HOUSTON, TX — All it took was getting into the opponent’s bullpen.
The Arizona Wildcats had their hot offensive start smothered by Houston Cougars pitching through the first 16 innings of their three-game set, but after a furious finish to Saturday night’s loss, the bats caught fire again on Sunday.
Arizona (6-2) hopped on their plane back to Tucson with a 9-4 win under their belts thanks to a seven-run fifth.
It started with a Justin Wylie walk, who then moved to second on a sac bunt by Dayton Dooney.
This turned the lineup over, and Matt Fraizer really got the rally jump started with a single through the left side, giving Arizona a 3-1 lead at the time.
After advancing to second on the throw home, Fraizer went on to steal third when the Cougar pitcher forgot to look him back. Cameron Cannon walked, setting up a runners on the corners situation for Nick Quintana.
The junior third baseman, who doesn’t bunt too often, actually called the bunt himself before stepping up to the plate.
“(Coach Johnson) actually came up to me when they had a meeting on the mound,” Quintana explained. “He was like ‘Hey, what do you wanna do?’ and I’m like let’s put it down right here.”
It paid off, as it was a perfect roller down the line, allowing everyone to advance safely, including Fraizer, scoring his second run of the game.
“It was probably the best bunt I’ve ever put down too cuz I beat it out at first,” Quintana laughed. “It was cool. It was more along the lines of you just got to get it down for the run to score. But when I got it down and I kind of saw the pace of it and how close it was to the line I was like I gotta have a hard 90 here. If I’m safe, awesome, and if I’m not the run scores.”
“It’s not something we’re looking to do all the time,” coach Johnson added. “He’s running a little better than he has in his career too.”
Austin Wells followed that with a walk, which was the last batter Houston starter Lael Lockhart Jr. would face on the day. And an early trip to the bullpen is exactly what the doctor ordered for the struggling Wildcats.
Matthew Dyer walked, which brought up pinch-hitter Tate Soderstrom with the bases loaded. A night after hitting his first collegiate home run, Soderstrom pounded a double down the right field line, scoring two and breaking this one open. That put Arizona up 7-1.
Two more runs would score in the inning thanks to a Ryan Holgate single that was scalded up the middle, and a nice bunt by Wylie which led to a throwing error by the pitcher.
Dyer and Quintana both had RBI hits in the first inning as well, which seemed to give Arizona the confidence it needed to come up with a salvaged game.
“I think we feed off how we do in the first inning,” Quintana said. “For (Fraizer) to get on like that and get in scoring position right away was exciting. And then to actually get him across home plate is even better. The energy was there and it was fun.”
Arizona returns to action on Wednesday when they host the New Mexico Lobos at Hi Corbett Field. First pitch is schedule for 6 PM MST.