Up 5-1 heading into the bottom of the eighth, it appeared the Arizona Wildcats were going to remain alive in the postseason by defeating the Delaware Blue Hens on Saturday in the Lubbock Regional thanks to a four-run seventh inning offensive explosion.
But a bullpen meltdown followed by a two hour, 18 minute thunderstorm delay put that on hold for awhile.
More than six hours after the game started, Alfonso Rivas hit an opposite field home run in the top of the 12th to give Arizona the 6-5 lead and ultimately keep them alive in the NCAA Tournament.
This contest started as a pitchers’ duel between Arizona lefty Cameron Ming and Delaware righty Nick Spadafino.
Ming wound up throwing 7 2⁄3 innings on the day, surrendering four hits but also walked five guys. He needed 107 pitches to get through his outing, and struck out two Blue Hens.
Michael Flynn, who threw two innings in Friday night’s loss to Sam Houston State and had not thrown on consecutive days before this, came on with the bases loaded and two down in the eighth to try and preserve the four-run lead. He did allow a two-run base hit to Jeremy Ake, but as Ake was trying to turn it into a double, Haug gunned him down at second to end the eighth.
Delaware opened the ninth with a hard hit off Flynn, but after a mound visit from Salazar, he was able to record a strikeout looking. A groundout to first was the second out of the ninth, but after a hit batter, Jay Johnson went with Tylor Megill to get the last out.
Megill could not get that out, allowing a two-run single to Jordan Glover that tied the game up at five.
When Glover “stole” second, Megill intentionally walked Calvin Scott to bring up Nick Patten.
Patten, who drove in the first Delaware run of the game, was not able to get the game-winner, flying out to deep center.
Arizona was set down in order in the top of the tenth. That’s when Johnson went with Cody Deason, game three’s presumed starter. If Deason were available, he probably should have been used in the ninth instead of Megill.
The sophomore righty struck out three Blue Hens in the bottom of the tenth, but then the lightning came.
After the delay, Arizona made a bold choice to thrown Juan Aguilera. The junior college transfer entered the day with an ERA above 7, but retired the Blue Hens in order in the 11th.
Aguilera allowed a leadoff single in the 12th and a two-out walk after Rivas’ go-ahead home run, but finished the game with a strikeout looking.
Through five innings, things remained scoreless between these two squads.
Then the sixth came rushing in, and there was finally movement on the scoreboard.
JJ Matijevic led things off with a hard single to center.
This brought up Jared Oliva, who was called upon to bunt. He did just that, dropping a perfectly placed ball down the first base line.
It was so perfect that he actually beat the throw to the bag, but was called out.
That was the last batter Spadafino faced as he gave way to lefty Colman Vila with left-handed hitters Alfonso Rivas and Cesar Salazar coming up.
Vila, who was not wearing his usual number 40 because his white home jersey was unavailable for the game, got Rivas to line out to left, but Salazar was a different story.
The sophomore catcher came up with Arizona’s first hit with runners in scoring position on the day (previously 0-for-4) by dropping a single into the outfield, allowing Matijevic to score.
Delaware wouldn’t let that lead last for very long though. A leadoff single and sac bunt of their own put a runner on second with one out for Patten. The sophomore found room in center for a run-scoring base hit, which was the Blue Hens’ first knock with runners on base (previously 0-for-3).
But the Wildcats kept the pressure on in the 7th against Vila. Nick Quintana led the inning off with a single, and was pinch-run for with Sawyer Gieseke. Vila balked on a pickoff attempt throw to first, sending Gieseke to second.
With a 1-1 count to Kyle Lewis, Delaware went to Kyle Hinton out of the bullpen. Lewis got the better of the Kyle battle, lining a double down the left field line after showing bunt to give Arizona the lead.
After a sac bunt by Louis Boyd, Cal Stevenson railed a Hinton pitch to the wall in right center to push the lead to two.
Matijevic was intentionally walked and Oliva popped up to short. But Rivas walked to load the bases for Salazar.
And the man responsible for Arizona’s first run of the game tacked on two more RBI with a single that bounded off the pitchers’ mound and into center field.
That seemed like it put the game out of reach for Delaware, but alas, the Arizona bullpen didn’t cooperate.
Arizona will play the loser of Saturday evening’s contest between Sam Houston State and Texas Tech on Sunday afternoon. That 1-1 elimination game is scheduled to start at 2 PM CT (Noon AZ time), and will be shown on WatchESPN and the ESPN app.