Down 4-3 entering the bottom of the ninth, the Arizona Wildcats were perilously close to dropping their seventh consecutive Pac-12 game.
After Matt Fraizer worked a pinch-hit walk, and Louis Boyd grounded into a spectacular fielder’s choice, Cal Stevenson came up as the game’s winning run with one out and his brand new walkup song ‘Snow’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers blaring over the Hi Corbett speakers.
And he snowed the field with pieces of baseball as he blasted a first pitch fastball over the right field fence. Then he topped it off with an enormous bat flip.
“Just on deck I got a good look at him and what he was throwing, so I wanted to go up there and look for a fastball that I could really handle and drive,” Stevenson said afterwards. “He left a fastball right over the plate and I put my best swing on it.”
“I shouldn’t have done that,” he added about the bat flip. “That was pretty bad.”
“Once he hit it I think I bat flipped the same time he did,” Jared Oliva, who was on deck at the time, said of his reaction. “It was just awesome. It was well deserved. You can do whatever you want when you hit that walk off.”
Even though the ball was absolutely belted, Stevenson can certainly thank the record-setting heat Tucson experienced on Friday.
“One of the fans just told me it’s lucky it was a hot night because Sunday’s gonna be cold,” Stevenson said. “So luckily it was a hot night, hot day. Ball carried outta here pretty well...I’ll take it.”
Cal Stevenson talks about his walkoff homer pic.twitter.com/KNr8NqJmxv— AZ Desert Swarm (@azdesertswarm) May 6, 2017
This was Arizona’s first walk-off home run since Rob Refsnyder did it on March 30th, 2011 against New Mexico, making this the first walk-off bomb for the Wildcats in the Hi Corbett era.
Even though momentum in baseball relies on the next day’s starter, this one might give the Wildcats a little juice.
“It seemed like all these other games, it seemed like we just can’t get that big hit, but obviously Cal executed that tonight,” Oliva explained.
“It’s been a tough go on the wrong side of those things, and I thought throughout the game we had done enough to earn our win even though the score wasn’t showing that until the very end,” head coach Jay Johnson added. “I’m really happy for them. It was a good team in our dugout tonight.”
Arizona started JC Cloney in the first game of a weekend series for the first time in over a month. His final line wound up being: 6 IP, 6 H, 4 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 3 K. 61 of his 91 pitches were strikes.
“I thought he was great,” Johnson said about Cloney’s outing. “He was very business-like, very workman-like. It was great to get it setup where he pitched the first game of the weekend.”
“Obviously it’s nice to have him back on Friday nights healthy and stuff,” Oliva added. “It’s definitely good because we all know he’s gonna put up a quality outing every time he gets up there. He’s always going to give us a chance to win.”
The Wildcats started their scoring in the third inning after falling behind 2-0.
After taking a pitch off the plate that was called for a strike, Oliva adjusted, fouling one off that was coming in the same spot to stay alive.
On the next pitch, he ripped a single up the middle, scoring Lewis and Boyd, and tying the game up at two.
Jared Oliva delivers a 2-RBI base hit to tie up the game at 2!https://t.co/cylJ1id91y— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 6, 2017
“He didn’t really stay in the middle of the plate,” Oliva said about Washington ace Noah Bremer’s ability to use the outside corner to right-handed hitters. “Credit to him but we had to have a little bit of an adjustment to make that pitch more middle.”
“I moved closer to home plate to kind of take away that outer half,” added Oliva about the adjustment he made. “We knew to righties he would stay outer half so I scooted closer to the plate to make that outside pitch maybe middle out now so I could put a good swing on it.”
Two innings later, Alfonso Rivas gave Arizona the lead with an RBI single.
The Wildcats’ lead would be short-lived.
UW leadoff hitter Levi Jordan hit a single to right center to start the top of the sixth.
The Huskies tied the game pitches later after another single by Jack Meggs. However, when Stevenson tried to get Jordan at third, the ball bounced over Nick Quintana, allowing the Huskies to score a run when the ball hit off the top of the dugout.
VIDEO: Jordan scores on a Meggs hit and E9. https://t.co/1yxpci3Qqz— UW Baseball (@UW_Baseball) May 6, 2017
Cloney walked MJ Hubbs after this, which brought up cleanup hitter Joey Morgan. After fouling off six or seven pitches, Morgan lifted a pitch to deep left, giving the Huskies the lead.
VIDEO: Morgan's sac fly gives UW a 4-3 lead https://t.co/HmnaXaWJry— UW Baseball (@UW_Baseball) May 6, 2017
Michael Flynn would hold UW scoreless in the 7th and the 8th, setting up the Wildcats to try and tie the game up in the bottom of the 8th.
Reliever Greg Minier took over for Bremer to start the at bat. Rivas started the inning with a fly out to left, and it appeared JJ Matijevic popped up to the shortstop, but somehow the ball fell in no-man’s land, allowing him to reach on a single.
A ground out to third advanced Matijevic to second, and brought up pinch-hitter Ryan Haug, who hit in place of Salazar with a lefty on the mound.
11 pitches later, Haug drew a walk, chasing Minier and bringing in Leo Nierenberg.
It was a freshman-on-freshman battle with Nierenberg facing Quintana. The UW rookie won the battle though, using the night’s extremely wide strike zone to his advantage, getting Quintana looking.
Then the ninth inning happened. Rio Gomez came on to get the final two outs for Arizona and keep it a one-run deficit to setup that walk-off dramatics.
These two teams square off again on Saturday night at 7 PM PT. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Arizona and Washington. Cameron Ming will start for the Wildcats. He’ll face Washington’s Jordan Jones.
Pac-12 Baseball Standings
|Team||Conference record||Overall record|
|Team||Conference record||Overall record|
|Oregon State Beavers||27-3||46-4|
|California Golden Bears||13-14||23-28|
|Washington State Cougars||10-18||24-27|
|Arizona State Sun Devils||8-19||23-29|