When James Farris struck out Abilene Christian’s Connor Messman in the ninth inning of Arizona’s 4-3 win Friday night, it finally hit him.
His college career was about to be over.
The senior from Gilbert stepped off the Hi Corbett Field mound, wiped the sweat off his forehead, pounded his glove twice and refocused.
And then on four pitches, he walked center fielder Jordan Forrester to bring the go-ahead run to the plate.
“I stepped off the mound again and just said to myself, ‘there is no way someone else is coming in this game,’ ” Farris said. “I wanted to end the game and my career with an exclamation point.”
So that’s exactly what he did.
Farris struck out the next batter he faced on an inside fastball to finish off the win.
In his final start in an Arizona uniform, Farris went the distance and gave up three runs (two earned), nine hits and three walks while striking out seven.
His final strikeout of Draper was his 100th of the season.
“James was real good,” UA coach Andy Lopez said. “He’s been a special young man to see grow and develop. He’s grown in so many ways. I would put my name all over it that he will be successful and do good things in his life.
“I’m glad he went out like that.”
Farris gave up a run apiece in the second, fourth and fifth innings, but seemed to be in control for the majority of the game. He induced three double plays and didn’t give up an extra-base hit.
The only so-called drama came in the seventh inning when Lopez came out for a mound visit. He waved off the other infielders and wanted to talk to Farris directly.
It was a peaceful meeting — Lopez was just making sure Farris was still feeling OK after seeing a dip in his velocity — but it got Farris’ attention.
He got a double play in the at-bat after Lopez left and escaped the seventh with no damage.
“I didn’t want him to come back out,” Farris said of Lopez. “I knew if he came back out, I’m gone. So I just settled down and got out of it. I really didn’t want to come out of that game.”
Farris, who will be honored by the UA in a pregame ceremony before tonight’s game, finished the season with a 6-6 mark and a 3.40 ERA.
Friday’s complete game was the ninth of his career. Overall, he finished 18-14 with a 3.93 ERA over four seasons.
His 47 starts are the sixth most in program history and his 1.83 walks per nine innings are second best ever.
That all came after a freshman season when he gave up four runs in one inning.
“It’s been a hell of a career,” Farris said. “I went from being a nobody to a somebody and I’ll always take pride in that. I was actually a little nervous coming out for this one today, but settled down after the third and just tried to enjoy it.”
The senior pitcher’s teammates made the night a little easier with an early offensive outburst. The UA plated three runs in the first inning.
Zach Gibbons opened the game with a single and was brought home on a double from Kevin Newman. Newman then scored on an RBI groundout from Trent Gilbert.
Tyler Krause then drove in the third run of the inning with an infield single, scoring Scott Kingery.
Arizona added another run in the second off an RBI single from Newman. It was a welcome sight for Lopez, who didn’t know how his team was going to come out in a meaningless nonconference game in front of 1,899 fans.
“You can only say so much to motivate them,” Lopez said. “Ultimately they have to get out there and find the gear that leads to success.”
The atmosphere at Hi Corbett was certainly quiet for the battle between the two teams that both go by nickname Wildcats.
The UA was forced to play Abilene Christian after being given an off weekend in the Pac-12 on the final weekend of the regular season. Most other teams from power conferences are in their league tournaments.
“When we first came out here for pregame, I didn’t know if this was a practice game or an intrasquad or something because we had like 30 people here,” Newman said. “It was definitely a weird deal. I really wish this would have been a meaningful game, but sometimes that’s how it goes.”
Arizona (21-32) will try to win the series tonight. Sophomore right-hander Cody Hamlin will start.