It was a strange way to end an otherwise successful weekend.
Despite a rain delay, the Arizona Wildcats fully expected to play a second game Sunday — which would have been the third and final game of their series against USC.
However, a little after 4 p.m., it was decided that the finale would be canceled, mainly because of the possibility of additional delays. Never mind that the weather front seemed to have passed and the sun was shining over Hi Corbett Field at 4:30.
Earlier Sunday, the two teams completed the series’ second game, which was suspended Saturday night because of rain. Arizona began the day with a two-run deficit before rallying for an 8-5 victory.
A variety of factors contributed to Sunday’s schedule and the cancellation of the series finale. UA coach Jay Johnson understood the situation. It doesn’t mean he was happy about it.
“Very disappointed,” Johnson said. “There’s things you can’t control.
“It was definitely in our best interest to play tonight, to the point of trying to do whatever we could. It didn’t happen.”
Although they lose a conference game, the Wildcats will play a full 56-game schedule. Their makeup game against Sam Houston State on Monday is now a doubleheader. The first game will be played at 5 p.m. The second will start 45 minutes after the first has concluded. The latter will be a seven-inning affair.
The trouble started Saturday night when a monsoon-like storm swept through Tucson, forcing Game 2 of the series to be suspended in the bottom of the second inning. Game 3 was scheduled for noon Sunday, but the decision was made to push the suspended contest into that window to guarantee live programming for Pac-12 Networks.
USC agreed to the switch. The finale would start 45 minutes after Game 2 ended, and the Trojans would bus back to Los Angeles, forgoing their 7:10 p.m. flight.
But when rain arrived again, shortly after Game 2 ended about 2:30 p.m., things changed. USC didn’t want to bus home in the middle of the night. The Trojans also could make their originally scheduled flight. So the game was canceled, to Johnson’s chagrin.
“I guess the silver lining is it gives us some more bullets to fire against a really good team (Monday),” he said.
Johnson didn’t know at the time that Arizona would face Sam Houston State twice, although he was looking into the possibility. The Bearkats played a doubleheader Sunday, sweeping Southeastern Louisiana, after Game 2 of that series was postponed Saturday. SHSU is due to arrive in Tucson around noon.
Arizona, meanwhile, is scheduled to depart Hi Corbett at 6 a.m. Tuesday for Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. The UA visits Penn State for a three-game series starting Thursday.
If the Wildcats continue to play the way they did against USC, including a 12-4 win Friday night, they won’t mind losing a little sleep.
“I think all of us would have been ready to play at 8 a.m.,” said freshman Branden Boissiere, who went 2 for 3 with a pair of doubles Sunday.
“Especially with how we’ve been playing lately, the confidence going into the game. We can play at any time against anyone and we’ll be solid.”
Sunday began with Arizona trailing 3-1 and Tony Bullard batting with the bases loaded and two outs. He worked the count to 3-2 and fouled off three more pitches before lining out to left.
The Wildcats erased the deficit in the bottom of the third. After Boissiere doubled into the left-field corner, fellow freshman Ryan Holgate hit a pinch-hit homer to right. It was Holgate’s sixth home run of the season.
Arizona took the lead for good in the bottom of the fourth, plating three runs. Cameron Cannon started the inning with a single. Austin Wells followed with a walk. Nick Quintana drove home Cannon with a bloop double. Two more runs scored on groundouts.
Johnson lifted Blake Paugh for Holgate to match up against right-hander Kyle Hurt, who took over for lefty Isaac Esqueda when the suspended game resumed Sunday. Johnson made a similar mound maneuver, going to righty Quinn Flanagan in relief of Saturday starter Andrew Nardi.
Flanagan yielded two runs in 5⅓ innings to improve to 6-3. Vince Vannelle pitched the final 1º innings to earn his second save of the season. He worked out of a pair of jams, stranding four baserunners.
Arizona squared its overall record at 24-24 and improved to 12-14 in the Pac-12. Because of the cancellation, the best the Wildcats can finish in conference play is 15-14. Whether that hurts their slim chances of making the NCAA Tournament remains to be seen.
USC fell to 20-26-1, 9-13-1.
“We wanted the sweep this weekend, and we all feel like we could’ve done it,” Boissiere said. “In our heads we swept them, because they didn’t want to play us.”
- Although there are two more home games, Arizona recognized three departing seniors Sunday: pitchers Cameron Haskell and Avery Weems, and utility man Justin Wylie. In honor of Mother’s Day, each caught a ceremonial first pitch from his mom. Wylie turned a nifty 4-3 double play to end the game.
- Left-hander Randy Labaut did not participate in the senior-day ceremony. The redshirt junior has one more year of eligibility, but it’s unclear whether he’ll be back. It likely will depend on how high he gets drafted. “I can’t really say,” said Labaut, who won his third straight start in Friday’s series opener. “I don’t know. That could be it. If it was, I left everything on the field.”
- UA junior Nick Quintana drew a career-high four walks. The third baseman has a team-leading and career-high 42 bases on balls. He also leads the team with a career-best 62 RBIs.
- Boissiere went 5 for 8 in the series. He was committed to USC before the school dropped him last summer. “Going into the games, I had a lot more energy,” said Boissiere, who’s batting .412 in Pac-12 play.
- “I just wanted to prove something. But not in a negative way. I feel like I’m where I’m supposed to be.”