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Arizona baseball beats Stanford, executes fourth consecutive home series sweep

Arizona+baseballs+Mason+White+fields+a+ground+ball+in+a+game+against+New+Mexico+State+University+on+Tuesday+April+2+at+Hi+Corbett+Field.+Arizona+won+the+game+in+the+top+of+the+ninth+inning+9-1.+
Nathanial Stenchever
Arizona baseball’s Mason White fields a ground ball in a game against New Mexico State University on Tuesday April 2 at Hi Corbett Field. Arizona won the game in the top of the ninth inning 9-1.

Hot bats and improved pitching helped the No. 21 Arizona baseball team sweep Stanford University at Hi Corbett Field this weekend, improving the Wildcats to 29-17 (17-7 in Pac-12) on the season and extending their first-place lead in the Pac-12 conference standings.

Day 1: Friday, May 3

Game 1: No. 21 Arizona vs. Stanford at 6 p.m.

In the bottom of the eighth, Arizona led Stanford 11-8, aided by a barrage of extra-base hits from a lineup in which all nine starters got at least one hit. However, with runners on first and third with one out, they found yet another way to score when Blake McDonald laid down a sacrifice bunt, and perfectly executed a squeeze play which allowed Emilio Corona to sprint home to make it a 12-8 game, which would be the final score.

It was the senior catcher’s second RBI of the game, filling in for Adonys Guzman, who suffered an injury during a drill in practice on Thursday. He finished the game 2-for-3 with two RBIs and a walk.

“You never have to worry about Blake,” Arizona head coach Chip Hale said. “He’s always ready. Whether he’s in the lineup, out of the lineup, starting, day after a night game, he’s going to be ready.”

Arizona jumped on Stanford early, scoring 5 runs in the first three innings, aided by a pair of triples from TJ Adams and Brendan Summerhill, as well as a trio of doubles from Andrew Cain, Garen Caulfield and Maddox Mihalakis.

In the bottom of the fifth, RBI doubles to deep right-center field from Caulfield and Mihalakis, a two-out RBI single from Tommy Splaine and a wild pitch from Stanford reliever Ryan Speshyock scored 4 runs and put Arizona up 9-5.

Arizona ace Jackson Kent had his worst start of the season, giving up a season-high 5 earned runs while pitching a season-low 4.2 innings. He also hit a season-high three batters while striking out eight.

However, Stanford starter Matt Scott had an even worse game, giving up 8 runs, 7 earned, over just 4.1 innings pitched. The 6-foot-7 righty didn’t issue a walk but surrendered nine hits, seven of which went for extra bases.

“I think that was their best guy,” McDonald said. “We kinda got to him. We had really good at-bats. After that, we were pretty confident. If we can get to their best pitcher like that then we can definitely get to their bullpen.”

In the bottom of the sixth, Stanford reliever Trevor Moore was hit on his throwing forearm by a 104-mph liner from Mihalakis. He was able to stay in the game, but Arizona would go on to score 3 runs in the inning.

Corona finished the game 2-for-4 with 3 runs and an RBI, improving his batting average to a season-high .280.

“He’s worked on his mechanics with [hitting coach] Toby [DeMello],” Hale said. “They’ve worked hard trying to get back some things he did last year. It’s amazing to me because the way he conducts himself, you wouldn’t know if he’s 5-for-5 or 0-for-5 with five strikeouts. So I’m just glad he’s having some success because he deserves it.”

Day 2: Saturday, May 4

Game 2: No. 21 Arizona vs. Stanford at 6 p.m.

Clark Candiotti headed to the mound to start the top of the ninth, having thrown 98 pitches. The Wildcats lead Stanford 5-0, capitalizing on quality at-bats from their entire lineup, a clean defensive game and Candiotti’s gem on the mound. If he can just get through the inning, he’ll wrap up a complete game shutout, the first of his collegiate career.

A pair of singles, a groundout and a popout brought Malcolm Moore to the plate with two outs and runners on second and third. Candiotti was up to 112 pitches. That was his last batter. If he gave up a hit, he would only lose the shutout, but could give the Cardinal new life.

With the count full, Candiotti threw one in the zone for Moore, who hit the fly ball to the right-field line. Corona ran in and made the game-ending catch. Candiotti’s teammates rushed out from the dugout to congratulate their starter, who finished the game with 119 pitches.

“He was electric tonight,” Caulfield said. “He’s been really good for us all year. I love playing defense behind him because he works with good pace. He had everything going for him tonight, so I’m really happy for him.”

Saturday night was Hale’s 100th victory in three seasons as Arizona’s head coach.

“It’s not me,” Hale said of the achievement. “It’s the whole program and the staff. They do such a good job. We’re proud of it … We’re here to graduate guys and give these kids a great experience and win games.”

