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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Clutch play has UA baseball on the rise

The No. 8 Arizona baseball team hasn’t been perfect this year, but in clutch situations, it’s been pretty close.

The Wildcats completed a sweep of No. 2 Stanford this past weekend and are on a five-game winning streak. But when they entered the ninth inning Friday, things looked anything but positive.

The Wildcats were down 7-4 to the Cardinal and projected No. 1 draft pick Mark Appel was on the mound.

But even with the odds were stacked against them, senior Bobby Brown said the team wasn’t fazed.
And Brown had no reason to be. Arizona stormed back for a walk-off 8-7 victory, sparking the Wildcats to an impressive series sweep.

The comeback wasn’t an anomaly for the Wildcats though — the team has shown an ability to come through in the clutch all season.

“Rarely do we have the lead coming into the fifth or sixth inning,” junior Robert Refsnyder said. “We come from behind really well, and it just shows the confidence (the team has).”

Arizona is 9-1 in games decided by two runs or less, and the lone loss came on the road to No. 22 Oregon State. And even in that defeat the Wildcats rallied back from a 5-1 deficit before the Beavers walked-off with the win.

The impressive record hasn’t just been victories in close games. Several games have required significant rallies, and the Wildcats have delivered.

“Everybody wants to win, no matter what it takes,” junior Alex Mejia said. “No matter how ugly it looks, no matter how good it looks. We just want to get it done.”

Arizona’s first comeback was a three-run rally in the bottom of the eighth against UC Davis. The rally was started by a single by junior Robert Refsnyder and then capped off with an error by UC Davis after Brown put it in play.

In the Wildcats’ next series against Eastern Michigan, the team did one better — they had their first walk-off win of the season.

Refsnyder was again involved as he hit the game-winning single, scoring Brown on the play.

Arizona has shown a flair for the dramatic, getting go-ahead homeruns from two very unlikely sources.

Freshman Riley Moore and Brown both hit their first career homeruns as their back-to-back jacks in the top of the ninth gave Arizona its first lead and the eventual win against Oregon State.

However, none of those comebacks compare to the dramatic impact of the Friday’s game against Stanford.

Junior Joey Rickard led off the inning for the Wildcats and was hit by Appel.

Stanford quickly went to its bullpen to bring in reliever David Schmidt, but it was already too late for the Cardinal — the rally was underway.

Schmidt walked two Wildcats to load the bases, and then the typically heroic Refsnyder walked up to the plate.

But this time Refsnyder came away empty, striking out against Schmidt.

However, junior Seth Mejias-Brean gladly filled in. Mejias-Brean hit an RBI single to score a run, and he kept the bases for Brown.

On a 0-1 pitch, Brown delivered with a hit the ball down the middle of the field.

The game-tying hit turned into the game-winning hit as the Stanford center fielder misplayed it, and an electric crowd at Hi Corbett Field celebrated the 8-7 victory.

“It was a fastball (down the) middle,” Brown said of his game-winning hit. “And I just put it right up the middle and it got through.”

The veteran leadership has proven to be key for the Wildcats, especially from Refsnyder and Brown. But while the clutch hitting is somewhat expected from Refsynder, one of the team’s top offensive players, Brown is a different story.

The fifth-year senior was penciled in as a Wildcat starter to begin the season, but after a rough start, he was replaced in the lineup for several games.

“I’ve been here a long time and I know that you have to take advantage of your opportunities,” Brown said.

The decision to re-insert Brown into the lineup against Oregon State has paid dividends as the Wildcat are now on top of the Pac-12.

“I worked really, really hard in the batting cages and in practice … and just waited for my next opportunity to come,” Brown said. “So far I’ve taken advantage of that.”

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