Arizona allowed five runs in the first inning against Oregon on Saturday night. It wasn’t an uncommon occurrence for the 2019 Wildcats. Heck, the UA allowed five runs in an inning just the night before.
What was unusual about both instances, however, was what happened afterward.
On Friday night, Randy Labaut posted three straight scoreless innings after yielding five runs in the third. On Saturday, Andrew Nardi posted six consecutive shutout frames after surrendering five in the first.
Both pitchers gave the Wildcats a chance to rally. As good as their offense has been all year, a five-run deficit is hardly insurmountable.
Arizona rallied and won Friday. The Wildcats did it again Saturday.
Arizona defeated Oregon 9-8 in 11 innings. The Wildcats won the game on a three-base error, as former Duck Matthew Dyer came around to score after a wild pickoff throw to first base.
Arizona clinched a series victory and improved to 21-23, 9-14 in the Pac-12. Oregon fell to 23-21, 8-12.
Arizona trailed 5-2 entering the bottom of the seventh, the Wildcats’ runs coming on back-to-back solo homers by Tony Bullard and Blake Paugh in the fourth.
Donta Williams led off the inning with a sharp single to right. After Dyer popped out to shortstop, Austin Wells walked.
Oregon coach George Horton called on right-hander Keaton Chase to face the right-handed-hitting Nick Quintana. Quintana pounded a 3-1 pitch over the left-field wall for a three-run homer to tie the score. It was Quintana’s team-leading 11th home run of the season.
Cameron Cannon followed with a line-drive single to left. Bullard then walked, and Paugh drove in both runners with a double to the base of the wall in left-center.
Both of Paugh’s hits came off left-handers. The sophomore outfielder entered Saturday batting more than 100 points higher vs. lefties (.259) than righties (.143).
Oregon retook the lead with three runs in the eighth. Reliever Avery Weems surrendered two singles and a double before yielding to Vince Vannelle. Evan Williams’ bloop single to left drove in the tying run. Jonny DeLuca scored the go-ahead run on a fielder’s choice. All three runs were charged to Weems.
Arizona loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the eighth against Oregon closer and pro prospect Ryne Nelson. The 6-3 right-hander, whose fastball reaches the upper 90s, got out of the jam by striking out freshmen Branden Boissiere and Dayton Dooney.
Nelson retired the first two batters in bottom of the ninth before allowing a single to Dyer on a 1-2 pitch. Wells then smashed a triple off the center-field wall to send the game into extra innings.
Oregon loaded the bases in the top of the 10th against Vannelle, who struck out Taylor Adams looking to end the threat.
Reliever Gil Luna wriggled out of a first-and-third situation in the top of the 11th, striking out Gabe Matthews on a 2-2 fastball.
Nelson made the errant pickoff throw and took the loss.
- Dyer extended his hitting streak to 20 with a first-inning single. It’s the longest streak by a Wildcat since Seth Mejias-Brean hit in 21 straight games in 2012.
- Dyer on his hitting streak: “Word’s been out that I’m on a whatever-game hitting streak it is. I don’t even think about it. For me, it’s just more of doing what I can do to help my team win the best that I can.”
- Dyer on facing Oregon, where he began his college career and played as a freshman in 2017: “Obviously, I have a lot of buddies on the team. It’s cool to see their season, the success that they’ve had. Other than that, it’s just another game.”
- Saturday marked the first time this season that UA starters have pitched at least seven innings in consecutive games.
- Arizona’s pitching staff, which leads the Pac-12 in walks, yielded only one walk Friday night after surrendering none the previous Friday. Said UA coach Jay Johnson: “And we won both of those, right? It’s a real complicated game.”
- Before Saturday’s game, Johnson was asked about the possibility of winning out and sneaking into the NCAA Tournament. “We’re trying to take every weekend as this is our postseason — our regional opportunity, if you will,” Johnson said.
“To win a regional, you have to win three games. I believe there are guys in that locker room that will get back to the postseason. If it’s three weeks from now because we ran off a great streak, that would be phenomenal. But I think it’s too much to put on their plate right now.”