In a tightly-contested conference, every series win is a big one in the Pac-12 this year. But this one by the Arizona Wildcats is a little extra something.
Arizona (30-16, 13-10 Pac-12) took down the Oregon State Beavers (29-14, 10-10 Pac-12) by a score of 4-1 on Saturday, sealing the series victory against one of the best teams in the conference.
A three-run third was all Arizona would need in this one.
A couple of walks by Louis Boyd and Cody Ramer sandwiching a Justin Behnke sac bunt put two runners on for Zach Gibbons.
Just like Friday, a two-run triple would put the Wildcats in front. Gibbons lifted one down the right field line for his first triple of the season, the 7th of his career.
Gibbons triples to make the score 2-0! He has now reached base in 44 straight.https://t.co/sl12FJoMPa— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 8, 2016
"I was really just looking to get my foot down," Gibbons said of his big hit. "He was pounding me in all night, and I saw a good pitch. It was in, and luckily I got enough barrel to drive it fair."
"It's weird," he added about this being his first triple of the year. "I'm glad it came at this time though."
Gibbons has been going the opposite way a lot, and that's something that the coaches have emphasized with him since they took over the team last summer.
"He's got great hand-eye, got great balance and we kind of shored up his stride to keep him in his legs," head coach Jay Johnson explained. "He's got a ton of bat speed for a little guy, and he just sees the ball really well so he can just stay on it."
"When I get in my most trouble, I tend to pull off the ball," added Gibbons. "So during B.P., coach Sergio Brown has us work opposite side the first two rounds, so I think that contributes to all our success to the opposite side."
He wouldn't stay on third very long. JJ Matijevic followed him with a 2-0 double, making the score 3-0 good guys.
JC Cloney got the start for the Wildcats, and pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings of baseball before having to give way to Kevin Ginkel.
Ginkel, who entered the game with two runners on base, walked Nick Madrigal to load the bases. But after a controversial third ball to create a full-count, bases-loaded situation, Ginkel blew one by Logan Ice, ending the threat, and holding the Beavers scoreless.
The fact that Cloney was able to keep Oregon State from scoring a run was nothing short of remarkable, considering Arizona committed three errors behind him. No walks and just five hits allowed were what the doctor ordered for that case of poor fielding for the Wildcats though. The Beavers finished the night 1-of-7 with runners in scoring position, the lone hit coming in the 9th.
"He persevered," Johnson said of Cloney's performance. "He kind of stuck with it, made pitches when he needed to, but he's been great all year, and it was more of the same tonight."
"He doesn't really let that rattle him," added Gibbons. "He just goes back on there and just pumps strikes and gets outs."
"Errors are baseball," Cloney tacked on. "When an error happens, you just gotta get past it and move on to the next pitch."
Cloney missed the last home series due to having the flu, and then a potential case of mono, which he never got results back for.
Now he has a 1.11 ERA in 32 1/3 home innings.
Even though the last couple weeks on the road weren't up to Cloney standards, he doesn't attribute that sickness to it.
"I think it was just control, at USC especially," he explained. "Fastball command was poor, so I think when you can't command fastball, it's going to be hard to really do anything else."
"(Fastball control) was a big difference for me tonight."
After that Ginkel strikeout, Arizona added another run in the bottom of the seventh. Boyd hit a one-out single, moved to second on a balk, and then to third on a Behnke groundout.
Ramer would walk, bringing Gibbons up in a crucial spot again. But this time, he didn't need to get a hit. Luke Heimlich bounced one to the plate, and failed to cover home on the wild pitch, allowing Boyd to score Arizona's fourth run of the night.
Wild pitch! Boyd comes home to score and Ramer moves to second. 4-0 Arizona.https://t.co/I05jlQ4dgd— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 8, 2016
Ginkel allowed two more baserunners in the 8th, and a couple more in the ninth, letting the Beavers to finally put a run on the board. But a double play ended the game, sealing the series.
Once again, Bobby Dalbec did not play in this game, despite being on the active roster. He will likely not play this weekend due to a knee infection. It is not expected to keep him out long-term. Dalbec will remain on the active roster on Sunday.
Arizona and Oregon State meet again Sunday afternoon to finish the three-game set. First pitch is scheduled for Noon PT, and the game should be broadcast on Pac-12 Network. It may also be broadcast at 5 PM PT on Pac-12 Arizona.