For the first time in 2017, the Arizona Wildcats found themselves in a pitchers’ duel on Friday afternoon against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Frisco, Texas.
It was JC Cloney vs. Blaine Knight at Dr. Pepper Ballpark, and Arizona had the guy on the mound that you would want. The senior lefty led the Wildcats to a 3-0 victory, improving to 9-0 on the season.
Cloney threw 7 2⁄3 scoreless innings in this one, extending his streak of not allowing an earned run to 38 innings dating back to last year’s College World Series.
Knight does things differently than Cloney, overpowering Arizona’s hitters with his fastball early on, and then burying them with a plus-slider. The Arkansas ace racked up a career-high ten strikeouts in six innings of work, with five of those coming in the first two innings.
After entering this game with the nation’s best team batting average, Arizona did not get a baserunner until nine-hole hitter Kyle Lewis squirted a two-out single into shallow right in the third.
Jared Oliva, who is seeing the ball better, had the hardest-hit ball the first time through the order against Knight, which was a flyout to deep center.
The second time Oliva came up, he was able to get the ball down to the ground, roping a one-run double to left center. That scored Nick Quintana, who was on second after a single and a throwing error on a pick off attempt.
Arizona was able to add another in the bottom half of the sixth. With Alfonso Rivas on first base, JJ Matijevic crushed a double to right center, putting the Wildcats up 2-0.
Cloney kept rolling until the bottom of the eighth. He was removed with two outs and a 2-0 count against a hitter. Cameron Ming came on, and walked that batter, but ended the threat by inducing a long, flyout to center field.
In the bottom of the eighth, Arizona got runners on the corners with two down. Jay Johnson was up to his old tricks though, sending the runner at first, drawing the throw to second. However, Mitchell Morimoto broke for home, scoring easily, while Rivas was caught in a rundown.
This extended the lead to 3-0, which was more than enough for Ming, who set the side down in the 9th without any issues.
In his 7 2⁄3 innings, Cloney allowed just three hits and one walk. He was in some trouble early due to some more fielding miscues, namely Cameron Cannon.
Cannon was the starting shortstop on Friday thanks to Louis Boyd’s left arm injury suffered in Sunday’s win against McNeese State. Boyd will be out six weeks, so Arizona will need someone to step up there. Cannon was not the guy on Friday, coming up with two throwing errors in the first two innings.
He was pinch-hit for in the 5th by freshman outfielder Matt Fraizer, then Shane Martinez took over in the field the ensuing inning. Martinez later picked up a hit, the first of his brief college career. However, Martinez also committed a throwing error in the 9th.
What the infield looks like the rest of the weekend will certainly be interesting to watch.
Arizona is back in action on Saturday when they face the Oklahoma State Cowboys to start the second day of play at the Frisco Baseball Classic. That game is scheduled to start at 3 PM MT, and you will be able to watch it on Watch ESPN.
There will be some updates in our preview/open thread as well.