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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Cloney pitches complete game, Wildcats top No. 23 UCLA in game one of series

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Emily Gauci
Arizona left-handed pitcher JC Cloney pitches the ball during Arizona’s 6-1 victory over UCLA on Thursday, March 24 at Hi-Corbett Field. Cloney picthed a complete game, allowing just one run in nine innnigs of work.

The Arizona baseball team propelled itself to a 6-1 victory over the No. 23 UCLA Bruins Thursday night at Hi Corbett Field in the Wildcats’ Pac-12 Conference home opener behind a five-run second inning and a complete game from JC Cloney.

“He was spectacular tonight,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said. “What you really saw was all four pitches working. Fastball command, changeup, curveball, slider, in and out whenever he wanted to. It was a great team win spearheaded by JC.”

Even though Cloney spun a gem for the Wildcats, he didn’t get off to an ideal start.

Cloney labored early on, allowing four hits in the first two innings plus the game’s first run. UCLA’s Chris Bouchard doubled to begin the top of the second inning and was later driven in by Trent Chatterton to put UCLA on the board first.

But UCLA’s early 1-0 lead quickly vanished as the Wildcats responded with five runs of their own in the bottom half of the inning. The first six Wildcat batters in the inning reached base and Alfonso Rivas tied things up with an RBI double to the right-center field gap. After Zach Gibbons singled to right, Cesar Salazar would follow it up with an RBI single to score Rivas and put Arizona up 2-1.

It turns out the Wildcats were just getting started.

Jared Oliva snuck one through the infield for a two-run single to make it a 4-1 game. Eventually Ryan Aguilar drove in Oliva with a bloop single to center to make it 5-1.

“[UCLA starting pitcher] Griffin Canning, he’s a stud,” Johnson said. “I think that’s the second loss of his college career, and I thought it was our guys being relentless with taking really good at-bats. If you don’t, he’s going to carve you up. It’s a credit to our guys for taking tough at-bats.”

The Wildcats would finish the night with 11 hits. Rivas, Gibbons, Aguilar and J.J. Matijevic  each had two hits, while Cody Ramer extended his hitting streak to 12 games with a single in the fourth inning.

But while offense was the name of the game early on, both starting pitchers, Cloney and Canning, settled in.

“I know I needed to get a zero,” Cloney said about pitching. “[Pitching] coach Dave [Lawn] and I talked in the dugout and he lit me up and told me what I needed to do, and it was just a matter of going out there and doing it.”

After a combined six runs were scored in the second inning, neither team scored until the bottom of the seventh, when Arizona would tack on another insurance run thanks to an RBI single by Zach Gibbons.

It turned out to be plenty of run-support for Cloney, who would go the distance, allowing just six hits and a walk, while striking out seven Bruins. He cruised through the final seven innings, as the Bruins didn’t get a runner past second base after the second inning and didn’t have multiple runners on base at the same time after the second inning either.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Cloney said. “Coach Lawn actually came up to me in the fourth [inning] and told me there was no pitch count tonight, because we have a lot of games coming up and ‘have fun.’ He said that and it kind of took the stress off because when you have a pitch count you have to worry. “

Cloney, who said he felt great heading into the ninth, threw 104 pitches.

“There was no way JC was coming out of the game,” Johnson said.

The strong outing dropped Cloney’s season ERA to 2.68 and the win improves his record to 3-1.

Meanwhile, the Wildcats improved to a 15-6 overall record and a 2-2 Pac-12 Conference record. They’ll host UCLA once again Friday night for the second game of a three-game series. The Wildcats are 10-1 at home this season.

First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m.

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