In the ninth inning of Arizona’s 12-3 win over Mississippi State on Friday night at Hi Corbett Field, the stadium music director played the song “Best Day of My Life” by American Authors.
Call it a tribute to second baseman Trent Gilbert.
The junior from Torrance, Calif., batting in the cleanup spot, went 5 for 5 with four extra-base hits and six RBIs to help the Wildcats break a five-game losing streak and get back to .500 for the season at 7-7.
“For the first time in a very long time I went to bed Wednesday night not knowing who our cleanup hitter was,” UA coach Andy Lopez said. “And to Trent’s credit, he called Coach (Matt) Siegel and said ‘put me in there, I want to drive in some runs.’ It was obviously a special night for him and he really came through.”
Gilbert, who was 4 for 15 during the UA’s five-game skid, came up in the first inning following a two-out double from shortstop Kevin Newman. Gilbert tripled to left-center field to get the Wildcats on the board. He scored one batter later when Zach Gibbons singled up the middle.
Two innings later, with the score 2-1, Gilbert produced a one-out single that scored Scott Kingery.
He was just getting heated up.
In the fourth, Gilbert came up with two outs and the bases loaded. He laced a double to right field that cleared the bases and upped Arizona’s lead to 6-1.
From there, starting pitcher James Farris and the Wildcats cruised.
The UA added three more runs in the sixth, two more in the seventh and one more in the eighth. Gilbert had a double in the sixth and a triple in the seventh.
He had a shot at a six-hit game, but was plunked with a pitch in the eighth inning. He was bidding to become the first UA player since Jason Donald in 2004 to have six hits in a game.
Instead, he had to settle for having the first five-hit game of the season and the first since Brandon Dixon did it last season against Alabama State.
“We’ve been struggling to get big hits and I just wanted to do my part tonight,” Gilbert said. “I think moral was down a little bit, but when we got it rolling, everyone loosened up and we just played ball.”
The performance by Gilbert and the Wildcats was a far cry from how things have been going lately for Lopez’s team. During the UA’s five-game losing streak, the Wildcats scored just 11 runs and led for just one inning.
On Friday, the UA led from the start, thanks to Gilbert, and pounded out 17 hits against the Bulldogs, ranked No. 12.
“The last five games have been unbelievable,” Lopez said. “It felt like it’s been three or four months since we had won a game. Tonight, we played a little bit like Arizona again.”
Farris improved to 3-1, pitching eight innings, giving up eight hits and three runs while striking out seven. He threw 130 pitches and was lifted in the ninth inning after giving up back-to-back singles to start the frame.
Gilbert was one of five UA batters to record a multiple-hit game. The top five hitters in the UA lineup combined to go 15 for 26 with nine RBIs and 10 runs scored. Leadoff hitter Scott Kingery and third-place hitter Newman each had three hits.
The win was Arizona’s first game of the Hi Corbett Classic featuring the UA, Mississippi State and UC-Santa Barbara. The Gauchos beat Mississippi State 8-3 in the first game on Friday. The Wildcats will play UCSB tonight at 7. Sophomore right-hander Cody Hamlin will start for the UA.