James Farris couldn’t help but smile.
In the ninth inning of Arizona’s 12-1 win over Washington State on Friday night at Hi Corbett Field, Farris watched as Ian Sagdal hit a sharp ground ball that hit the third base bag and skipped into left field for an RBI double.
Farris shook his head, briefly smiled and walked back to the mound.
In the first Pac-12 start of his senior season, Farris badly wanted a shutout. Instead, the Gilbert native had to settle for a complete-game win.
“When the ball hit the bag, I just said to myself, ‘I guess it’s not meant to be,’” Farris said. “I’m definitely tired right now and fatigue may have set in a little bit. But I still had everything going. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Farris gave up the one run on nine hits, struck out nine and didn’t issue any walks. He improved to 4-1 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.09. He’s walked just five batters in 43 innings and has 40 strikeouts.
The Wildcats lacked a dominant Friday night conference starter last year and dropped six of their first eight series openers in Pac-12 play.
Based on Farris’ start Friday, and his season to date, coach Andy Lopez shouldn’t have that issue again this season.
“When you have a guy like that who sets the momentum and tempo on the mound, it’s obviously a lot easier to play,” Lopez said. “James was down in the zone all game. My goodness. Everything was at the knees. He really looked good tonight and we needed that.”
The win improved the Wildcats to 11-9 on the season and gave them a victory in their opening Pac-12 game. Lopez’s team has now won three in a row and five of its last seven after sitting at 6-7 earlier this month.
“If we can turn it on and play Pac-12 like we know we can, we’ll have a successful season,” Farris said. “That’s all I want. I do really think the young guys look up to me. That’s why I want to do well.
“I want to show the young guys how Arizona baseball is played.”
Friday night, it was played rather efficiently.
Arizona broke a scoreless tie in the third when catcher Riley Moore and right fielder Kenny Meimerstorf opened the bottom of the inning with back-to-back singles. After they each moved up a base on a sacrifice bunt from Scott Kingery, Cody Ramer and Kevin Newman connected on consecutive RBI singles to make it 2-0.
Ramer later scored on a sacrifice fly from Trent Gilbert to give Arizona a three-run inning. The game stayed 3-0 until the seventh, when the Wildcats scored two more runs. Pinch-hitter Joe Maggi, playing in his first game since returning from a brief suspension, and Kingery each registered RBIs. The UA then broke the game open one inning later, scoring seven runs and taking a 12-0 lead into the ninth.
“It was a clean Friday night game,” Lopez said. “From James to some clutch hitting to clean defense. Eleven hits on a Friday night in the Pac-12, you can’t be too unhappy about that.”
Gilbert, Newman and freshman Bobby Dalbec each had two-hit games in the win. Kingery was 1 for 3 with two RBIs and extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Gilbert finished with four RBIs and now has 15 in his last seven games.
“It’s big to get conference play started the right way,” Gilbert said. “The fact is we’re going to have to get hot to do what we want to do this year.”
Arizona will try to win the series against the Cougars (4-9, 0-1) tonight at 6. Sophomore right-hander Cody Hamlin will start for the Wildcats. He’ll be opposed by lefty Joe Pistorese.