Bobby Dalbec was supposed to start Saturday night's game on the mound for the Arizona Wildcats, but head coach Jay Johnson opted for the left-hander Cameron Ming instead.
"About one o'clock today," Johnson explained of when he made the decision to go with Ming. "Just spent a lot of time looking at last night's game and the weekend as a whole, and we felt like this was the best thing."
"I was eating lunch about 1, 1:30ish, and I got a call from Coach Johnson telling me I was gonna be the guy with the ball tonight," Ming said of when he found out he was pitching. "From there I just kind of took my normal routine when I start. Just go about my business like I always do. Eat food, hydrate and make sure I'm locked in out there for however many innings I have to go."
That worked out pretty well.
"I looked at what their team had and they reminded me of Rice a lot, and UCLA a little bit," Johnson added on about the decision. "And he pitched really well against those two teams, and I thought his stuff would carry."
"Rice had more left-handers, but I did go at them with the approach I did against Rice," Ming added.
Ming, as well as Stanford pitcher Chris Castellanos, threw a career-high amount of innings on the night. But it was Ming who would emerge victorious, as Arizona took the game 4-1.
"I had no idea," Ramer said if he knew Ming was going to start. "I thought Bobby was and I saw him show up and I was like 'Are you starting?' and he was like 'No, Ming is' and I was like okay, good deal."
Arizona's sophomore left-hander would put up seven innings of five-hit ball on the night before giving way to Alfonso Rivas in the 8th. It was Ming's first career college win.
"Extremely pleased," Johnson said of the fact that Ming was able to give the team seven innings. "Alfonso's gonna be a good pitcher here too, and it was good to get him in a game like that and do that too. That was good to see."
The momentum turned in Arizona's favor in the third. Ming had loaded the bases with just one out, but then Cody Ramer pulled this out of his bag of tricks:
WATCH @ArizonaBaseball "Big League Double Play" to get out of bases loaded jam. #MLBTrainingGround https://t.co/QXgXxE0ley— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) April 17, 2016
"I hope that's on SportsCenter tonight," Johnson said afterwards. "That's as good of second baseman play as you can see. If I'm a scout, that's a guy I'm taking notice of right now."
"Coach did a good job of positioning me and putting me in the hole, and it completely changed the ballgame right there," Ramer added.
That got the dugout and the crowd fired up heading into the bottom of the third. It even had Ming chest bumping guys in the dugout.
"I was pretty hyped," Ming joked. "I'm usually a pretty calm guy, but I just tip my cap to my second baseman and that means a lot."
"You get little goosebumps and butterflies and stuff like that when you see your team hopping over the rail, and your pitcher's fired up," continued Ramer. "It's a good feeling."
"That's a huge momentum play," Arizona's pitcher said of that moment. "When you have bases loaded with one out and your second baseman makes a play like that, it saves two runs, makes my job easier, and that immediately gets the dugout going."
"That fires me up, and that fires everyone else up too."
Justin Behnke rode that wave of emotion, sending a triple to the right field wall to start the Arizona half of the frame.
"That was just the swing right there," Ramer said. "To get on third with no outs, and all we needed was one run."
"I haven't been a part of a momentum shift like that before," Ming stated.
After Ramer softly lined out to short, Zach Gibbons came through with a run-scoring groundout to second that gave the Wildcats the 1-0 lead.
In the fourth, Ming got another great defensive play behind him from Dalbec.
How bout this fancy glove work from Bobby Dalbec? #BearDown #MLBTrainingGround pic.twitter.com/UT9snlITLm— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) April 17, 2016
It was more of the same in the fifth, this time from the left fielder Behnke.
Justin Behnke flashes the leather and comes up with a #webgem. #BearDown #MLBTrainingGround pic.twitter.com/HbNX9JHXKV— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) April 17, 2016
And once again, it was Behnke and Ramer feeding off each other, leading to another big offensive half of the inning.
Ramer led it off with a single, and moved into scoring position on a Gibbons sac bunt.
That brought up Dalbec, and he delivered a clutch hit to give the Wildcats some breathing room.
WATCH @ArizonaBaseball adds to its lead with a Dalbec RBI. Now 3-0 #BearDown https://t.co/qzdSxtQ5Q1— Arizona Athletics (@AZATHLETICS) April 17, 2016
Ryan Aguilar followed that with a single to right that moved Dalbec to third. Then in true Arizona fashion, Jared Oliva laid down the squeeze bunt to make it a three-run game.
Up came JJ Matijevic, who had been struggling of late, but was 2-for-2 in his first couple at bats. He hit his third single of the night, allowing Oliva to come around for the fourth run of the game.
"He's working hard," coach said of Matijevic turning things around. "He's really evolving into a really good player. It's slow strides, but it's really coming with him."
From there, it was the Ming and Rivas show. Just like Friday, Stanford put together a couple hits in the ninth to score their only run of the game.
The final game of the three game series starts at 1 PM on Sunday. The win moves Arizona to 7-7 in Pac-12 play, and 22-13 overall, but the guys aren't thinking about getting above that .500 mark in the Pac-12.
"To be completely honest, I had no idea until you just told me," Ming explained of how closely he watches the record. "I think all the players, including myself, are pretty committed to Coach Johnson and his approach of each Super Bowl."
"We're just going to take tomorrow like Johnson says as Super Bowl 36," Ramer tacked on. "That's the way we're going to go at it."
Dalbec is slated to start Sunday now instead of JC Cloney. He will face Stanford's Chris Viall on Pac-12 Network.