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Arizona baseball: JJ Matijevic has wild night as Wildcats down Sun Devils 17-6

An extremely fun night in an otherwise tough month

Jason Bartel

Man did Arizona baseball need this performance. It's safe to say that the entire roster went ham on ASU's core.

On Tuesday night, the Arizona Wildcats took down the Arizona State Sun Devils by a score of 17-6.

The star of the night was JJ Matijevic, who was certainly the most interesting man in the state of Arizona for four innings.

"How do I describe my day? Pretty great," Matijevic said afterwards. "I felt good coming into this game, my swing felt great. This past weekend I've been seeing the ball well, barreling balls up and came into this game just keeping the right approach."

With the bases loaded in the first inning, the freshman lefty drove a Ryan Hingst pitch to dead center field all the way out of Hi Corbett.

Then in the second inning, a two-run triple from Matijevic gave Arizona an 8-3 lead.

"I just kept trying to stay positive the entire game and just kept getting those crucial hits and crucial RBI."

Coming into the game with just 12 runs driven in all season, the freshman wasn't satisfied with just six against the Sun Devils.

In the fourth inning, he brought himself within a double of the cycle, and also picked up his seventh RBI of the game with a single to left. His seven RBI are the most in a single game by an Arizona player since Johnny Field in 2012.

After that single, Matijevic worked his way around to third base. With Justin Behnke up to bat with the bases loaded, a ball got past the ASU catcher, but a big rebound off the backstop allowed the catcher to pick the ball up and toss it to the pitcher to get Matijevic at the plate for the second out of the inning.

This wasn't the only bad thing to happen to JJ either. Three errors in the field were also committed by him; two on groundballs and one on a pickoff play. Remember, this is all in the first four innings of the game.

He came up in the fifth with a chance for the cycle, but instead flied out to left field.

"(The cycle)'s not something I think about," said Matijevic. "I was just trying to get on base honestly, and trying to help this team, and that's what we have to do right now."

Andy Lopez then took him out of the game in favor of the slightly better defensive option in Sawyer Gieseke.

All in all, Matijevic went 3-for-4 with 7 RBI, a grand slam, a triple, and three errors, and all of this in just five innings of action.

"His (errors) were pretty bad," Bobby Dalbec joked afterwards. "If he's gonna have eight RBIs a game, he can make a couple errors I think, but he's getting better. Tonight was just a tough one."

"He's gotta get better on defense man," Andy Lopez added. "But he had a great night offensively."

He was not the only Wildcat to leave the yard on the night. Scott Kingery led the fifth inning off with a home run, then after Kevin Newman and Riley Moore both walked, Bobby Dalbec launched one of the light stand beyond the 405 mark in right-center. That put Arizona up 14-4 at the time.

"I just knew it was a freshman arm and trying to be first-pitch aggressive," Dalbec explained of his home run. "I just got my pitch and hit it pretty good."

When Dalbec came up again in the sixth, ASU reliever Jordan Aboites plunked him right in the back, which led to some words being exchanged, but unfortunately, no fight.

"That's my fault," said Dalbec. "I kind of just blacked out I guess, and I talked to their guys and we're cool. Same thing happened after I hit a home run off (Tyger) Talley this summer, and then he plunked me on purpose the next at bat. I said the exact same thing that I can't repeat, but yeah, I gotta be better than that."

It did bring in a run because the bases were loaded. Michael Hoard also brought home a run when he was walked immediately afterwards. Dalbec finished the night with six RBI of his own.

One thing to not be overlooked was the performance of Robby Medel on the mound. Cody Hamlin pitched the first inning, and Medel came on in the second. He ended up going 6 1/3 innings, giving up eight hits but no walks. That resulted in one earned run (three total).

"Medel was outstanding," said Andy Lopez. "Kind of a neat thing, after the game on Sunday, he came to me and said 'I want the ball, I want the ball'. But for him to do that and then back it up by pitching like that is pretty good. That's that it-factor we're missing."

"I went up to him, and I asked for the ball for the start," Medel added. "A couple things happened and we had to change up the rotation a little bit which I understood, but I knew I'd have to come in today and eat a lot of innings, cuz we're just trying to win games and so we could go into the weekend healthy, and it felt good to do my job."

It's kind of impressive that Arizona won this game by 11 runs considering they committed five errors as a team.

The Wildcats will hopefully take some momentum from this 20-hit performance as a team to Pullman on Friday as they take on a hot Washington State team. The Cougars have won three-consecutive series, and will be coming off a rivalry win over Washington on Monday.