Jay Johnson called the Arizona job his dream job the day he was announced as the Wildcats' new head coach.
Well, it's also off to a dream start as Arizona took down No. 24 Rice 8-1 on Friday night in Houston.
"It's awesome, it's a special day," Johnson told me after the game. "It's one I won't forget, and I'm very happy for our players. They've done what we've asked them to do and it's good for them to get to experience some success because they've invested the time."
Even though it was an 8-1 game, and the Wildcats were up at least five runs from the fourth inning on, coach didn't want to think about it until it was completely over.
"Until that 27th out is made, you're just kind of locked in on the game," coach continued. "But it is cool. I'm happy for our players. I'm happy for our coaching staff."
It got cooler after the game. With Robby Medel on the mound, the final out was sent to center fielder Jared Oliva, who decided to present the new head coach with the game ball.
"They gave me the game ball after the game, and coming from them, that's pretty cool," coach said of the special moment. "They're doing what we're asking them to do and for him and the team to do that was awesome."
JC Cloney was the first starting pitcher of the Johnson era, and he did not disappoint. The junior college transfer went seven innings, surrendering only four hits and the lone Rice run of the night.
Awesome opener! JC Cloney K's 9 w/ 0 BB. First UA opening day starter to go without a walk since Joe Little (2003). https://t.co/UG1a9mzRt2— Blair Willis (@BlairWillisUA) February 20, 2016
"He was himself," Johnson explained of Cloney's success. "Fastball command on both sides of the plate. He changed speeds. He was ahead in the count the whole night, and really had them hitting on the defensive."
"He was sharp. It was a great performance."
What wasn't sharp was Rice's defense. The Owls had three errors which led to four unearned Arizona runs.
The Wildcats were pressuring Rice the entire night by drawing ten walks, and then turning those into stolen base opportunities.
"We put a lot of pressure on them on the bases, and we were able to create some offense," coach continued. "Honestly, it's whatever is available to create runs, that's what we're gonna do, and our guys did a good job of capitalizing on some things today."
Cody Ramer started the taking advantage of situations, hitting a two-run single in the second to put Arizona up 2-0. The Wildcats would score three more runs over the next two innings off of Rice errors.
Only two other runs were driven in throughout the remainder of the game. Oliva had an RBI single in the 6th to put the Cats up 6-0, and then Bobby Dalbec closed it out with an RBI single in the eighth.
The dominant pitching and timely hitting and forced errors put Arizona at 1-0 on the season.
"It's good to get rewarded for that," Johnson said. "And at the same time, the great part about baseball is we get to go do it again tomorrow and we'll prepare well and we'll be ready to go."
"Super Bowl Two tomorrow."
Cameron Ming will start Super Bowl Two for the Wildcats. First pitch is scheduled for 3 PM MT.