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Oregon vs. Arizona baseball recap: Wildcats ground Ducks, even series with 5-4 victory

Life is good when the ace is back.

JC Cloney delivers a pitch
Rachel Huston

After a week of mystery and intrigue surrounding his left bicep and shoulder, JC Cloney returned to the Hi Corbett mound on Friday for the Arizona Wildcats like nothing had happened.

Cloney, who lasted just two pitches the prior weekend in Pullman, threw six shutout innings in Tucson before finally yielding a run to the Oregon Ducks in the 7th. He threw 88 pitches on the night — 61 for strikes — scattering seven hits, a walk, and a hit batter along the way.

“I thought he was better than normal,” head coach Jay Johnson said after the game. “Sometimes you need a week off. I think he got a lot of weak contact.”

Two of Oregon’s hits off of Cloney were bunt hits. The other four singles were grounders right back up the middle.

“Everybody’s gonna get their weak hits up the middle, especially against our shift,” Cloney said. “It works most of the time but sometimes you get bit by it but you live and you die by it. But squibbers up the middle, you gotta live with it. Those are better than bombs but you gotta take the good with the bad.”

The decision to start Cloney on Friday was made in the morning after he threw a bullpen on Wednesday.

“Threw a pen Wednesday, felt great. Came out today and felt great too,” Cloney said. “I wouldn’t be able to pitch if I couldn’t throw a pen. That’s one thing that’s unspoken here, and once the pen went well it was kind of a no-brainer to start today. Everything was normal and felt great.”

Arizona would win this one 5-4 to even the series at one game apiece.

The final pitch of the night for Cloney was the lone extra-base hit he gave up on the night, an RBI double down the right field line. Cameron Ming came on and allowed both inherited runners to score on long sac flies to center and left, resulting in Cloney’s three charged earned runs.

Ming also hit two batters, but struck out Matthew Dyer to get out of the jam and preserve Arizona’s 5-3 run at the time.

After a perfect eighth for Ming, things got interesting in the ninth. The lefty from Phoenix hit his third batter of the game, and that guy would score on an RBI double by Jake Bennett. That brought in former Oregon signee Cody Deason to try and get the save.

“I have a lot more in my life to be concerned about than Cameron Ming,” Johnson responded when asked if the three hit batters worried him. “I wish he was my son. He’s a competitor and I’m sure we’ll get into an argument about me taking him out of the game and I love that about him.”

“Maybe he’s trying to do a little too much to help the team, but I love that about him,” Johnson continued. “We’ll get that channeled, but we’re not where we are this season or last season without him. You could make a case that he’s been the most valuable player over the last year and a half, and that’s saying a lot.”

Deason immediately hit the fifth Oregon batter of the night, but a flyout to right and a groundball to third base to seal the deal.

How did the Wildcats get to five? Well, four Oregon errors certainly helped that cause. Two of Arizona’s five runs on the night were unearned, but you could make the case that they were all unearned if not for arbitrary baseball scoring rules.

“Freebie war man,” Johnson joked about the errors. “That’s the hallmark of Arizona baseball. We want to take as much of that as we can to create opportunities and limit opportunities.”

U of A put two runs up in the first, but they came thanks to a throwing error by the shortstop. The Wildcats loaded the bases with the first three batters of the game, and it appeared Oregon had gotten out of it unscathed by forcing a taylor made double play with one out.

But the throw got away, allowing Cal Stevenson and Alfonso Rivas to score.

A two-out rally in the fifth allowed the Wildcats to get out in front 5-0.

With Stevenson on base, a two-out intentional walk to JJ Matijevic brought up Mitchell Morimoto.

He singled to right, Stevenson rounded third hard, and when the catcher got the ball, he fired down to third. The throw would have had Stevenson if it were on target, but instead it shorthopped the bag and skipped into left field, plating Stevenson and putting Matijevic and Morimoto in scoring position.

“With two outs, we’re going to roll the dice 99% of the time and send the runner instead of waiting for another base hit,” said Johnson. “So it was a good job by him; I was down the line and he was going full speed ahead. It was a weird play...he would’ve been out by a hundred feet so it was a good job by him pulling the breaks, get back, and we got a break.”

“Again, you have to get a little lucky sometimes and we got a little lucky today.”

So Nick Quintana came up and made it 5-0 at the time with a two-run single to left.

“I feel like he just kept competing,” Johnson said of Quintana, who had been just 1-for-7 with 4 Ks against Oregon before this hit. “He’s just very mature and he takes his approach not based on success or failure, but being ready for the opportunity, and he was ready for that opportunity.”

One other thing to note from this game was Cesar Salazar playing a day after he got spiked at home plate on a collision play.

“He’s okay,” Johnson said. “I was concerned about it. That’s a tough play at the plate and I’m proud of him for holding onto the ball. He’s tough but he was giving a little body language that he wasn’t feeling good. I woke up and probably woke him up by texting him.”

Cloney had a more light-hearted reasoning for Salazar’s misfortune.

“He takes a lot of beating back there, but he’s a warrior,” Cloney said. “For him to play today it wasn’t a surprise to any of us. He had little cuts on his hand, but we always joke that he’s got the worst tape job in the Pac and that’s why he got hurt, so maybe he’ll fix his tape job and he won’t get hurt.”

“He does (it himself) and we give him a hard time for it every day,” Cloney continued. “We have an athletic trainer that can tape very well so I don’t know why he doesn’t use his resources but he’s gonna do what he needs to do.”

These two teams meet in the rubber match of this series at Noon PT on Saturday. RHP Isaiah Carranza will take the mound for Oregon. Arizona is still undecided, but LHP Rio Gomez is the most likely candidate based on past weekends.

Pac-12 Baseball Standings

Team Conference record Overall record
Team Conference record Overall record
Oregon State Beavers 27-3 46-4
Stanford Cardinal 19-9 38-14
UCLA Bruins 18-10 29-24
Arizona Wildcats 15-12 36-17
California Golden Bears 13-14 23-28
Washington Huskies 13-15 27-25
Utah Utes 12-15 24-24
Oregon Ducks 11-17 29-24
Washington State Cougars 10-18 24-27
Arizona State Sun Devils 8-19 23-29
USC Trojans 7-21 20-33