It was a Sunday riddled with dominating pitching performances for the Arizona Wildcats. After a nice performance by Michael Flynn earlier in the day against Saint Mary's, Nathan Bannister one-upped him, as Arizona beat Northwestern State 4-1, earning a split with the Demons, and a 3-1 overall record at the Wildcat Invitational.
Bannister, who was coming off a dominating performance against Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday, did more of the same to NSU on Sunday, pitching 6 2/3 shutout innings of three-hit ball.
"I think it's just a combination of everything," Bannister attributed his success to so far this season. "Coaches putting people in the right spots, getting some ground balls. It really goes back to the fall when we started skill hours and individuals with coach (Dave) Lawn and getting a pitching plan for the whole staff."
"What we really wanted to work on was pitch inside and own the changeup and I think that's really coming out right now."
Much like Wednesday's game, Arizona didn't give him a ton of run support, but it was enough. In the second inning, a Bobby Dalbec walk and Justin Behnke single brought up Louis Boyd with two outs.
Boyd would then rope one to left-center, driving in the two runs and giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
Arizona would tack two more on in the fifth. With Cody Ramer on third and Jared Oliva on second, Zach Gibbons stepped to the plate. Gibbons received the squeeze play sign from head coach Jay Johnson, and promptly bunted the ball back to the pitcher.
The Demons pitcher would bobble the ball, allowing Ramer to score, and Oliva to advance to third.
After JJ Matijevic lined out to the shortstop, Arizona ran a familiar play, having Gibbons steal second, forcing the catcher to throw down. Oliva took off for home, and just beat the throw, scoring Arizona's fourth run of the night.
"We stretch and go straight to base-running," Ramer said of Arizona's focus on situational running in practice. "We do ball in the dirt, and then we go first and third base-running, so it's something that we do work on every day in practice."
After Bannister gave way in the 7th, Rio Gomez and Bobby Dalbec would finish the game on the mound. Bannister was removed after 72 pitches. He was on a 75-pitch limit after Wednesday's game.
"I was not told of any pitch count," Bannister said. "I was just trying to do my best and going out there and getting strike one, strike two, and trying to get my team in the dugout so we can score some runs."
After 160 pitches in four days, the senior righty said he didn't really feel any fatigue out there at the end of his outing.
"Just keep on grinding," he continued. "New inning, new batter, new pitch. Just gotta keep making my pitches and let my defense work."
The Cats only managed five hits in the contest, with Ryan Aguilar recording two of them. Aguilar has reached base in every game this season. The team did draw eight walks.
"Every BP round, we have guys taking three, four pitches before we swing five pitches in a row," Ramer explained of the propensity of drawing bases on balls. "Coach has really established to get our pitch, get our swing off so it's really showing with these walks as the numbers keep going up."
"Our BP rounds are really credited to our walks."
Arizona is back in action on Friday night as they host Sacramento State for a three-game series. That game will start at 6 PM MT.