The Arizona Wildcats could not hit McNeese State Cowboys pitcher Rhett Deaton on Friday night.
Luckily for Arizona, Deaton only pitched six innings.
“I probably need to look at the tape,” head coach Jay Johnson said about what happened against Deaton. “I thought he located well. He was down in the zone, and we hit some balls hard at people. He did a nice job; pitched out of trouble a couple times. And we just didn’t sustain as many good at bats in a row as we have been.”
“We were getting a little antsy,” Mitchell Morimoto added. “We just wanted to get in that lead. He was just able to locate and keep us off-balance. We got a little unlucky with a lot of line drives, but yeah, he was just locating. Nothing overpowering but getting ahead and locating.”
The sophomore righty threw just 68 pitches on the night, but was replaced to start the seventh by Aidan Anderson while leading 3-1. That’s when the Wildcats’ bats woke up, leading to an 8-3 Arizona (6-0) victory.
“Once you get in the bullpen, the whole mood changes,” Morimoto continued. “We were feeling like we really got this guy, and yeah that’s really all I can say. When we get in the bullpen we think we can get this game.”
Jared Oliva led the inning off with a rope, but the ball hit directly off of the second base bag, resulting in a single.
Cameron Cannon followed that with a blooper to center that bounced off the shortstop’s glove, but was scored a single.
That brought Louis Boyd up with the intention of bunting the runners over, but a couple of failed attempts put the senior in a hole with two strikes.
So he was given the hit sign, and looped one right behind the first baseman. There was a play at the plate, but Oliva slid past the tag, bringing the Wildcats within a run.
Anderson then issued a walk to Cal Stevenson to load the bases, forcing McNeese to bring in Trent Fontenot, making the 55th appearance of his Cowboy career.
After striking out Morimoto, Fontenot drew a ground ball by Alfonso Rivas right to the first baseman.
Instead of coming home with it, the Cowboy defender went to his own bag, allowing Arizona to tie the game.
Fontenot got another groundball, this time from JJ Matijevic. But the McNeese shortstop bobbled the hard hit ball, allowing Boyd to score and Arizona to take the lead.
That brought up freshman phenom Nick Quintana. He was able to pick up his first hit of the night, extending his hitting streak to six games to start his college career. The ball lined off of Fontenot, allowing Stevenson to score and extend the lead to two runs.
In the eighth, the Wildcats were able to add to their lead. Three walks, a sac bunt, and a single resulted in a couple more runs. Morimoto and Matijevic picked up RBI singles in the frame.
Arizona was down 3-1 after six innings due to a poor performance in the first inning.
Junior college transfer Tylor Megill got the ball to start the game, the second time he’d been called upon for the second game of the series.
And for the second time, he was unable to make it out of the second inning.
“As strange as it sounds, I’m not that concerned about it,” Johnson said of Megill’s early season struggles. “There’s a couple things in play. There’s a couple self-inflicted wounds by him, and I believe I have a better idea of how he have to call pitches for him after tonight’s game, and we’ll go ahead and implement that in his bullpen this week and we’ll carry it into next weekend.”
Megill hit three batters in his inning-plus of work, but all in pitchers’ counts (0-1, 1-2, and 1-2).
“I don’t know, I will go back and look at it in terms of planning,” added Johnson about the hit batters. “I thought his tempo was better. We should’ve caught a fly ball in the first inning. We should have executed a rundown twice that no runs would have scored, and he might’ve been the ones with all the zeroes.”
The third plunking led to Johnson bringing Michael Flynn in the game.
“We’re playing a really good team that scores a lot of runs, and I thought we were living on the edge giving them all those chances,” Johnson continued. “We needed to flip the momentum of the game, and Michael Flynn was awesome tonight.”
Flynn allowed an infield single to the first batter he faced, but that was the only runner that would reach base against him in his six innings on the bump.
“Down in the zone, locating pitches,” Johnson said about what Flynn was doing well. “He was hiding the ball, mixing some pitches, and hitting every spot.”
“I came in with some runners on and I just wanted to get myself in a groove and keep my team in the game,” Flynn added. “Once I got out there fresh with a clean slate and throwing out of the wind up, that’s when I got it going so I could get my guys back in the dugout and hit some balls.”
“I got in a groove, so I obviously built a bit of momentum for myself,” continued Flynn. “All I was trying to was throw some strikes. I’m living off my fastball, so that’s the go-to pitch for me, and I just wanted to locate. I knew if I located my fastball tonight my other stuff would be alright.”
“I’ve been more comfortable coming out of the pen, so it doesn’t matter what inning it is. It’s just something that fits my style real well.”
Cameron Ming tossed a scoreless 8th. He gave way to Seve Romo in the 9th, but Romo was unable to record an out in two batters faced.
Landon Faulkner jogged in from right field to finish the game.
THURSDAY: ARIZONA 9, MCNEESE STATE 3
Despite the three runs given up, JC Cloney has not allowed an earned run in his last 30 innings of work.
The senior lefty threw 7 1⁄3 innings of six-hit ball on Thursday evening, striking out six Cowboys along the way.
Five different Wildcats had multi-hit games on the night. Four different Cats scored two runs apiece as well despite only five team RBI.
Morimoto was in the leadoff spot and had the performance of the day at the plate, going 2-for-5 with two runs and two RBI. Cesar Salazar was 2-for-3 with a walk, 2 runs, and 1 RBI.
Arizona was down 2-1 after three innings, but a five-run fourth put them in front for good.
Arizona and McNeese State play the third game of their four-game series on Saturday afternoon at 1 PM MT at Hi Corbett. Austin Sanders is scheduled to pitch for the Cowboys.