Arizona scored 2 runs in the first off a pair of singles, a Caulfield double and a throwing error. A Caulfield triple and a Mihalakis single put the Wildcats up 3-0 in the third.

Stanford starter Christian Lim gave up 3 earned runs on seven hits and four walks, striking out five. Arizona’s lineup was able to work deep counts, forcing Lim to throw 110 pitches over his five innings pitched.

“I thought we had a lot of really quality at-bats against him,” Hale said. “To his credit, he kind of went against what we thought he would do and used his breaking ball more than his changeup.”

From there, it was the Candiotti show. The senior righty had faced the minimum number of batters after six innings, with Stanford’s lone hit coming on a single in the second inning.

“I think it’s just a matter of getting ahead of hitters,” Candiotti said. “Just attacking every guy, try to get them out in four pitches or less, let the defense work. They’ve been brilliant all year, especially tonight.”

After adding a couple of insurance runs in the eighth, Hale opted to give Candiotti a chance at the shutout. He finished the game with seven strikeouts without issuing a single walk.

“Honestly, it didn’t seem like he was getting a lot of called strikes,” Hale said. “He got a lot of swinging strikes. We played good defense behind him. There wasn’t a whole lot of long fly balls to the wall, so obviously, he was missing barrels.”

Arizona’s dugout was animated all game, with players going nuts and throwing up two fingers when McDonald, who wears the number two on his jersey, drew a 2-2 count with two outs in the bottom of the first.

“Credit to Bradon Zastrow,” Caulfield said, referring to Arizona’s senior relief pitcher. “He’s keeping everybody up in there. He’s really showing his leadership in the dugout even though he’s out right now. We can feed off that energy on the field. We can feed off that energy when we’re hitting so it’s awesome.”

Day 3: Sunday, May 5

Game 3: No. 21 Arizona vs. Stanford at noon

Arizona’s bats piled on late, and Cam Walty earned his fifth quality start of the season as the Wildcats defeated Stanford 7-2, securing the home sweep.

With the game tied 2-2 in the bottom of the sixth, Cain hit a two-out double to deep left-center field, scoring runners from second and third. Then, with bases loaded and two outs, Summerhill smacked an off-speed pitch to the right-field wall for a bases-clearing double, extending Arizona’s lead to 5 runs.

“I was just trying to get something up at my thighs or higher.” “He threw me a changeup that floated up there. It was a good pitch to hit.”

All three of Summerhill’s hits this weekend went for extra bases, finishing the three-game series with four RBIs.

“Brendan’s had a great year,” Corona said of his teammate. “He’s matured tremendously throughout this year. Just getting to know him from last year to this year has been great. And just helping him stay in the game and not put so much pressure on each at-bat, which is kind of what I’ve learned this year. I think that experience has helped a bunch of other guys out as well.”

Shaky defense put Arizona in a hole early. In the top of the second, Corona lost a fly ball in the sun and nobody covered second base, which allowed Moore to reach on a double. Two batters later, he scored on a Brandon Larson single.

Then, with one out and a runner on first, the Wildcats failed to turn an inning-ending double play when first baseman Splaine fielded a ground ball and fired to White, who was standing behind the base, instead of Caulfield. A late throw back to first allowed both runners to reach base safely, one of whom would later score on a Brady Reynolds single to put Stanford up 2-0.

“It was a funky play,” Hale said. “Instead of going to touch the base, he actually did the right thing and just threw to the wrong guy […] With all these shifts, these things we practice every day. And sometimes they get screwed up.”

The defense improved as the game went on. In the top of the fifth, Mihalakis showed off his reflexes, snagging a 106-mph line drive at third that was destined for extra bases. Then, with one out and runners on first and second, Caulfield fielded a chopper to second, and executed a tag on the runner before firing to first for a double play.

“I think to start this game, we weren’t ready to play,” Summerhill said. “I think we were just a little tired from last night.”

Walty picked up the win, and only gave up 2 earned runs over seven innings pitched. The bullpen duo of Casey Hintz and Anthony “Tonko” Susac kept Stanford off the bases in the eighth and ninth with each pitcher striking out a batter.

Guzman made his first start of the weekend behind the plate after an injury from practice sidelined him in the first two games. He singled in his final at-bat.

“The defense was fantastic,” Hale said of Guzman. “That’s the thing about hitting, you don’t hit every day, it’s not easy. I thought his last at-bat was huge to get the hit.”

Looking ahead:

Before traveling to Salt Lake City to play the University of Utah next weekend, Arizona will play a game on Tuesday. May 7 in Tempe against ASU at 6:30 p.m. ASU was the last team to beat Arizona in a weekend series at Hi Corbett Field.

“We want to score 100 and give up zero,” Summerhill said of the upcoming game against ASU. “They beat us here this year, so we’re going to go up there and play our butts off and beat them as bad as we can.”


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