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Arizona baseball recap: Wildcats complete three-game sweep of USC with 8-1 Sunday victory

Still undefeated at home

Mitchell Morimoto and Sergio Brown look for signs at first base
Jason Bartel

Brooms please.

The Arizona Wildcats are still undefeated at home in 2017 after taking out the USC Trojans 8-1 on Sunday afternoon, completing the three-game sweep.

This moves the Wildcats to 5-4 in Pac-12 play and drops USC to 4-5. It also makes Arizona 16-0 at home this year.

For the first two-plus innings, Arizona wasn’t really able to make solid contact with any of Trojan starting pitcher Marrick Crouse’s pitches. The only run came after a Mitchell Morimoto walk in the second inning. Louis Boyd ended up driving him in.

A hard RBI single by Morimoto in the third ended Crouse’s day after just 2 23 innings, as Dan Hubbs went to his bullpen earlier than he probably needed to.

Cesar Salazar was the first batter of reliever Austin Manning’s day, and lined a pitch to Brady Shockey in left field. Shockey misjudged the ball horribly though, and Salazar ended up with an RBI double to make the game 3-0.

Kyle Lewis kept the Manning welcome party going with a liner right back up the box, scoring Salazar.

The inning finally came to an end with a long flyout to dead center by Cal Stevenson.

All of these runs added to Arizona’s streak of scoring nine straight runs with two down in the inning. The team scored all five of Saturday’s runs on their final out of the frame. On Sunday, the Wildcats were 6-for-14 when batting with two outs.

“With two outs you just gotta be a grinder up there,” Lewis explained. “Two outs, two strikes, just trying to work the count, get a barrel on a ball, hit it hard and low, and usually good things happen. We’ve been doing a great job of not giving in on any at bats, not giving up on any innings.”

“Say we had a quick first and second outs, we always find ways to get that third guy on base and get him over,” continued Lewis. “And it just kind of has a snowball effect almost.”

Morimoto’s ultra-productive day continued in the fifth. After drawing a lead-off walk, he advanced to second on a Salazar bunt, then scored on a Lewis single through the right side.

That was Morimoto’s third run of the day, putting Arizona up 5-0 at the time.

“I think I was just able to get on base and follow Coach Johnson’s plan of taking pitches,” Morimoto explained. “They like to hit the corners and make you expand the zone and it’s just getting your pitch. That was a big part of our gameplan and that really helped us.”

Recently, Morimoto has been hitting in the six-hole instead of the one- or two-hole like he had started the season. But he says it’s business as usual in that particular spot.

“Not really,” he said if he has a different approach. “I mean I come up in spots with more runners on down there so I need to drive in runs rather than just reach base. But the mentality’s always kinda the same. Get your pitch, stay in the zone, square up the ball.”

The Wildcats were able to score three more runs in that inning thanks to another walk as well as some other things. The first three times through the order, 6-9 in the Arizona lineup had just one unproductive out. Morimoto, Salazar, Lewis, and Boyd were a combined 6-of-7 at the plate, walking four times and a sac bunt on top of it in the first five innings.

“We have a beautiful $750,000 scoreboard, and I’m kinda looking up to see who was doing what and there was a point where the dudes weren’t doing a whole lot but everyone else was,” Jay Johnson said of that performance. “It’s great to win a game like that.”

“Absolutely,” Johnson added when asked if it’s almost impossible to beat Arizona when that happens.

“Those top of the lineup guys have been carrying us all year,” Lewis added. “It just shows that we can score runs in a lot of different ways.”

Arizona also walked nine times on Sunday compared to just one strikeout.

Rio Gomez got the start on the mound for Arizona, and much like Randy Labaut on Saturday, struggled at the start.

USC was able to get two runners on in each of the first two innings, but didn’t take advantage either time.

This allowed Gomez to settle in a bit. The lefty ended up throwing five innings of five-hit baseball, walking one and striking out one along the way.

Michael Flynn, who had been warming up in the bullpen off-and-on since the first inning, finally took over in the sixth after Gomez had thrown 92 pitches. He had no issues in the sixth, but ran into a little bit of trouble in the seventh.

He hit USC leadoff hitter David Edson with a pitch, then gave up a seeing-eye grounder up the middle by Brandon Perez.

After getting to a 2-0 count against the next batter, Flynn was visited on the mound by an Arizona trainer, and was removed for Cameron Ming.

“Forearm deal,” Coach Johnson explained after the game. “Not sure, but there was no pop or anything like that. Any type of deal like that we’re going to be extra careful and we’ll see where we are.”

“We went out because he was going pretty good there and the last two pitches he didn’t look very good.”

As Flynn walked back to the dugout, he didn’t bring his hand up above his waist until he flung his hat to the ground in disgust as he walked down the stairs.

Ming walked that first batter after inheriting a 2-0 count to load the bases, but induced a liner to JJ Matijevic at first base, who fired to second for the double play, ending the threat and keeping the Trojans off the scoreboard.

USC would score its first run of the day on a Corey Dempster home run to left field to start the 8th. Dempster had been 1-for-12 on the weekend before that blast. He had been hitting .325 on the year before his trip to Tucson.

Landon Faulkner pitched the ninth for Arizona. He allowed one baserunner but still kept the Trojans to just one run.

The Wildcats return to action on Tuesday night when they host the Arizona State Sun Devils at Hi Corbett for a single, non-conference matchup. First pitch is scheduled for 7 PM PT.