After enduring one of the worst losses of the Jay Johnson era on Friday night, Arizona baseball responded in a big way on Saturday, when they defeated Utah 8-0 in the second game of a three-game series at Hi Corbett Field.
The victory was a major statement from the Wildcats, who rode a complete game shutout from starting pitcher Quinn Flanagan and some solid defense to bounce back after being embarrassed by the Utes 21-10 in their conference opener Friday.
“I’m not surprised, but I’m encouraged,” UA head coach Jay Johnson said of his team’s resiliency. “We have a lot of guys going through this deal for the first time and there’s a lot of things going on, that sometimes you don’t want to play through, but you have to. I thought tonight was a good sign.”
Arizona’s offense gave their embattled pitching staff a huge boost early in the contest, when their two Preseason All-Americans, Cameron Cannon and Nick Quintana, hit back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the first inning to give the Cats a 3-0 lead.
After Donta Williams leadoff with a walk, Cannon took one deep over the wall in right-center, before Quintana followed up with a powerful opposite field shot of his own.
It was Cannon’s third homer of the season and Quintana’s first.
“It gave us a lot of momentum early in the game,” Cannon said. “I know it was a big moment for Quintana, getting the first one out of the way. So, I’m really happy for him.”
The two homers came after Flanagan got out of a huge jam in the top of the first inning, when he froze Briley Knight with curveball to get a strikeout to end the frame and strand runners on the corners.
Keeping the Utes from jumping out to a first-inning lead, like they did in game one, was key in the Wildcats getting back on track after being demolished on Friday.
“To get out of that with no runs really set the tone for me the rest of the game,” Flanagan said of the jam in the first. “I was able to build off that and pretty much ride it the rest of the way.”
Once Flanagan was able to get out of trouble in the first, the back-to-back homers in the bottom of the inning kept the momentum rolling for Arizona and they never looked back from there.
The Wildcats added four more runs in the third inning, after Matt Dyer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, Jacob Blas hit into a fielder’s choice to score another run and Matt Fraizer doubled in his team-best 23rd and 24th RBI of the season to extend the lead to 7-0.
When Cannon hit his second home run of the night in the fifth inning, making it 8-0, the game was effectively over.
The eight runs of support were more than enough for Flanagan, who was masterful on the night. He allowed only six hits and three walks while throwing 115 pitches. It was a sublime performance that Johnson called “one of the best that I’ve seen on this field.”
Coming off the 21-10 defeat in their Pac-12 opener, this all-around team win was much needed for Arizona. They finally put it all together with solid showings on all fronts: offense, defense and piotching. It was the first game in over two weeks in which the Wildcats did not make an error.
The Cats are now 11-7 on the season, 1-1 in conference play and 5-5 on their current homestand.
Arizona will look to take the series in Sunday’s rubber match against the Utes, scheduled for 1 p.m. MST.
Here is Arizona baseball head coach Jay Johnson, after tonight’s bounce-back 8-0 win over Utah:Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Saturday, March 16, 2019