Arizona won part of its first Pac-12 title of nine years last weekend while standing around a cell phone in the outfield of Oregon State’s stadium. It locked its first live conference title since 1989 during the final stages of a disappointing home loss Friday night, the first at Hi Corbett Field in seven weeks.
So what was left to play for in the regular season finale? Plenty, based on the behavior of the players and coaches after it ended dramatically.
Jacob Berrys doubled with an out at the bottom of the ninth inning scored Donta ‘Williams, gives Arizona a 5-4 victory Saturday night and provides the spark for a fierce celebration on the field.
After the excavation bullied Berry near the second base – “as soon as I saw (Donta ‘) score, I just answered,” Berry said afterwards – things turned into an impromptu ceremony for the Wildcats (40-15) to formally celebrate Pac – 12 titles, with memory hats and shirts handed out and the team posing for photos with a banner and trophy. A good help for the seasonal audience of 2,506 who ran around to be a part of the festivities.
“It was very important to me that we got to do something with our fans,” the UA coach said Jay Johnson so. “They have been a big part of this journey.”
The win gave Arizona 40 wins for the first time since 2007 and improved the record at Hi Corbett to 28-7. The Wildcats will have at least two more games there in the NCAA Tournament as regional hosts, a distinction that will be confirmed Sunday night when the 16 host sides are announced ahead of Monday’s tournament field.
“Order it,” Johnson said when asked if Arizona deserves one of the top eight seeds, with which comes the right to host both regionals and Super Regionals. “There is no doubt about it. It’s not even a debate. This program has been in Omaha more times than it has won 40 games in the regular season. There is no way it does not happen. ”
A loss to Dixie (24-32) may have changed those plans greatly, and things trained that way early on when the Trailblazers went up 4-1 in the third inning and chased the UA starter. Garrett irvin from the game.
Irvin, who Johnson described as his “best pitcher” during Friday’s post-game interviews, gave up four runs and six hits with three innings in 2.2 innings, and failed to hit a stir for the first time in 19 career starts with the Wildcats.
“I’m actually glad we took him out of the game,” Johnson said. “The number of pitches was the lowest it has been in a while, so it can almost serve as a little breather.”
In contrast to Friday’s 11-9 loss to Dixie, when Arizona could not fight back after falling behind, the Wildcats would slowly win the deficit. Williams tripled during the fifth to make it 5-2, extending the stretch at base to 41 games in the process, then coming home on a Brande Boissiere single.
Boissiere had singles in his first three bats, tightening together eight straight hits and reaching base nine times in a row between Thursday and Saturday. After coming into the weekend on a 5-for-42 downturn, he ended the regular season 9 of 13 with four RBIs.
“I think he was in his best character as a hitter,” Johnson said. “This was him himself, and if he does, he is very effective. We needed him to be so good at winning this series. ”
Arizona tied it in the sixth on a security press bundle past Nik mcclaughry to score Tony Bullard from third, then went 1-2-3 in the seventh and eighth innings before Williams singled with one out on the ninth. He moved to second on a wild pitch and was halfway to third base, with his hands raised in the air, when Berry launched a ball to the deep left that ended up going out of Dixie State left fielder Chase Rodriguez’s glove as he jumped against the wall.
A comeback would not have been possible if not for Arizona’s bullpen, which was shaken on Friday, but which shone out in the final. It started with first-year right-handers TJ Nichols, which allowed a hit with six strikes over 4.2 rounds, then Vince Vannelle threw the last 1.2 laps without giving a baserunner.
Vannelle got into a difficult situation after Nichols first tried to pick a Dixie runner, but instead threw it away for a 2-base error, Arizona’s fourth of the game. It was with a 0-2 score, which Vannelle inherited and then continued to throw three consecutive balls before inducing a founder to Bullard which he threw home to get a Dixie runner out, then another Trailblazer runner was shot out on others of Daniel Susac after trying to move on to a wild pitch.
“We won the match because of that achievement,” Johnson said of Nichols, adding that Vannelle’s midfield battery was based on emotion and the need to strike or hit the ground.
Vannelle then knocked out all three in the ninth and earned the win to improve to 5-2.