Arizona baseball notebook: Bannister injury update, bottom of the order sparks offense, Oklahoma State to use ace Saturday

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Devin Wilber / For The Arizona Daily Wildcat

Arizona outfielder Zach Gibbons (23) follows through on his swing against Oklahoma State at the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska on Friday, June 24. Gibbons had three hits and two RBI in the Wildcats’ 9-3 victory over the Cowboys.

Ezra Amacher

OMAHA, Nebraska —

Bannister’s exit inspires Wildcats

Between the third and fourth innings of Arizona’s 9-3 win over Oklahoma State at the College World Series, UA head coach Jay Johnson huddled his team in the dugout.

With ace right-hander Nathan Bannister out of the game, the Wildcats could have unraveled, both emotionally and on the field.

Johnson’s speech to the team wasn’t quite ‘Rudy’-like, but it got the message across.

“Coach said, ‘nobody wants to win more than Bannister,’” Zach Gibbons said.

When the Wildcats broke the huddle, players went back to their usual dugout antics – dancing and spraying water on each other.

The tension that existed immediately after Bannister’s removal turned into engine fuel for a team that had been running on corn-powered fumes earlier in the week.

Arizona’s offense went up to the plate and tacked on a fourth run on a sacrifice fly by Gibbons. Kevin Ginkel’s two earned runs in the bottom of the frame were quickly overshadowed by Cameron Ming’s effortless five-inning outing.

“You kind of have to not think about it, as much as it sucks, that [Bannister] came out of the game early,” Ming said. “You have to set that aside keep working as a pitching staff. Ginkel did a good job. And I took over. And after the game you kind of get with Bannister and hope everything’s good.”

Fortunately for the Wildcats, it appears most everything is good with Bannister.

Bannister said he left the game after feeling a tightness similar to what he felt in the Cape Cod League in the summer of 2014.

“I took some time off and everything came back normal,” Bannister said of the previous tightness.

The senior right-hander said he’ll wait to see how feels Saturday before deciding if he wants to receive an MRI.

Bannister denied the idea that his arm may have been overused late in the season.

“I think it was my turn to take the ball and put my team in the best spot we could be,” Bannister said. “We’ve got a good training staff. I’m in the best shape of my life. Nothing towards coaches or how they’ve been using me — that has nothing to do with my health today.”

Bottom of order ignites Arizona offense

Leave it to the eight and nine-hole batters in Arizona’s lineup to power the Wildcats in the biggest game of the season.

Catcher Cesar Salazar and shortstop Louis Boyd combined to get on base five times Friday, scoring four of Arizona’s nine runs.

Boyd also hit a second inning RBI double that gave Arizona a 2-0 lead at the time.

“I just started trying to relax because I felt a little bit tight the last game,” Salazar said after hitting 2-for-3 at the plate. “Me and coach Johnson talked about it last night, and he was just like, ‘hey, just relax [and] select your pitch.’”

Arizona also received multiple hits from Gibbons and JJ Matijevic, who both went 3-5.

Cowboys’ ace set to pitch Saturday

While Jay Johnson didn’t announce a starting pitcher for Saturday’s rematch with Oklahoma State, Cowboys head coach Josh Holliday confirmed that he’ll start Thomas Hatch.

Hatch tossed a complete game shutout in Oklahoma State’s win over UC-Santa Barbara last Saturday.

“What they say in baseball: momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher,” Holliday said. “We’ve got a pretty good one. I feel good about putting our ball club on the field tomorrow and competing together once again.”

Saturday’s game will begin at noon.


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