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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona baseball could make run at Pac-12 crown

Jen Pimentel
Arizona infielder Bobby Dalbec (3) swings at the ball during Arizona’s 11-5 win against St Mary’s on March 6.

Pac-12 Conference play is just getting rolling, but the Arizona Wildcats baseball team has made it known that it will be a force in the league for the rest of the season.

The Wildcats may not have shown it in the first series of conference play against Washington, where they lost two out of three despite accumulating 24 runs over three games against the Huskies.

However, they sent a message to the rest ­­of the Pac-12 this weekend against the UCLA Bruins.

The Bruins are known for always being competitive in the Pac-12 due to a replenishment of high-caliber recruits and a coaching staff that knows how to get the best out of its players.

In particular, the Bruins have top-notch pitchers who know how to pitch effectively and strategically—a trait that stems from head coach John Savage, who led the Bruins to a national championship in 2013.

This season is no different as the Bruins’ rotation consists of three above-average arms that will almost certainly be signing professional contracts in the near future.

The Wildcats got the best out of Thursday night starter Griffin Canning, tagging him for six runs on 10 hits over 6.2 innings of work. It also didn’t hurt that Arizona ace JC Cloney only allowed one run in a complete game effort, while striking out seven and walking only one.

“He [Cloney] had all four pitches working, fastball, changeup, curveball, slider and he was in and out when he wanted to be,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said after Friday’s win. “It was a great performance.”

The lone loss of the series for the Wildcats came Friday night against one of the toughest pitchers in the Pac-12, Grant Dyer, who went the distance against the Wildcats. Dyer gave up two earned runs in the outing while striking out seven in the complete game.

Johnson did not hesitate to acknowledge the kind of pitcher Dyer is after the game on Friday.

“I will just say he’s the best pitcher we’ve seen to this point,” Johnson said. “And we’ve seen some good ones.”

However the highlight of the weekend came in a miraculous comeback victory Saturday afternoon against the Bruins, in which the Wildcats were down four runs in the ninth and came back to win the game thanks to a walk-off double by third-basemen Bobby Dalbec.

The Wildcats played with heavy hearts that Saturday afternoon as they honored a fan named Josh Weaver who passed away from cancer before the season. Weaver grew close to the Wildcats baseball program prior to the season. The Wildcats paid tribute to Weaver by displaying a special pregame video made by the players before Weaver’s dad threw out the first pitch.

It was only right that the Wildcats won in improbable fashion on the day where they honored their friend who made an impact on everyone in the program from top to bottom.

“I don’t know what to say,” Johnson said after the game. “I’ve been a part of a lot of good wins, that’s about as special as they get.”

The Wildcats will travel to Salt Lake City to take on Utah this weekend in what should be another competitive Pac-12 series. The Utes are coming off a series win over ASU. The Utes have not lost a Pac-12 series yet as they won two out of three against Oregon in the first series of conference play.

First pitch is scheduled for 5 p.m. Friday night in Salt Lake.

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