starting pitcher Clark Candiotti had a rough start in the first inning as he struggled to keep the Huskies at bay. He conceded three hits and allowed 3 runs, putting the Wildcats in a hole early. In the bottom half of the inning, the Wildcats would get a run of their own behind a two-out RBI triple by Corona. However, Arizona trailed 3-1 after one inning of play.

Both offenses went quiet after the first. Candiotti settled down after the first inning, putting together three straight 1-2-3 innings. Meanwhile, the Wildcats managed only one base runner between the second, third and fourth innings.

In the fifth inning, the Huskies got two hits after going hitless since the first inning. However, the Wildcats prevented them from scoring when Corona threw out the Huskies runner, trying to score on a single hit to right field.

Meanwhile, Arizona found plenty of success in the fifth inning, opening the inning with back-to-back hits, followed by a walk that loaded the bases for Summerhill, who laced a bases-clearing double off the right-center field wall to give the Wildcats a 4-3 lead. A few batters later, Garen Caulfield tacked on 2 more runs following an RBI single, giving the Wildcats a 6-3 lead.

Candiotti finished the afternoon going five innings, surrendering five hits and 3 runs, two of which were earned, while striking out five Huskies batters. Following Candiotti’s five innings on the mound, Bradon Zastrow took over in the sixth inning and recorded two quick outs in the seventh. However, he soon ran into trouble, allowing three consecutive baserunners and eventually giving up a 2-run double that narrowed the Wildcats’ lead to 6-5.

In the following inning, the Huskies again loaded the bases, scoring 2 more runs following a 2-run single, as they led Arizona 7-6. With their backs against the wall, the Wildcats tied the game at seven following an RBI double by Morales, who drove in Brandon Rogers in the bottom half of the inning.

Unfortunately, for Arizona, it fell 8-7 after a solo shot by the Huskies in the top of the ninth, which proved to be the game-breaking run. The Wildcats were outscored 5-1 over the final three innings.

Arizona vs. No. 23 Northeastern Game 3: Feb. 18, at noon.

Despite a quiet first inning, Arizona’s offense quickly came to life in the second inning, delivering an explosive and decisive five-run flurry. The batters worked the count and drew three walks in their first five plate appearances of the inning, loading the bases for Summerhill. Stepping up to the plate with ducks on the pond for the second time over the weekend, Summerhill ripped a 2-run double, giving the Wildcats an early 3-0 lead. One batter later, White drove in two more runs for Arizona, following a two-run single by the sophomore, which gave Arizona a comfortable 5-0 lead.

The Wildcats’ offensive onslaught continued in the fourth and fifth innings, adding four more runs to their tally. Summerhill led the charge, singling to start the fourth and scoring on Tommy Splaine’s RBI triple, putting the Wildcats up 6-0. Corona then hammered his second home run of the season, a 2-run shot, to widen the lead further. The fifth inning saw Summerhill drive in another run, his third of the game, with a scorching double to center field, extending Arizona’s lead to 9-0.

Meanwhile, Arizona starting pitcher Anthony “Tonka” Susac was dealing for the Wildcats. The junior pitched four scoreless innings, allowing only three hits, while striking out four Huskies batters. Unfortunately, Susac did not reach the minimum threshold of five innings to factor into the decision. After Susac’s impressive performance, right-hander Cam Walty took over for the Wildcats and pitched three solid innings of relief to earn his first win of the year. Dawson Netz and Matthew Martinez closed the game, pitching the eighth and ninth innings, helping the Wildcats clinch the decisive rubber match against No. 23 Northeastern, 9-3.

Arizona vs. Utah Tech: Feb. 20, at 2 p.m.

Freshman Bryce McKnight made his debut appearance for the Wildcats in the first inning against Utah Tech. McKnight faced some early challenges, yielding three runs on three hits before finding his footing and escaping the early jam.

Chasing three, Arizona scored 10 runs between the first, second and third innings, completely flipping the script. In the bottom half of the first inning, the Wildcats scored 2 runs. With the bases loaded, Caulfield hit a sac-fly to center, scoring one run, but defensive miscommunication by the Bisons led to an additional run scoring for Arizona.

In the following inning, the Wildcats scored six runs thanks to five consecutive Arizona batters who collected RBI. The run-spree was initiated by Summerhill with an RBI double, followed by consecutive RBI singles from White and Splaine. Corona then doubled, adding another run to the board, before Caulfield hit a two-run single to collect his second and third RBIs of the game.

In the bottom of the third, White rocketed a 2-run homer, his first of the season, as the Wildcats, once trailing 3-0, were leading 10-3. Meanwhile, Eric Orloff replaced McKnight in the second and pitched two scoreless innings for Arizona, striking out three Bison batters.

“I’ve hit enough here that I know when they go out and when they’re not going out,” White said.

After a quiet fourth and fifth inning, the Wildcats again lit up the scoreboard in the sixth and seventh innings, scoring 11 runs blowing the doors open on Utah Tech. Arizona had 13 hits and four walks between the two innings, with eight different Wildcats contributing to the scoring fest.

Arizona cruised to the blowout 24-4 win over the Bisons. The Wildcats’ 24 runs were the most since 2019 when Arizona defeated Oregon 28–7. Summerhill and White led the way for the Wildcats, combining for nine RBIs. Summerhill also became the seventh player in Arizona baseball history to record six hits in a single game.

“Every at-bat, [Summerhill] comes out with the same approach,” said White. “He doesn’t change [his approach]. He keeps it the same.”

Looking ahead:

The Wildcats enter a treacherous stretch of 11 straight road games over the next three weeks. Next weekend Arizona travels to California to play the University of San Diego between Friday, Feb. 23-25.

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