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Arizona baseball recap: Wildcats score five in the ninth to sweep Washington series

A crazy inning to cap a big weekend

Jay Johnson and Nick Quintana meet prior to the walk-off groundball
Jason Bartel

Nick Quintana stepped to the plate late Sunday afternoon with the bases loaded and the Arizona Wildcats in the midst of a ninth inning rally.

Trailing by four runs with three outs remaining, Arizona had already plated two runs, and the winning run standing on first base.

On the fifth pitch of the at bat, Washington’s Leo Nierenberg let go a wild pitch, scoring JJ Matijevic and moving Ryan Haug, the winning run, into scoring position.

That’s when Jay Johnson utilized his offensive timeout.

“Take a deep breath,” Quintana explained of what Johnson said to him, who was 0-for-4 so far on the day. “Today didn’t go as I planned or went as I thought. He just pulled me aside and said catch your breath, relax, calm down, really see the ball, and just put something in play.”

Johnson felt this was necessary because of his history with the third baseman on the recruiting trail.

“You go watch him at Arbor View High School and there’s seven people in the stands and the pitcher’s throwing 81 MPH,” Johnson explained. “He’s played in some high-level stuff, but now at this level, this is where you’re most accountable to the team and I know he really wanted to come through for his teammates.”

“So I just wanted to get all of that off of him and I just said ‘Hey man, pretend you’re in the batting cages in the backyard in Vegas right now. Just see the ball; that’s all I want you to do.”

It was needed to calm the star freshman down a little bit.

“There’s pressure there,” continued Quintana. “Home team, bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, and a base hit could win the game. But you just gotta settle down, take a deep breath, and get a good pitch to hit.”

“He slowed it down,” Johnson added. “He laid off some tough pitches, but it’s a tough at bat and that’s all I wanted him to do right there.”

So on a full count, Quintana swung the bat, making contact with the ball, resulting in a little bouncer back to the pitcher.

“I didn’t get the greatest pitch to hit, but I thought if I didn’t swing it would’ve been a strike,” said Quintana. “I saw it go into his glove and I was like ‘Ah, didn’t really help the team win the game’ and then I was like it’s just one out, no big deal.”

Nierenberg fielded the ball, took a step towards first base, but then short-armed the throw. The ball short-hopped the first baseman, and it trickled out into the outfield.

“I’m just running up to first and see the ball going up the line and it just went from there,” Quintana recounted.

So Matt Fraizer scores easily from third after the throw got away, and Haug, who was on second, almost got stranded in no-man’s land at that point.

“I saw Haug running for third and Fraizer was on third and he wasn’t breaking so I’m like ‘Ah s—- he’s dead at second,” Matijevic explained of what he saw. “But it worked out somehow, the baseball gods helped us out, and we won.”

“I was kind of like in a weird area going towards second base just watching the play unravel,” Quintana said of his perspective.

“Best case scenario an error happened, and it did,” Matijevic tacked on.

“I don’t think that’s how anyone would want to win on a walkoff,” said Quintana “but it’s awesome. It’s a W.”

The 12-11 win moves Arizona to 12-12 in conference play this year, which is tied for fourth place.

Arizona fell behind 4-2 with a single off of Rio Gomez’s glove in the fourth.

A crazy play in the top of the fifth kept the score 4-2. With Huskies on second and third with just one out in the inning, Nick Kahle grounded sharply to Matijevic at first for the second out of the inning.

However, the runner at second went on contact, so after some thought, Matijevic threw the ball to second.

That’s when Willie MacIver took off for home from third, and, well, he did not make it home.

So what did Arizona do with this? Tie the game up, of course.

With two down in the inning, Alfonso Rivas hit a bloop single to center, which brought up Matijevic.

And then this baseball disappeared forever.

“That ball might be one of the hardest balls I’ve ever hit in this stadium for sure,” Matijevic said afterwards. “I was not expecting a home run today, but I put a great swing on that ball and I hit it really hard and I did something special with it.”

“It was a fastball in, and they’d been doing that to me all weekend, so I had a feeling it was coming, and I wasn’t going to miss this one.”

UW answered right back by scoring the first run off of Robby Medel since February 18th, which was 11 appearances ago for the junior Arizona righty.

Then in the 7th, with Arizona down 8-5 at the time, Matijevic got a flyball out and took it for a ride over the left field wall.

“I was just trying to get something up to just get that sac fly to get that run in,” Matijevic explained. “I saw it very up and I knew if I hit it that way it would go, and luckily enough the wind took it.”

That was his ninth home run of the year, more than any Wildcat hit in 2017.

“I’m just swinging at the right pitches,” he attributed to the increased power numbers. “Jay told me this year that if you swing at the right pitches you’re going to be great, and that’s something that I’ve tried to make happen this year because I tended to get myself out more than usual the past couple years.”

“I’ve been doing a really good job of just swinging at my pitch and not the pitcher’s pitch and the power’s come a long way.”

Arizona’s next game will be when they host ASU on Tuesday night at 6 PM PT. The Sun Devils had five players leave their team either by choice or kicked off by Tracy Smith this past weekend. Former Wildcat Jackson Willeford was in the group that decided to leave the program after Andrew Shaps was dismissed.

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