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Arizona baseball recap: Wildcats open Oregon State series with 6-1 win

A big win to start a big weekend

Jason Bartel

There are a couple of big weekends coming up for the Arizona Wildcats, and it started on Friday night when the Oregon State Beavers came to town to start a three-game series.

And as has been the case all year, Nathan Bannister threw a gem at home to give the Wildcats a much-needed series-opening victory.

The senior right-hander went the distance in a 6-1 decision, scattering five hits and striking out nine Beavers on his way to yet another complete game.

"He's pretty special," head coach Jay Johnson said after the game. "I thought the day off this week helped him. He took it seriously, got his conditioning in and gave us a great performance again."

Bannister is now 6-0 at home, throwing two complete games, all while posting an ERA of 0.89 in 50 2/3 innings of work.

In the first three innings, Arizona had baserunners, but both Cody Ramer and Alfonso Rivas were picked off after getting to first base.

Then things changed in the fourth.

Ramer and Zach Gibbons both singled through the infield, and were moved into scoring position by a JJ Matijevic sac bunt.

But every position is scoring position when Ryan Aguilar steps up to the plate. The senior tripled to right-center, bringing home the two runs, giving the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.

"I was just gonna try to see a ball up and drive it to the outfield," Aguilar explained. "But unfortunately I got to two strikes, and it's battle zone, and I was just simplifying it by seeing a ball up to get a sac fly, but I got fortunate enough it went over his head."

"I think he's really matured as a hitter over the past couple weeks," Johnson said of his senior. "Those were Hall of Fame at bats tonight."

Aguilar would score the third run of the inning on a Rivas sac fly.

The score would remain 3-1 for the next four innings as both Nathan Bannister and Travis Eckert were able to keep both clubs at bay.

Then Arizona snapped out of it in the seventh.

Kyle Lewis led the inning of getting hit by a pitch, then moved up to second on a balk by Eckert. Cesar Salazar moved him to third with a sac bunt, bringing up Louis Boyd.

As you would expect by now, the squeeze play was on, and Lewis scored as Eckert tossed the ball to the backstop, allowing Boyd to get to second. Justin Behnke followed that with a single to right to put runners on the corners for the top of the order.

Ramer lined out to short for the second out of the inning.

A delayed steal by Behnke with Zach Gibbons batting drew a throw to second, getting Behnke in a run down. Boyd darted for home, and a poor throw by the second baseman allowed him to score, and put Behnke on second.

Gibbons grounded out to end the inning, but not after Arizona took a 5-1 lead.

In the eighth, another squeeze play by Lewis made the score 6-1. OSU's first baseman tried to shovel the ball to the plate with his glove, but Aguilar was able to slide in underneath the tag.

This was about Bannister's outing though, and having a senior step up in a big way to start arguably the biggest regular season home series of the year.

"It's why you put in the work for four years," Bannister said of being able to pitch in this moment. "I remember my freshman year, I didn't get much opportunity, but you know I just kept working. And thanks to my teammates that kept pushing me, and I think it's just been a process."

One teammate that wasn't on the field on Friday night was Bobby Dalbec. Arizona's star was at the game, but was not in the lineup, and will likely not be in the lineup all weekend.

"He's on the active roster for the weekend, but that's really all I care to talk about that," Johnson said after the game. "He's on the roster for the weekend."

The two teams are back at it on Saturday night on Pac-12 Networks. First pitch is scheduled for 7 PM PT at Hi Corbett.