On Commencement Day at the University of Arizona, the Arizona Wildcats did not exactly commence the series against the Arizona State Sun Devils well.
With a Hi Corbett record 6,324 fans in attendance, ASU scored five times in the first inning off of Nathan Bannister, and that was all they would need to secure a series-opening 5-2 win.
The Sun Devils used four hits, a walk, and a Bobby Dalbec throwing error to score those five runs off Bannister.
"I think it just sailed out," Dalbec said of the error. "I haven't made a throwing error in forever it feels like. It just kinda got away from me. I sped the game up a little bit when I shouldn't have."
The error, which came with two outs in the inning, allowed one run to score at the time. Ryan Lillard followed it with a two-run single to right, making the game 5-0, and giving ASU three free runs as a result of the missed throw. The Sun Devils won by three.
From there, the game was moving at a pretty good clip as Bannister and ASU pitcher Seth Martinez were setting hitters down left and right.
Bannister didn't change anything though, it was just a matter of ASU not squaring him up. He only allowed two hits in his final 7 1/3 innings.
"I was just trying to make better pitches," the senior explained. "(Cesar Salazar) and I just working each hitter, and just committing to a target better."
"The team just needed some zeroes," Bannister said about being able to last until the 9th inning. "After a five-spot, I think it was my job to let my offense get back in the game and let my defense work."
It took just an hour and a half to get to the seventh inning stretch.
That's when the Wildcats would finally get on the board. Dalbec, who returned to the lineup after missing the Oregon State series with a knee infection, knocked a two-out triple off the left-center field wall, then scored on a wild pitch. It would be his only hit on the night.
"I'm just trying to compete every at bat," Dalbec explained. "I got the first one pretty good, but they were playing me deep from what I was told. I thought it was down, and he was just camped under it and I was like 'Dang'."
Unfortunately, that would be the only run scored in the inning. After Cesar Salazar and Louis Boyd walked, Jay Johnson decided to pinch hit for Justin Behnke with Michael Hoard.
Hoard, making just his fifth plate appearance of the season, got ahead 2-0 on Martinez, but then struck out swinging, stranding the two runners.
"He's had a great month of practice," Arizona's head coach said about that decision to have Hoard bat. "Those guys are getting live ABs every week, we go hard, and he's been pretty good."
"My thought was that he might be able to run into one," Johnson continued. "Run it in the gap if he left a pitch up, and now it's 5-3 and you've got Ramer coming up and it's going to force them to do some things."
After Bannister set the Sun Devils down in order in the top of the eighth, Cody Ramer led the bottom half of the inning off with a triple down the right field line. The relay throw bounced into the ASU dugout, allowing the senior to score, making it a 5-2 game.
Zach Gibbons followed that with a fly out to the left field warning track. JJ Matijevic then looped a single into right. That chased Martinez, forcing ASU head coach Tracy Smith to bring in Eder Erives.
Erives came right in to strike out Ryan Aguilar and Alfonso Rivas, keeping the Wildcats at arm's length.
The strikeouts kept coming in the ninth, as Dalbec was put away to open the inning. Salazar popped up to the second baseman and Boyd walked, bringing up Jared Oliva.
Oliva also struck out, ending the game, and sending the Wildcat fans home unhappy.
Arizona got underneath the ball a lot on Friday night, sending several fly balls deep for outs. That kind of baseball doesn't work at Hi Corbett.
"That's just how it is in this park," Dalbec said of hitting at Hi Corbett. "It's a big yard and us, and any team that comes in has the luxury of playing deep and getting those balls."
"Any other park and we probably have four or five home runs on the night."
The two teams meet again on Saturday at 7 PM PT on Pac-12 Networks. There will also be a replica T-shirt giveaway at Hi Corbett as Arizona looks to set yet another attendance record. Arizona does not know who will take the mound to start the game, but they will face ASU's Eli Lingos.