Behold the Arizona Wildcats’ offense. If it isn’t the best in the country, it’s on the short list.
Entering this weekend’s series against Oregon, Arizona ranked in the top 20 nationally in multiple offensive categories. The Wildcats then took their game to an even higher level — peaking with a historic performance Sunday afternoon.
Arizona completed a sweep by defeating Oregon by the football-esque score of 28-7 at Hi Corbett Field. The 28 runs were the most the Wildcats have scored since they posted 29 against Washington State in May 2006. Their 26 hits were the most in a Pac-12 game since that contest. Their 54 runs for the series set a school record for a three-game conference set.
Oh, and Arizona did it all without its two leaders in batting average: Matthew Dyer, who’s hitting .393 and sat out because of a bruised hand; and Matt Fraizer, who’s hitting .412 and has been out since mid-March because of a broken hand.
“It’s unbelievable,” said sophomore outfielder Donta Williams, one of seven Wildcats to produce three or more hits. “I’ve never been part of an offense like that.”
After rallying to defeat the Ducks in extra innings Saturday night, the Wildcats ambushed them Sunday afternoon. Arizona scored eight runs in the first inning, seven in the second and seven more in the fourth. The Wildcats had a 23-4 lead when that frame ended.
“They came out and had every reason to be tired or lax in their approach but really got after it,” UA coach Jay Johnson said. “We had a really good batting practice. They were prepared to play.
“We had a little bit of a wobbly first inning — walk, misplay, gave up a run. Then, right from the start, Donta set the tone with that double, and we didn’t let up. We were off and rolling.”
Williams led off the bottom of the first with a double into the right-field corner. Cameron Cannon followed with a double down the third-base line. Austin Wells drew a walk. Nick Quintana then ripped a single into center field.
Arizona would finish the inning with eight runs, seven hits and three walks. The Wildcats would finish the afternoon with a team-record 13 doubles — eclipsing by three a mark that had stood since 1965 – and 10 walks. That’s exactly how Johnson and hitting instructor Marc Wanaka draw it up every day.
“It’s the perfect game in that regard,” Johnson said. “I just think that’s how you’re going to score runs — getting free bases and extra-base hits. This team has done a good job of that all year. Today was it at its best from a lot of guys.”
Despite Fraizer and shortstop Jacob Blas (personal/knee) being out for much of the season — and multiple freshmen playing sizable roles — this might be the best offense of Johnson’s tenure. It hasn’t translated to as many victories as it should.
Despite the sweep, Arizona remains under .500 for the season (22-23, 10-14 Pac-12) entering Tuesday’s non-conference showdown against Arizona State. The Wildcats’ 6.72 ERA has offset their triple-slash rates of .314/.426/.503.
Despite continual struggles on the mound, Arizona still has a chance to sneak into the NCAA Tournament. It likely would require winning out, but the schedule is manageable.
The ASU game is at home, as is the USC series that follows. After a makeup game against Sam Houston State at Hi Corbett on May 13, the Wildcats finish with six straight road games. But the opponents, Penn State and Washington State, reside in last place in their respective conferences.
“We just keep coming out and trying to compete as best we can,” Williams said. “We’re just taking it one step at a time, treating every game like it’s a regional or super regional.”
That’s how Johnson has framed every weekend series — as its own regional of sorts. So what about Tuesday then?
“Since we lost last Tuesday, we’d be in the losers’ bracket,” Williams said. “So we’re fighting for our lives right now.”
An unrelenting offense gives Arizona a fighting chance. Sunday marked the 17th time this season that the Wildcats have scored 10 or more runs and the second time they have plated 20 or more.
“Every guy in our lineup that steps up to the plate, we have full confidence that they’re going to get the job done,” said Wells, who had three hits and three walks in six plate appearances.
“No matter who’s in the lineup, we’re going to put the best swings on the best pitches.”
- Arizona began the week by scoring 13 runs against New Mexico State. The Wildcats lost that game 15-13. They are 13-4 when scoring 10 or more runs. They have allowed 10-plus runs 15 times (3-12).
- Arizona has swept the first series of May in each of Johnson’s four seasons, defeating Oregon State, Washington and UCLA before taking three from Oregon. All four series were at home. The Ducks (23-22, 8-13) entered the series with an RPI of 39.
- Dyer is day to day after being struck on the left hand by a pitch in the 11th inning Saturday night. After being tended to by a trainer, Dyer remained in the game. He scored the winning run from first base on an errant pickoff attempt.
- Wells tied his career high with four RBIs. Fellow freshman Branden Boissiere matched him, establishing a new personal best. Junior Nick Quintana had a team-high and career-high-tying five RBIs. Senior Justin Wylie led the team with four hits and five runs.
- Right-hander Quinn Flanagan earned the win for Arizona, allowing four runs (none earned) in four innings. The redshirt freshman improved to 5-3 on the season.