LUBBOCK, Texas — In their final game of the season, the Arizona Wildcats were out of the game almost before it started.
Sam Houston State jumped out to an early 9-0 lead, and the Wildcats were never able to put a big dent in it.
But Arizona made the most out of it in the end.
It started in the bottom of the seventh, when Luke Soroko, who has been at Arizona for four years and rehabbed from Tommy John surgery, came trotting in from the left field bullpen.
He would record two outs without allowing a run before Jay Johnson came out to the mound to replace him in the 8th.
And after the hug from his coach, Soroko gave way to fellow senior Austin Schnabel, who recorded the final two outs of the season for the Arizona pitching staff.
“Those guys have meant a lot to this program,” Kyle Lewis, another senior, said after the game about Soroko and Schnabel. “They’ve been here a long time, a lot of hours in the weight room, a lot of hours in practice, and for them to come out and just fill it up and do what they do, it was pretty special to see.”
“Kyle and I are both transfers, so to be at the same school for four years and to be through a lot of lows at the start of their career and the highs of these past years, it’s pretty cool,” senior Louis Boyd added. “I was pretty happy to see them on the mound at the end of the game.”
“I felt like these guys invest a lot, and in Luke’s case what I would say about him is that there’s probably not a better teammate in the world,” Johnson said about Soroko. “That’s a guy that you’re going to look in the locker room and know that he’s not there because he has a big impact on it as a teammate and actually did some nice things as a pitcher.”
“And then Austin exemplified work ethic the way we want it to be,” continued Johnson on Schnabel’s influence. “He’s a weight room guy, one of the best conditioned guys, and he may have a future after this and I hope he does. I think he’s worth taking a chance on.”
Schnabel went through his hug line after the 8th, and Boyd was due up first in the top of the ninth.
Two years at Arizona, 102 starts, and in 318 career at bats, Boyd had never hit a home run.
But it was that magical 319th at bat that changed that number in his stat column.
He got a hold of a pitch and flied it out over the left field fence and into the Arizona bullpen.
“That will probably go down as the most bittersweet moment of my life,” he said. “Pretty crazy to do that but to know that’s the last time I’ll be rounding the bases...it’s tough.”
“He’s a special dude,” Johnson said. “That’s one that you wish you could have forever.”
Well, the result of the game may not have been one that any of these guys wanted, but those last two innings will be two that they can have forever.