Friday marked the start of a whole new season for Arizona baseball. It's Pac-12 time, and man did James Farris get the Wildcats off to a great start in a 12-1 win over Washington State.
"He was at the knees all night long," head coach Andy Lopez said of Farris' performance. "He had a lot of strikes down in the zone, in a real good rhythm. He looked like a real Friday night guy."
"When you have a guy like that set the momentum and tempo on the mound, it's a lot easier to play."
"It sets the tone," added Trent Gilbert.
Farris was within one out of throwing his second complete game shutout of the season, but the Cougars had something else in mind with a single and double to score their lone run with just one out remaining.
No walks were given up on the night by the senior right-hander, keeping his mark at just five total through five starts this season.
"I thought I had everything," Farris said. "(No walks) is really big. That's one of those things that is just unacceptable to have walks. That's my goal every game is to not have a walk, and to give our team a chance to win."
Although the Wildcats scored 12 runs, they only crossed the plate in three of the innings Friday night. Through six innings, WSU starter Jason Monda had allowed three runs, and then the Cougar bullpen imploded on itself the final two innings.
They needed five pitchers to get through those two innings, and not a single one of them recorded more than two outs.
The nail was put in the coffin in the eighth when Trent Gilbert came up for the second time in the inning. He had started the eighth with a pop up to the left fielder, but the fielder misplayed it. So Gilbert got a second crack at it after four runs had already been scored.
"The (WSU reliever) just came in and walked Newman, so I knew he was going to want to get ahead," said Gilbert about the situation.
The bases were loaded, and the WSU outfield was shifted towards left, playing Gilbert as an opposite-field hitter, which he most definitely isn't.
"Yeah, I saw that," Gilbert continued. "That was different. Usually if anything they're shifted the other way..."
And he made them pay by lacing a pitch to right-center, clearing the bases; making sure Arizona fans were going home extremely happy with a hoops and hardball win.
"I'll take it. Everything works out," Gilbert joked. "I noticed it, but I didn't think anything of it."
This win seems to have cemented that the Wildcats have worked out some of the issues that were plaguing them about two weeks ago when they were struggling to do anything right.
"I think we're starting to come together as a team, starting to play good baseball," said Gilbert.
"We are learning what Arizona Baseball is all about," added Farris. "And I think it's shown in our games. The things that aren't acceptable, we are learning that they are not acceptable, and it shows in our game, and I think it's the right thing."
One huge change from last year to this year has been the emergence of Cody Ramer at third base on the defensive side, not just at the plate. Ramer made his presence felt in the field again on Friday with some incredible plays to get the Wildcats back in the dugout.
Ramer was not a third baseman before this year. Ever. So seeing this has been a little bit of a surprise.
"He's gotten extremely better," said Farris. "What he did tonight for me, there's no one else better at third base. He works hard, and it shows in his game."
"He's done really well, and it's been huge for us," Gilbert added. "He's a good athlete, but maybe how good he is has impressed me and has impressed a lot of guys. He's done really well."
One last storyline from the night was the return of Joseph Maggi, after Lopez said on Wednesday that the junior had been suspended indefinitely. He pinch hit for Kenny Meimerstorf in the 7th, laid down a sac bunt and reached on an error on that play. He later scored. In the 8th, he was hit in the head with a pitch, and scored again.
"Life is life," said Lopez after the game. "Young people are young people you know. That's life. He had a real big bump for us in that inning and did a real good job for us."
"In the big scope of things, it's pretty small."
"It's good to see Joe back out here," added Gilbert. "He took care of what he had to do and we'll move on from there. It was good for him to get back and get moving right away."
Arizona and Washington St. meet again on Saturday night at 6 PM. The Wildcats will have Cody Hamlin out on the mound against WSU's Joe Pistorese. Expect to see essentially the same lineup moving forward, with the possible exceptions being at DH and right field. But everything else is clicking right now. And what a perfect time for everything to start coming together.