On Friday night, the Arizona Wildcats and Oregon State Beavers started the biggest three-game series in the Pac-12 this year, and it certainly lived up to the hype.
After JC Cloney and Luke Heimlich pitched to a 1-1 tie through seven innings, the offensive fireworks picked up in the eighth, but OSU got the last little explosion.
With two on and two out in the ninth, KJ Harrison came up and smacked a walkoff single through the infield, giving the Beavers a 4-3 win and a 4-0 record in Pac-12 play.
KJ ALL DAY— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 25, 2017
KJ Harrison's walk-off hit earns the @BeaverBaseball @OpusBank #12Best Moment! https://t.co/XBwQ1VmEo8
Arizona drops to 2-2 in conference.
The Wildcats and Jared Oliva got the late inning theatrics started in the 8th with a home run that got up and over the left field wall, giving UA a 2-1 lead.
Oliva = Gone!https://t.co/uVC5uEhI1q#BearDown— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) March 25, 2017
After just missing a homer in his last AB, Arizona's Jared Oliva rips one over the left field fence. Solo shot. 2-1 Wildcats. #mlbdraft pic.twitter.com/JIw12tcwey— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) March 25, 2017
A couple of hitters later with a new pitcher on the mound, Arizona was able to tack on another run thanks to this error by Sam Tweedt.
Arizona scores another run... on this. 3-1, T8. pic.twitter.com/zfZQ8IppBp— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) March 25, 2017
Cloney started the bottom of the eighth on the mound, but two Beavers reached while recording just one out. That brought on Michael Flynn from the bullpen.
Flynn walked the only batter he faced, loading the bases for Cameron Ming.
Ming walked the first guy he saw, and then gave up a sac fly to right, tying the game back up at three.
Another free base given up by Ming reloaded the bases, and Tylor Megill came on to try and get out of the jam.
Megill’s first warmup pitch went straight to the backstop, but when they counted, he made quick work of Michael Gretler, striking him out looking on a 1-2 hook.
In the 9th, Mitchell Morimoto got things started with a single back up the middle. As expected, Alfonso Rivas was asked to bunt Morimoto over, but instead he popped up to the catcher for the first out of the frame.
Oliva singled to left and Matijevic grounded out to second to put two runners in scoring position for Nick Quintana.
The freshman would pop one up behind the first base bag, ending the threat and sending this one to the bottom of the ninth tied at three.
That’s when OSU would get to Megill, and eventually take this one in walkoff fashion.
Oregon State never led this game until the final batter of the night. Arizona started the scoring with this Kyle Lewis RBI single in the second.
#TheHitman @2klew gets us on the board with an RBI single!https://t.co/rrrFMvDG27— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) March 25, 2017
In the fourth inning, Arizona had a real threat built up. The Wildcats had put runners on the corners with no outs thanks to a single followed up by a throwing error by the OSU pitcher on a comebacker to the mound that should have been a double play.
“That was a gift,” Jay Johnson said during the next inning.
This allowed Matijevic to move to third, but with Cory Voss up to bat, Johnson put the safety squeeze play on. Voss didn’t make contact with the ball, and Matijevic was caught too far off the bag at third. OSU catcher Adley Rutschmann fired the ball down the third base line to pick Matijevic off.
“It was a ball up and away, and I think JJ anticipated that Cory was going to offer at,” Johnson explained immediately afterwards on TV. “He got caught too far off. We can’t just sit back and wait for stuff to happen.”
Voss would strikeout and a Lewis grounder ended the inning with a whimper.
The same part of the lineup put together a two-out threat in the sixth. Matijevic roped a single up the middle, to start the rally. Quintana and Voss followed that up with walks to load the bases for Lewis.
But Lewis struck out, keeping the score tied at one.
.@BeaverBaseball fans ***EXHALE***— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) March 25, 2017
Heimlich pitches out of a jam in the 6th!
Watch: https://t.co/YfMNDWtSGW https://t.co/nF6JXnBHor
The starting pitchers in this one definitely didn’t disappoint. Cloney ended up throwing 7 1⁄3 innings for Arizona, allowing just five hits and two walks along the way. He also struck out five Beavers.
Heimlich was just as good, surrendering four hits and three walks over 6 1/3, striking out eight Wildcats. The one earned run he gave up actually raised his season ERA from 0.25 to 0.41.
Arizona’s relief work just hasn’t been consistent enough to be considered an elite team at this point and time. The pieces are there, but they’re just not getting it done when the Wildcats need it the most right now. That’s two straight walkoff losses in Pac-12 games that the bullpen just couldn’t hold a lead late in the game.
Arizona Three Stars:
- JC Cloney: 7 1⁄3 IP, 3 ER, 5 H, 2 BB, 5 K
- JJ Matijevic: 3-5, 2B, R
- Jared Oliva: 2-5, HR, RBI, R
Arizona and Oregon State play game two of the three-game series on Saturday at 4 PM PT. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.