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Arizona baseball: Wildcats sweep series with Air Force Falcons

Two easy wins for the Wildcats right before Pac-12 play starts

Bobby Dalbec went 2-for-4 Wednesday vs. Air Force, and also pitched a scoreless ninth
Bobby Dalbec went 2-for-4 Wednesday vs. Air Force, and also pitched a scoreless ninth
Jason Bartel

The Air Force Falcons were in Tucson for a two-game series, and Arizona took it to 'em, winning both games by a combined score of 24-4.

The Wildcats' offense essentially rode one big inning in each game (1st on Tuesday, 5th on Wednesday) to the wins, with the pitching staff just doing their jobs and keeping the Falcons hitters under control.

Tuesday (14-2)

Freshman Morgan Earman got the start on the mound, and was staked to an early 7-0 lead after the first inning.  The Wildcats scored those seven runs on just one hit, a bases-loaded Scott Kingery double.

With that lead, Earman was able to cruise, pitching eight innings on the night.  He gave up four hits, but did allow five walks.  Just one earned run on the day though?  That's pretty impressive for a guy with not a lot of experience at the college level, and may have put Earman in the conversation in the ongoing competition for Sunday night starter.

That double from Kingery was his only hit on the night, but his patience at the plate paid off with three walks drawn.  Arizona drew 13 walks as a team, as well as two hit batters.  Combine that with three Air Force errors, and you've got yourself a 12-run win.

Wednesday (10-2)

The pitching situation was a lot different for the Cats on Wednesday.  Austin Schnabel got the start to turn his midweek bullpen session into a couple of innings vs. live hitting.  But Schnabel left the game after two innings and 28 pitches with a little tightness near his shoulder, putting his status for Sunday's game against Washington St. in question.

We're still in what coach Lopez calls "Fix-it" mode   -Bobby Dalbec

Kingery was once again the cog to get the offensive wheels turning.  The sophomore centerfielder went 3-for-4, drew another walk, and scored twice.  Everyone 3-8 in the lineup had at least one RBI, with Kevin Newman and Riley Moore both driving in two runs.  Only three walks for Arizona in the second game, but this time, Air Force had four errors.

Replacing Schnabel in the third inning was Nathan Bannister, who was showing off a new arm slot in his delivery.  He did give up six hits in the 2 1/3 innings of work he got, but pitched out of a couple of jams, which was good to see.

Cody Moffett returned to the mound for the first time since battling standing pneumonia last week, and threw 1 2/3 of shutout baseball.  Xavier Borde threw two innings of scoreless ball, and Bobby Dalbec got some action as well, hurling a scoreless ninth.

Dalbec appears to be dealing with the whole pitching-after-playing-first all game thing better than he was.

"Today was pretty good I thought," Dalbec said after the game.  "I just have to get my arm in shape a little more.  I start getting tired at times, especially throwing in between innings and stuff."

"I'm pretty comfortable with it.  It doesn't really bother me."

Arizona has reached the end of playing five games each week, so there's more time for Dalbec to work on his pitching during practice now instead of just being run out on the mound for games.

"I think I'll be able to get more bullpens in during the week," he continued.  "Focusing on (working on my) stuff more."

The whole team needed this last week after the consecutive sweeps by Seton Hall and Long Beach St.  With wins over good Mississippi St. and UC Santa Barbara teams last weekend, and this sweep, things are starting to look up.

"We're still what (Andy) Lopez calls fix-it mode," said Dalbec.

Lopez had an intense practice last Thursday before the MSU game, and that was exactly what this team needed.

"Especially with the hitters," Dalbec went on to say.  "We're really working on shortening up, hitting the ball up the middle.  So we're all getting really comfortable."

The first Pac-12 test for Arizona is a struggling Washington St. team that currently sits at 4-8 record-wise.  Like Lopez says, the Wildcats are 0-0 now.  Time to go make a statement and win conference games.  Learning time is over.  James Farris will pitch Friday night at 6, and Cody Hamlin will pitch Saturday at 6.  Austin Schnabel is still scheduled to go on Sunday at noon depending on how his shoulder feels after his Wednesday outing.  If not Schnabel, it will fully depend on who has had to pitch in the first two games.