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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


15-game winning streak snapped

Rodney Haas/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Rodney Haas
Rodney Haas/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

As sophomore right fielder Steve Selsky backpedaled toward the warning track with two outs in the top of the ninth inning against Oregon Sunday, the Arizona baseball team appeared to be on its way to its 16th consecutive win, capping off a three-game sweep of the Ducks (18-8, 1-2 Pac-10) during the first weekend of Pacific 10 Conference play.

But on a windy day at Sancet Stadium, the ball sailed just inches over the right-field fence, lifting Oregon over Arizona (20-5, 2-1 Pac-10), 9-8, for the Wildcats’ first loss since March 6, cutting them one game shy of tying their longest winning streak since Andy Lopez became head coach in 2002.

“”I actually thought the game was over because I thought I was going to catch it,”” Selsky said after the Sunday game. “”The wind was blowing; it was gusting a little bit. It got out by probably a few inches.””

After retiring the first two Oregon hitters in the top of the ninth with an 8-5 lead, Arizona freshman closer Nick Cunningham allowed three consecutive hits and ultimately the three-run bomb to freshman Jack Marder that gave the Ducks the lead and eventually the victory.

“”I left that ball a little bit up to that righty who hit the ball out,”” Cunningham said, “”and that’s what happens when you miss your spots.””

But although the Wildcats were unable to hang on late, they outplayed the Ducks for the better part of three games, winning two of three and outscoring them 25-12 until the ninth inning of Game 3, further proving that their 15-game win streak and stellar non-conference play wasn’t a mirage.

“”Well it was a tough one to lose,”” Lopez said. “”Obviously they did a great job of coming back and we just didn’t shut the door in that last inning.

“”I know (the players) are probably not too excited right now, but I have a funny feeling that when they wake up in the morning they’ll feel like they’ve accomplished a couple of things,”” Lopez said. “”One, they’ve put a pretty good streak together, and we wake up tomorrow morning with two out of three in the Pac-10.””

Numbers wise, the Ducks had the best pitching staff in the Pac-10 heading into the series. Their Sunday starter, Alex Keudell, entered the game No. 1 in the conference in ERA (1.10) through four starts, but the Wildcats blasted him for 11 hits and eight earned runs in five innings before giving the game away in the ninth. 

Oregon’s Friday-night starter, Tyler Anderson, came into the Friday game third in the Pac-10 in ERA (1.60), but the sophomore lefty couldn’t get more than five UA hitters out, as Arizona blasted him for six runs in 1 2/3 innings of work.

The Wildcat bats were connecting early in Friday’s game, and when you give Arizona freshman pitcher Kurt Heyer a quick 6-0 lead, you can almost pencil in a ‘W.’

Heyer allowed only two runs in six innings of work while striking out five, and a 14-for-33 day at the plate propelled the Wildcats to a 9-3 victory. The Arizona hitters, as they have been doing all season long, battled at the plate, showing poise characteristic of a veteran team, rather than the youngest in the conference.

“”It doesn’t seem like they should be having those type of at-bats on a Friday night in Pac-10 play,”” Lopez said after Friday’s game, “”but you know what I’ve seen them do it for 21, 23 games now.””

The Wildcats carried that hitting prowess into Game 2, where they rode the bat of Selsky — 4-for-5, a homerun, 3 RBIs and 2 runs — and the arm of pitcher Bryce Bandilla — 6 1/3, five hits, two runs and six strikeouts — on the way to an 8-4 victory and their 15th straight.

“”Some of our numbers offensively are almost comical,”” Lopez said after the Saturday win. “”I don’t know if they’re going to sustain through the course of a long season, but it’s not like they’ve done it for a weekend. We’ve been doing it for four or five weeks now.””

Arizona was able to sustain the offense into Game 3, as it reached double-digit hits for the 23rd time in 25 games. But the late-game collapse gave a sour ending to what was otherwise a very successful weekend and an almost flawless month.

“”It would have been nice to get this one done today and walk out with a sweep, but as I said earlier in the week, sweeping teams in the Pac-10 is a challenge,”” Lopez said. “”I told the guys, ‘Hey, you put a good run together. Take the day off tomorrow, we start on Tuesday and put another one together.'””

Birthday big fly

In his first at-bat Friday night, sophomore catcher Jett Bandy celebrated his 20th birthday with a two-run home run over the center-field wall.

“”It’s going to rank up pretty high,”” he said of where the home run ranks with his birthday memories. “”Last year I don’t really remember what I did on my birthday.””

After the weekend, Bandy leads the team in batting average (.470), slugging percentage (.730), on-base percentage (.552), homeruns (5) and total bases (73).

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