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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Ziegler’s blast helps baseball avoid UCLA sweep

    C.J. Ziegler
    C.J. Ziegler

    C.J. Ziegler’s three-run home run helped dim the memory of the error he had committed just three innings earlier – but it couldn’t erase the sting of the Arizona baseball team dropping the first two games of its series at UCLA.

    Down 3-2 in the eighth inning, the junior first baseman hit his team-leading 10th home run, a three-run shot to left, as the No. 14 Wildcats (32-11, 10-5 Pacific 10 Conference) snapped a four-game losing streak and avoided a sweep in Los Angeles, 5-3.

    “”In all honesty, we still need to play good baseball,”” said UA head coach Andy Lopez. “”We did not play good baseball at all the last two weekends.””

    After Arizona took a 2-0 lead in the top half of the fifth, Ziegler misplayed a ground ball, allowing UCLA to knot the game at 2. The Bruins took the lead an inning later, but Ziegler redeemed himself in the eighth.

    No. 25 UCLA (24-18, 10-3) increased its lead in the Pac-10 race in the first two games by taking advantage of poor middle-relief pitching from Arizona, winning 9-3 Friday and 11-4 Saturday.

    Both days, Arizona was ahead or had the game within reach in the later innings, and both days their relief arms let them down.

    Friday, lefty Daniel Schlereth – pitching for the first time in conference play after missing the first four weeks with torn cartilage in his ribs – surrendered five runs (three earned) in the eighth as the Bruins turned a 4-2 advantage into a 9-2 stranglehold heading into the ninth.

    Arizona ace Preston Guilmet (8-1) took his first loss of the year, giving up four runs over seven innings.

    Then Saturday, with Arizona leading 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth, starter Brad Mills gave up a two-run home run before he was taken out in favor of lefty David Coulon. Coulon walked two of the four batters he faced, and gave up another hit, allowing both runners he inherited to score, plus one more, as UCLA went up 7-3.

    Righty Cory Burns then entered the game, got the final out in the sixth, but then surrendered four more runs on three hits and an error as the Bruins cruised.

    “”We really kind of shot ourselves in the foot the first two games,”” Lopez said of the relief pitching, which wasn’t helped by poor defense making “”every possible error you could make on the face of the Earth.””

    Mills (8-4), who was charged with six runs, took the loss for Arizona Saturday.

    But Sunday, Lopez finally found some solid pitching in the form of sophomore Mike Colla and freshman Jason Stoffel. The right-handers – along with Schlereth, who pitched 2/3 of an inning – limited the Bruins to three runs on nine hits to allow for Ziegler’s go-ahead blast.

    “”Mike Colla and Jason Stoffel really put us on their backs and said, ‘We’re stopping this,’ “” Lopez said. “”Those two guys said, ‘Enough’s enough.’ “”

    Colla, who gave up three runs (one earned) over 5 1/3 innings, hadn’t pitched in four weeks – sidelined with what Lopez called a “”mysterious kind of virus.””

    The sophomore had undergone testing for a brain tumor and meningitis, but, Lopez said, “”They found out it was just some type of virus that he just had to get out of his system. And boy, he got it out of his system (yesterday).””

    Stoffel (4-0) picked up the win after his perfect relief outing. He struck out four of the eight batters he faced over 2 2/3 innings.

    “”I’m glad we won (yesterday), and everything like that,”” Lopez said, “”but that was Mike Colla and Jason Stoffel putting the program on their backs and saying, ‘We’re going to win this thing.'””

    Extra bases

    Yesterday’s win was Lopez’s 200th in his career at Arizona. Now in his sixth season, Lopez is the fourth winningest coach in UA history (200-134-1). … UA fielders committed seven errors over the weekend, including four Friday. … The Wildcats had lost four straight dating back to back-to-back losses at Washington State last weekend.

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