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Arizona baseball recap: Wildcats make major comeback to down Eastern Kentucky 16-13

A crazy comeback in the season’s second game

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arizona vs Oklahoma State Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

At one point on Saturday, the Arizona Wildcats trailed the Eastern Kentucky Colonels 9-0. They were also down 12-5 and 13-6.

“Bad,” freshman Nick Quintana said about the mood at the time, which also happened to be during a steady, brisk rain storm. “It’s not comfortable, but with the team we have, 9-0 isn’t really a lot to hold us back as you can tell by today.”

Arizona somehow rallied and took the contest by a score of 16-13.

“For us to come back from a 9-0 lead from them is definitely character defining,” Quintana added. “It was cool to see that.”

“There’s so many things you could take out of that,” head coach Jay Johnson said afterwards. “First off, it felt like we were down 30 in a basketball game, or like the Patriots in The Super Bowl.”

“I’m very proud of them for sticking to it and taking a bunch of good at bats to get us back there, and then the pitchers coming through at the end and picking the offense back up at the end, which was great to see.”

“It was early, and we knew it was early,” JJ Matijevic added. “Me and (Louis) Boyd were talking about it out there. We weren’t even mad about the 9-0 because we knew how early it was and we knew that our offense is really good and that we could come back from that, and that’s what ended up happening.”

“There’s no clock in baseball.”

Tylor Megill got the start, but was pulled in the second inning after throwing just 37 pitches.

“I think we need to get him back out there at some point,” Johnson responded when asked about possibly pitching Megill on Monday. “He did not pitch in character, and I have total confidence in him, and I can’t wait to get him back out there and expose that.”

Cody Deason took over for Megill, but then gave up six earned runs while recording just two outs, making the score 9-0 after the top of the third.

“Same thing,” Johnson added about Deason. “We need those guys. I don’t expect them to be perfect all the time, but those two can certainly be better than what they showed today, and they will be better than what they did today.”

“They’re both great pitchers, and they both put a lot of preparation into how they do everything,” Matijevic tacked on. “They just weren’t hitting some spots and Eastern Kentucky was taking advantage of that.”

But Arizona rallied to score five in the bottom half of the third, which is when the mood kind of changed.

“That takes a lot of courage and a lot of character,” Johnson explained of that inning. “It takes a lot of tough at bats, and we’re in a development-based business, and I think we saw a lot of personal development from some guys on our team today.”

The Cats scored ten runs over their final three at bats, including a six-run sixth.

The Wildcats had the top of their lineup coming up to bat to start the sixth. Mitchell Morimoto and Cal Stevenson both walked, then Alfonso Rivas was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs.

Matijevic came up and doubled down the right field line, clearing the bases, and making the score 13-9 at the time.

Those were his third, fourth, and fifth runs batted in of the day.

“I was just trying to stay nice and slow,” Matijevic said about his game on Saturday. “Last night I was just rushing myself at the plate and wasn’t seeing the ball as well. So today I tried to slow everything down and see the ball a lot better, and that’s what happened.”

Quintana followed that up with another double, and a couple batters later, Jared Oliva doubled to reduce the deficit to two runs.

After a Matt Fraizer fly out, Louis Boyd smoked a triple, drawing the Wildcats within one.

Landon Faulkner tossed a scoreless top half of the seventh in his Arizona debut to keep the Cats within one. Stevenson drew another walk and Matijevic singled to put runners on the corner with one out after the seventh inning stretch.

This brought up Quintana, and again, the freshman came up clutch, tying the game with a single to center.

“To be honest, I didn’t even know it was the game-tying hit until you just said it,” Quintana joked. “It was just runners in scoring position, and we religiously work on executing the play and getting the runner in. With that mindset it’s help me be a more aggressive batter up at the plate.”

Arizona finally took the lead when Cesar Salazar came up after Quintana and hit an RBI double down the right field line.

The Wildcats tacked on two more runs in the eighth, and again, it was off the bat of Quintana. With the bases loaded and two outs, the third baseman lifted the ball over the right fielder’s head, scoring Stevenson and Morimoto. Cameron Cannon, who had made his Arizona debut with a pinch-hit single, was thrown out at home to end the inning.

That was Quintana’s fifth hit of the game, making him 6-of-9 at the plate in his first two college games.

“He adapted quickly in a way that not everybody can do, which is great,” Johnson said. “I think great hitters make adjustments, and with his, it was maybe just a mental or emotional adjustment after a couple of at bats yesterday, settling in, which is totally natural. Using the whole ballpark like that was really impressive.”

“It’s awesome,” Matijevic added about Quintana’s hot start. ”I knew from the start he was gonna be something special, and I tell him all the time to just stay in himself and do what he does, and he’s been doing it so far. I’m really proud of him.”

“Today was more relaxed, and it definitely felt like just another day at the park,” Quintana said. “To have a day like I did is fun.”

“Just having a clear mind,” he continued about his approach at the plate. “I don’t want to think too much, I don’t want to think about getting my foot down on time. I just wanna have nothing going on in there and just see the ball come in.”

Arizona and Eastern Kentucky continue their four-game series on Sunday at 1 PM MT at Hi Corbett.