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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

It’s over

For seven and two-thirds innings on Tuesday afternoon, Arizona right-hander Kurt Heyer pitched the game of his life.

But his performance wasn’t enough, as the Arizona baseball team fell in the championship game of the NCAA Regional in College Station, Texas, to Texas A&M, 3-0.

“”(I’m) real proud of Heyer, and real proud of this group,”” Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. “”We have a lot of guys coming back … hopefully it’ll be a step in the growth process.””

In the winner-take-all NCAA Regional championship game, Heyer, who threw 98 pitches in Friday’s loss to Seton Hall, dominated for seven innings — allowing just three hits in the first 23 outs of the game — before Texas A&M (45-19) mounted a two-out rally in the eighth.

Heyer recorded the first two outs of the inning almost effortlessly, striking out the leadoff batter and forcing the second hitter of the inning to pop-out in foul territory.

But then Texas A&M sophomore outfielder Tyler Naquin laced a double and freshman outfielder Krey Bratsen hit a bouncing ball up the middle that was just out of Heyer’s reach, scoring the first run of the game and ending Heyer’s day.

“”I was getting a little tired, but I still wanted to make good pitches,”” Heyer said. “”I wanted to get my team to the last inning, but (Bratsen) had a good at-bat and was put a good swing on a curveball. They just executed better than us.””

Arizona (39-21) left-hander Bryce Bandilla then took over on the mound, and after Bratsen stole second, intentionally walked infielder Matt Juengel to set up a matchup with left-handed hitter Jacob House.

But the tactical move proved unsuccessful as House smacked a high changeup off the right field wall for a double, scoring both runners and extending the Aggie lead to three.

“”Our reports were that (House) was bad against left-handers, so we went with Bandilla,”” Lopez said. “”If I knew it was going to work out that way, I’d have put (Kyle) Simon in there. I’ll ask myself that question all the way home.””

Arizona was unable to mount anything offensively against Aggie starter Michael Wacha, who threw seven innings, scattering five hits and striking out four.

“”I knew if I just went out there and threw strikes, the defense could play behind me,”” Wacha said. “”It ended up working out.””

The Wildcats threatened only once with Wacha on the mound, putting runners on first and third with one out in the fifth.

Senior outfielder Bobby Rinard then lifted a bloop single to center field, but catcher Jett Bandy — the runner on third — had to hesitate to make sure the ball wasn’t caught, and was called out at the plate after he appeared to slide in safely under Aggie catcher Kevin Gonzalez’s tag.

“”I saw the flare and went halfway, and as soon as I saw it drop I started running home,”” Bandy said. “”I never felt a tag, to be honest with you.””

Seth Mejias-Brean then grounded out with runners on first and second, sending Arizona back to the dugout scoreless.

The Wildcats were able to mount a mini-rally in the top half of the eighth after Mejias-Brean and Joey Rickard picked up back-to-back singles with two outs. But Arizona second baseman Bryce Ortega grounded into a fielder’s choice, ending the scoring threat.

Arizona went down in order in the top of the ninth, ending its chances of advancing to a Super Regional for the third time in school history.

Arizona’s run to the championship game was an improbable one. The Wildcats lost the opening game of the College Station Regional to Seton Hall, 4-0, before winning three straight games, including a 7-4 victory over A&M on Sunday to advance to the championship game.

Five Wildcats named to All-Tournament team:

RHP Kurt Heyer  

2B Bryce Ortega

3B Seth Mejias-Brean

SS Alex Mejia

OF Bobby Rinard

Arizona draftees:

Kyle Simon, RHP, Baltimore Orioles (4th round, 125 overall)

Bryce Bandilla, LHP, San Francisco Giants (4th round, 147 overall)

Cole Frenzel, 1B, New York Mets (7th round, 222 overall)

Andrew Burns, SS, Toronto Blue Jays (11th round, 349 overall)

Matt Chaffee, LHP, Atlanta Braves (12th round, 386 overall)

 

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