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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

‘Cats squeak by Gonzaga

 Freshman shortstop Alex Mejia snared a hard line drive with two outs in the bottom of the ninth to end Gonzaga’s hope of a comeback, and sent the No. 21 Arizona baseball team back to Tucson with a 5-4 win.

The Wildcats (23-9, 4-5 Pacific 10 Conference) jumped out to a comfortable 5-1 lead after a four-run sixth inning, but things got tight in the Bulldogs’ half of the eight inning when freshman closer Nick Cunningham came in to pitch for the UA.

An error, Arizona’s first in four games, allowed three runs to score off Cunningham in the eighth, cutting the UA lead to 5-4.

Head coach Andy Lopez had enough faith in his freshman closer though, allowing Cunningham to trot back to the mound in the ninth to preserve the lead.

A two-out error by Mejia put the tying run on base for Gonzaga (12-19-1) in the ninth, but the next batter hit a line shot toward the shortstop and he elevated to make the catch and end the game, allowing the Wildcats to let out a collective sigh of relief.

“”Nick (Cunningham) made it a little bit interesting at the end but he did a great job when we were up by one run,”” Lopez said. “”Alex Mejia made a real special play on that line drive to end the game, and we walked away with another win.””

Although it was not an official save situation, Cunningham shut the door and handed Arizona a 3-1 record in its four-game stint in the state of Washington.

After taking two of three over the weekend from Washington in Seattle, Lopez was pleased to see the Wildcats focused against Gonzaga, talking about how it can be a challenge to switch gears back into a non-conference matchup.

“”For the most part I’m happy with the way we played,”” Lopez said. “”We played a good, close ballgame after a Pac-10 weekend, which is always a challenge after you start to get excited about playing conference games every weekend.””

Redshirt junior Joe Allison turned in a solid effort in his first start of the season by holding the Bulldogs to just one run over four innings of work.

Freshman lefty Augey Bill continued to stifle Gonzaga’s hitters over the next three innings, earning his first career win by giving up just one hit and one run in his relief effort.

“”We went into the game wanting to throw three or four guys, and just try to get some work in too off the weekend. Allison gave us a good start, Augey Bill pitched very well and they both did a good job of setting Nick (Cunningham) up,”” Lopez said of the pitching staff.

Junior Bobby Rinard had a big day offensively for Arizona, collecting three hits and an RBI.

But looking back, it was a two-run single off the bat of freshman Seth Mejias-Brean in the sixth inning that extended the UA lead to four at the time, and ultimately proved to be crucial in the outcome of the game.

The win ends Arizona’s seven-game stretch away from home, finishing with a 3-4 record. 

Lopez was pleased to see the Wildcats bounce back in the last four games after being swept by California, and is excited to have some momentum as they get ready to host Washington State this weekend.

“”It’s a young team, and they’re playing well and trying to get back on track after last weekend at Cal,”” Lopez said. “”Taking three of four on the road is a good accomplishment, and it will be good to back and play at home.””

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