For 36 games this season, Andy Lopez and the Arizona Wildcats have searched for consistency.
Big wins, bad losses, good effort, bad effort, sound baseball, ugly baseball and so on and so on.
But somehow in the season of inconsistency, sophomore right-handed pitcher Cody Hamlin has been reliable nearly every time out.
The side-tossing junior college transfer was at it again Saturday night. He pitched into the eighth inning for the sixth straight start in Arizona’s 3-2 win over UCLA at Hi Corbett Field.
Hamlin hurled a complete game, giving up just two runs (one earned) and five hits. He struck out four to earn his fifth win of the season.
“Cody Hamlin was the story,” Lopez said. “We needed a great performance, and he gave it to us. He has great presence on the mound and I wish it would rub off on some of our other guys. There were several opportunities where things could have unraveled on him, but he got it together and was always in command.”
The victory evened up the series at one game apiece after UCLA took the opener Friday night 8-0. The Wildcats will now try today to take their first Pac-12 series from the Bruins since 2005.
Hamlin, who came within one out of a complete game his last two starts, has given up two earned runs or less in nine of his 10 starts this season and mastered the Bruins offense Saturday.
The Western Nevada College product was on his game from the start. He gave up his only earned run in the second when UCLA’s Chris Keck blooped a one-out single to left field to score Kevin Williams and give the Bruins a 1-0 lead.
Hamlin then retired 13 of the next 15 batters.
Arizona gave him all the offense he needed in the second inning. Designated hitter Tyler Krause and right fielder Kenny Meimerstorf put together back-to-back one-out singles. Willie Calhoun reached on a fielder’s choice with UCLA getting Krause out at third. With two out and two on, Riley Moore hit a hard ground ball on an 0-2 count that took a wicked hop and went over first baseman Pat Gallagher throwing hand into right field for a two-run double.
Moore was brought home when the next batter, Zach Gibbons, singled him home.
By that point, Hamlin was on cruise control.
The sophomore’s only real trouble after the second came in the seventh. He gave up a one-out single to Luke Persico and then saw him take second on a stolen base. After getting the next batter to pop out, Arizona second baseman Trent Gilbert committed an error on a ground ball that allowed Persico to score and make it a 3-2 game. Hamlin flirted with danger in the eighth when he gave up back-to-back singles with two outs. But he escaped it when he got Williams to pop out to shortstop Kevin Newman.
Moore went 3 for 3 with two RBIs and one run scored to lift his batting average to .238. He was the only Wildcat to have a multiple- hit game in the win. Scott Kingery’s batting average dipped below .400 with an 0-for-4 night.
“Riley had a big hit for us, and this is the time of the year we need our upperclassmen to deliver,” Lopez said.
The series finale is set for today at 4 p.m. Sophomore Tyger Talley will start for the second straight Sunday. Cody Poteet will start for the Bruins. It will be televised by Pac-12 Arizona.