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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA baseball slips past San Francisco, 6-4

    Head coach Andy Lopez said he loves early season close games because they prepare his team for the rigorous Pac-12 conference.

    For the second consecutive Friday night game, Arizona (9-2) had an up-and-down performance from its ace Konner Wade (2-0), but got timely hitting to help it win 6-4.

    The Friday night starter threw a total of 122 pitches and gave up four earned runs in 7.0 innings of work against the University of San Francisco (4-6). Early on, Wade’s start looked promising as he make quick work of hitters and showed strong command of location. But Wade abruptly lost the dominance, and the Wildcats’ 2-0 lead.

    By the fourth inning the Dons had taken a 4-3 lead via two homeruns, the first multi-homerun game by any team since the move to Hi Corbett last season.

    “He wasn’t mixing his pitches very well in the fourth inning,” Lopez said about Wade. “If you have him sit on one pitch or one location he gets careless with his location, but if you force him to pitch, he ‘pitches,’ and he’s a good pitcher.”

    Through much of this season Wildcat pitchers have had to lean on clutch hitting from their offense to help make up for their sloppy performances. The heart of Arizona’s lineup has been central to many of the comebacks.

    After Friday’s game, the Wildcats’ 3-4-5 (junior Johnny Field, junior Brandon Dixon and sophomore Trent Gilbert) hitters have a batting average of .414 with 44 RBIs and 47 runs scored. The core is even more dangerous with runners in scoring position as they post a .598 batting average when runners are on second and third.

    “Hey man, it feels good,” Gilbert said. “They’re always on base.

    “And I like being in that position,” he added about hitting behind Field and Dixon. “My approach doesn’t change with runners on, I don’t worry about the guys on base and just wait for my pitch.”

    Friday, the big three once again fueled Arizona’s comeback. Down 4-3 in the bottom of the fifth inning, Gilbert hopped the right field fence to drive in the two runners on base and take a 5-4 lead.

    “I was really just trying to get a hit, but I got a fastball middle-in and you can’t ask for a better pitch,” Gilbert said about his RBI double.

    Field, Dixon and Gilbert aren’t just leading the Wildcats in stats this season, they’re also in the top five of almost all offensive categories in the Pac-12 conference.

    “I don’t see why we can’t keep this going,” Gilbert said about the consistency of the dynamic lineup. “They’re both really good proven hitters and I’ll keep getting good pitches to hit if I’m hitting behind them.”

    Lopez stuck with his ace pitcher following the RBI double by Gilbert. That proved to be wise as Wade got back to mixing his pitches and retired six of the next seven batters he faced before being replaced by senior Augey Bill to start the eighth inning.

    Bill, a lefty, has become one of Lopez’ favorite bullpen pitchers. He went only 0.2 innings but did so in quick fashion. He ultimately was replaced when the Dons pinch-hit a right-handed batter, and Lopez brought in sophomore right-handed closer Mathew Troupe. Troupe got the pinch hitter to ground out into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

    “We have a saying here, that one should be enough,” Lopez said.

    The Wildcats added one more security run to their lead in the bottom of the eighth inning when freshman Zach Gibbons singled through the right side to score sophomore Joseph Maggi and take a 6-4 lead.

    Troupe sealed the win in the top of the ninth inning and collected his fourth save on the season by getting one ground out and striking two.

    “All we’re doing right now is preparing for conference play,” Lopez said. “I mean, I want to win our games, but I want to make sure we’re old and seasoned. And they had a chance to grow up tonight.”

    Arizona will be back in action Saturday at 2 p.m. for game two of the three-game series. Junior James Farris (2-0) will take the hill and Dixon will look to continue to swing a hot bat. The third baseman has seven hits in his last seven at-bats.

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