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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Baseball walk-off earns sweep

The Arizona bench explodes in celebration after senior Rafael Valenzuela knocked in the game-winning run during a comeback victory against Washington State at Sancet Stadium on Sunday. The 12-11 victory capped off the Wildcats? first Pac-10 sweep of the season.
The Arizona bench explodes in celebration after senior Rafael Valenzuela knocked in the game-winning run during a comeback victory against Washington State at Sancet Stadium on Sunday. The 12-11 victory capped off the Wildcats? first Pac-10 sweep of the season.

A deflated Arizona baseball team sat in the dugout in the eighth inning on Sunday after losing the lead — it looked like the team’s attempt at a sweep would fall short.

But then came the bottom of the ninth, and trailing Washington State 11-8, the No. 21 Wildcats (26-9, 7-5 Pacific 10 Conference) looked like a completely different animal.

Arizona’s dugout was alive, cheering and hanging on every pitch delivered by the Cougars’ flame-throwing closer. The team eventually poured onto the field to celebrate senior Rafael Valenzuela’s single to left field that completed the comeback and the sweep, with a 12-11 win.

“”The mood was great, the intensity was real high, everyone was screaming,”” sophomore catcher Jett Bandy said. “”That’s the way you’ve got to go. I mean you’re down by three runs in the ninth and to come back and win it — that’s awesome.””

With the game tied 11-11, head coach Andy Lopez had a decision to make; play the matchup and pinch-hit for the left-handed hitting Valenzuela against a lefty pitcher or ignore the matchup and let his veteran first-baseman take a shot.

Before Lopez could finish talking it over with his coaches, Valenzuela cut him off.

“”‘I got this,'”” said Valenzuela to his coaches. “”This is my year, this is our team, and I feel like I got a good shot at this guy.””

“”He got him,”” Lopez added.

While exhilarating, the win was also sloppy, as the Wildcats committed four errors resulting in six unearned runs. A win is a win for Lopez though, as his team swept a Pac-10 opponent for the first time this year.

“”Sometimes it’s not going to look good, sometimes it’s not going to feel good,”” Lopez said. “”The bottom line is you want to be on top when the game ends.””

Heyer strikes out 14 in Friday win

If there were any doubts that freshman Kurt Heyer could continue his dominance on the mound as Arizona played deeper into the Pac-10 schedule, he put them to rest Friday night.

The freshman right-hander kicked off the weekend with a gem against WSU, treating the largest crowd of the season at Sancet Stadium to a brilliant 8 2/3 innings, striking out 14 batters en route a 5-3 win.

“”It was the Kurt Heyer show,”” Lopez said. “”He pitches way beyond a freshman — he’s done that all year long. We’re fortunate to have him in our uniform.””

Heyer (6-0) retired 15 consecutive hitters during a span in the game, but a two-out walk in the ninth inning forced Lopez to call on Heyer’s roommate, freshman Augey Bill, to seal the win for the Wildcats.

Heyer was almost untouchable, a theme since the season began.

“”For a freshman that’s pretty impressive, because (WSU is) a good team,”” Lopez said of Heyer’s performance. “”Since the day he showed up here he was very diligent about everything we asked him to do, and in fact, took it a step beyond. We’d ask him to do A and he’d do A, B, C.””

Heyer made an immediate splash by striking out 13 in his collegiate debut earlier this season, but said his outing on Friday ranks the highest in his book.

“”I’d like to say this is probably my best outing because it’s a Pac-10 team,”” Heyer said after the game Friday. “”My first game — it was special because it was my first start and everything, but to come out here and beat a Pac-10 team like that, it felt great.””

If Heyer is the No.1, then sophomore Kyle Simon might give Arizona a No.1-A. The right-hander followed up a complete-game performance last weekend with a solid eight-plus innings of work in Saturday’s 13-6 win.

Simon (6-2) got off to a rocky start  as the Cougars jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the third inning , but bounced back to throw four straight scoreless frames, setting the table for the Wildcat offense to take a lead.

“”I didn’t think my pitches were really diving until later in the game,”” Simon said. “”The first two innings I just missed a few pitches that were critical, and they were getting a lot of ground ball hits and some clutch doubles, but other than that I think I threw pretty decent.””

With an 8-4 lead in the fifth inning, Valenzuela stepped in the box with the bases loaded and struck a three-run double into the right-centerfield gap to give Arizona a comfortable 11-4 lead that it wouldn’t relinquish.

Sophomore Steve Selsky and Valenzuela did most of the damage at the plate for the Wildcats as the duo combined to drive in nine runs.

With the momentum of their first series sweep and a five-game winning streak, the Wildcats will turn their attention to No. 1 Arizona State for a one-game matchup in Tempe on Tuesday.

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