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Arizona baseball: Wildcats win UCLA series behind dramatic walk-off comeback victory

Four-run deficit going into the 9th? No big deal

Bobby Dalbec's walkoff double gives Arizona the series win over UCLA
Bobby Dalbec's walkoff double gives Arizona the series win over UCLA
Jason Bartel

Just like their softball counterparts, Arizona Wildcats baseball took Saturday's game in walk-off fashion, thanks to a five-run ninth inning rally capped off with a Bobby Dalbec double down the left field line.

"I don't know what to say," head coach Jay Johnson said afterwards. "I've been a part of a lot of good wins, but that's just about as special as it gets right there."

The inning started with a Zach Gibbons lineout to shortstop, but two hit batters and a Cody Ramer single later had Arizona on the board, and within three runs.

Ryan Aguilar followed that up with a double, which forced UCLA to go back to their bullpen and bring in Scott Burke.

Alfonso Rivas welcomed Burke to the game with a single through the right side, tying the game up at five.

The second out of the inning came off the bat of JJ Matijevic, as he flied out to right, which brought up Bobby Dalbec.

Dalbec, who had surrendered the winning run on Friday night on a 2-2 count, worked a 2-2 count of his own.

"Just trying to get one over the plate and drive it in the gap," Dalbec explained. "But he threw one in and I drove it down the line."

It still came down to Rivas beating the throw home.

"Alfonso's not as fast as he looks," Dalbec joked. "It was a great slide to get under that though."

"He's really slow," Cody Deason piled on. "Don't trust those little legs, alright. They might be dancing good up on the dance floor, but they're slow on the field."

Rivas said that, even though he's so slow, he was running with his head down and probably would have gone even if Johnson had tried to give him the stop sign at third.

"You live by the sword and die by the sword," Johnson said of his decision to send Rivas. "To get that many hits strung together was a borderline miracle, and I'll take my chances on a relay throw right there with Alfonso running faster than he ever has in his life probably rather than trying to get another hit."

The first eight innings on Saturday weren't so great for Arizona though:

With Dalbec pitching on Friday, Cameron Ming got the nod to take the hill for the Wildcats to face off against Kyle Molnar.

Both teams were held scoreless through four innings, but UCLA was able to breakthrough first, getting a two-out RBI single from Luke Persico in the 5th. The Bruins had runners on first and third, thanks to a hit batter while he was bunting. It happened with two strikes, so it essentially cost Arizona a run.

This did not sit well with Coach Johnson, as he went out to argue the call, and would not let up about it, even as the umpire tried to shrug him away.

"Well he got hit in the chest," coach said about why he was so upset. "And my point was if he got hit in the chest, he would have had to square around fully, which would have made it strike three."

UCLA would score another run in that inning off an Eric Filia blooper to center.

The two-run fifth inning would be the final one for Ming. Michael Flynn would take over, and promptly gave up a leadoff double to Sean Bouchard and go to a 3-0 count against Christoph Bono before Johnson would bring in Rivas, who was DH'ing.

"When I go to the mound, I just think of one thing and that's to get the job done," Rivas said about what goes through him mind when he takes over as the pitcher. "Every pitch that I throw I just try to execute it as well as I can."

Rivas would throw Bono his fourth ball, then a perfectly placed bunt by Trent Chatterton loaded the bases. A four pitch walk to Stephens brought across the Bruins' third run of the day.

Two Rivas strikeouts later, Cody Deason would take over on the mound. He would induce a weak ground ball from Persico, but it got through the right side to score two more Bruins.

Arizona would get one back in the bottom of the sixth. JJ Matijevic roped a double down the right field line. Two batters later, he would score the Wildcats' first run of the game.

From there, it was history. Deason and Kevin Ginkel held the Bruins scoreless, and that was all Arizona needed.

Friday: 4-3 UCLA win

In perhaps what was the sloppiest game Arizona has played all year, the Bruins made them pay, and came up with a clutch hit, whereas Arizona couldn't do the same.

"They got hits with runners in scoring position and they held on to the ball better than we did," Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said of the difference between a win and a loss on Friday. "They just executed a little better than we did, and we didn't take care of it, and forced our hands with some of the pitching matchup stuff."

UCLA grabbed the lead right away, getting a lead-off triple from Brett Urabe. He would score as Brett Stephens followed him with a groundout to second to make the score 1-0.

Arizona took the lead in the 4th. A UCLA throwing error and an RBI single by Rivas gave the Wildcats a 2-1 edge.

It was one of a team-high three hits for Rivas on Friday. Arizona had six hits combined on the night.

"I was looking for the right pitch every single at bat," the freshman explained of his success against UCLA starter Grant Dyer. "And I just took a good swing and took advantage of the pitches he threw me."

"Three hits doesn't mean anything. There's an L on the board."

"He hit a couple mistakes, and he's sitting in a good spot in the order with those two guys (Bobby Dalbec and JJ Matijevic) behind him," Johnson added about Rivas' big night. "He's gonna get some good pitches, and the sign of a good hitter is to hit 'em when you get 'em, and he's certainly doing that."

Arizona didn't have the lead for long though. UCLA scored two more runs in the top of the 5th to make it 3-2 Bruins. That would be Nathan Bannister's last inning of work on the mound, just like Ming on Saturday.

From there, the Wildcats would use five more pitchers, including two innings from Saturday's projected starter Bobby Dalbec. After a Zach Gibbons base hit drove in Rivas to tie the game in the 6th, Dalbec gave up a run in the top of the ninth, and was charged with the loss.

Rivas would take the mound, and retired the only batter he faced in one pitch.

"Good for the arm," Rivas joked about just needing one pitch.

The Wildcats got their leadoff guy on in the bottom of the 9th, but a Cesar Salazar double play erased that, and Louis Boyd popped up to second to end the game and hand the Cats their 3rd conference loss of the season.


After the dramatic win on Saturday, Arizona returns to action on Tuesday, as they host UC-Riverside for a two-game midweek series. Tuesday's game will start at 6 PM, and Wednesday will start at 1 PM.