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Arizona baseball recap: Wildcats beat Stanford Cardinal 4-1 in series opener

An absolutely dominant performance by Bannister.

Nathan Bannister shined at home once again on Friday night
Nathan Bannister shined at home once again on Friday night
Jason Bartel

With Nathan Bannister at home going up against one of the best freshman in the country in Tristan Beck, you knew there weren't going to be a lot of runs scored on Friday night at Hi Corbett.

But the Arizona Wildcats were able to manufacture a couple runs, and Bannister retired 20 in a row from the second to the ninth innings en route to a 4-1 victory.

"Spectacular" was the one word Arizona head coach Jay Johnson used to sum up his pitcher's night.

"Pretty much every Friday night is going to be a battle," Bannister explained. "No matter who you throw against in the Pac-12, Friday pitchers are pretty good, and I just know I have to be ready for my team, especially on Friday night, and my defense showed up pretty well tonight."

"I just gotta do my work."

Bannister only allowed two hits before the ninth inning. Three hits in the final frame plated the lone Cardinal run of the night.

"We had a really long (bottom of the 8th) there, and when you've gone kind of up-down relatively quickly all night, he had a little bit of a rough go," Johnson explained. "He wasn't coming out for sure."

"I just left pitches up," added Bannister. "And when I leave pitches up, they're gonna get hits."

In his final season at Arizona, Bannister now has a 0.86 ERA at home in 41 2/3 innings. Opposing hitters have a .151 batting average against him.

"I don't really feel any different on the road or at home," Bannister said of his home success. "I just know my defense comes out every time I pitch."

"When he steps on the mound, there's a confidence that the whole team feels," Ryan Aguilar explained. "We have a lot of confidence in him and we play more relaxed when he's on the mound. We know that he has a good tempo and that he's going to get the job done."

Neither team was able to get a man on base between the second and fifth innings. But Cody Ramer broke that streak of 18 consecutive batters retired by both pitchers with a double to the right field wall.

Of course, Zach Gibbons followed his fellow senior with a single to right-center, breaking up the scoreless tie and giving Arizona (21-13, 6-7 Pac-12) a 1-0 lead.

After the fifth, Stanford (18-10, 6-4 Pac-12) replaced Beck, going to Tyler Thorne for the sixth inning and the first part of the seventh.

Thorne walked JJ Matijevic to start the seventh, and advanced to second on a slash hit to third by Louis Boyd. A single just past the shortstop by Ryan Haug put runners on the corners for left-hander Justin Behnke.

Stanford went for the lefty-lefty matchup, bringing Kris Bubic in from the bullpen.

Predictably, Arizona tried to go for the squeeze play with Behnke at the plate. He was unable to execute that, but drew a walk. On ball four, the Stanford catcher let the ball get through his legs, allowing Matijevic to score from third.

The Cardinal would get out of the inning by inducing a grounder to first by Ramer, which allowed the fielder to throw Haug out at the plate. Gibbons grounded to short to end the threat.

A huge mistake in the top of the eighth cost Stanford a potential run. With two out in the inning, pinch hitter Austin Barr roped a ball over Behnke's head in left. But as the ball made its way back to the infield, first baseman Ryan Aguilar was calling for the ball, as he was sure that Barr had not touched the bag on his way to second.

"It was me," Aguilar said of who noticed that Barr had missed the bag. "(The bench) saw it too, but every single time their guy goes for two, I check and see if he touches the bag."

"As soon as it happened, I looked to the blue and asked 'Did you see that?' and he said 'Yeah, I got it'."

Sure enough, once the ball made it to Aguilar, Barr was called out, ending the inning, and keeping Bannister's retired batter streak alive.

Bannister had retired 19 in a row to that point, and that call got him to 20.

"I was worried about the pitch. I left one up," he said of his thoughts on the play. "But then I heard the bench yelling and screaming, and they only do that when something's up, and then I looked over and Bob threw it to first and we got the guy out."

"It's a huge play at the moment."

In the bottom half, Arizona continued to take advantage of having Bubic on the mound. Two walks brought pinch-hitter Kyle Lewis to the plate.

Johnson called for the hit-and-run, and Lewis delivered an RBI single to left, scoring Dalbec. A passed ball on the next pitch brought in Jared Oliva for the fourth Wildcat run of the night.

Arizona looks to clinch the series win on Saturday night with Dalbec on the mound. That game is scheduled to start at 7 PM PT, and will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks.