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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball wins opener over UCLA

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

The No. 4 Arizona baseball team again came out on top in a matchup between conference powerhouses, beating No. 17 UCLA 4-3 Friday night to maintain its one-game lead over Oregon in the Pac-12 Conference.

“We’re a big win team (when we play) against other great teams that come in,” first baseman Joseph Maggi said. “We don’t really get the credit that we deserve and we want to make a statement in the Pac-12 — show people that we’re not the underdogs all the time, we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

Friday starter Kurt Heyer (6-1) submitted another solid performance as he again went the distance for Arizona. Heyer gave up just two earned runs and one walk in his nine innings of work.
It wasn’t a flawless performance for Heyer though — he only struck out just two and gave up eight hits on the night.

Heyer said the UCLA hitters were aggressive and didn’t allow him to get into positions to strike them out.

“I’m just happy I was able to throw zeros every inning and get ground balls to (the infield) and pop-ups,” he said.

The Wildcats threatened early and often as they had a runner in scoring position in the first three innings of the game, but the team never capitalized.

Arizona (24-9, 10-3 Pac-12) ended up stranding 11 runners on base throughout the night, just one less than the 12 hits it produced.

“Situational hitting, that’s the name of the game… and we didn’t do that tonight,” right fielder Robert Refsnyder said, “but we were fortunate enough to come out with a win,”

While most of their missed opportunities came in the usual fashion at the plate, the bottom of the third featured something a little unique.

With Arizona runners on first and, UCLA starter Adam Plutko faked a pick-off throw to third base before spinning around and catching Refsnyder off of first base to end the inning and the danger for the Bruins.

Lopez said that it’s easy to blame the offense for stranding so many runners on base, but there are other factors involved as well.

“There’s also a pretty good pitcher over there with a UCLA shirt on… he’s a Friday night guy for that reason,” Lopez said about Plutko. “He’ll give up a few hits, but he’ll make some pitches when he has to.”

UCLA struck first with a two-out RBI single in the top of the fourth inning to put the Bruins up. Then, with runners on the corners, Heyer balked in the runner at third, giving UCLA a 2-0 lead.

“I had a brain fart, I don’t know what happened,” Heyer said.
Heyer said he’s only balked twice in his career and it was embarrassing for it to happen on Friday.

The Wildcats finally were able to bring a runner home in the fourth after catcher Riley Moore hit a sacrifice fly to score third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean.

The next batter — first baseman Joseph Maggi — did one better, as he hit a two out double down the right field line to score second baseman Trent Gilbert and tie the game up 2-2.

Arizona took the lead the next inning after designated hitter Bobby Brown delivered with runners again on the corners.

Heyer then got into a little trouble in the top of the sixth after back to back bunt singles opened up the inning. But just when it seemed like Heyer would escape the inning with no consequences, he threw a wild pitch that went past Moore and allowed UCLA to tie the game at 3-3.

The Wildcats may have struggled all right at capitalizing with runners in scoring position, but when it mattered most they came through.

With pinch-runner Brandon Dixon on second base in the bottom of the eighth inning, center fielder Joey Rickard drove the ball to right field and Dixon beat the throw home to put Arizona up 4-3.

“If you have one more (run) than they do on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and (we) strand 20 guys on, I don’t care — just make sure we have one more than they do,” Lopez said.

Lopez said tonight was a great college baseball game, and the ending surely warranted that description.

With two outs in the top of the night inning, Heyer had a 2-2 count on UCLA’s Chris Keck, but even with all 4,080 fans were on their feet, Keck delivered for the Bruins as he lined the ball to center field to keep the game alive.

However, Keck tried to turn the single into a double and the decision proved ill-fated.

Refsnyder one-hopped his throw to shortstop Alex Mejia, and the junior tagged out Keck at second to secure another home victory over a talented Pac-12 team.

“That was the longest out I’ve ever seen,” Heyer said. “I was holding my breath saying ‘Rob (Refsnyder), please just throw him out.’

“I almost wanted to throw my glove up in the air after that and give him a hug.”

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