Arizona baseball got back to winning ways when they defeated the Wisconsin-Milwaukee Panthers 14-6 at Hi Corbett Field on Friday night.
The win, which brought the Wildcats to 7-3 on the season, was UA head coach Jay Johnson’s 200th as a Division I head coach.
After a heartbreaking loss to New Mexico on Wednesday, the runaway victory in the first of a three-game series against the Panthers was a testament to the Wildcats’ mental toughness and grit.
To be able to rebound as quickly as Arizona did, after such a tough defeat to the Lobos just two nights prior, was impressive.
“We needed that win,” Johnson said afterwards.
The Wildcats rode a strong outing from their bullpen and a solid all-around hitting performance to bounce back in the blowout over Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Arizona’s three relief pitchers didn’t allow a run in their 4.2 innings of work, as Nate Brown, Zach Sherman and Jonathan Guardado combined to stifle the Panther bats.
While offensively, every Wildcat in the starting lineup registered a hit, in what was an all-around impressive team performance at the plate. Six different Arizona hitters finished with two RBI on the night.
Despite looking solid for most of his start, Arizona’s starting pitcher, ace Randy Labaut, finished with an uncharacteristically bad stat line after he was removed in the fifth inning.
The big Cuban lefty looked solid early on against the Panthers, allowing only one run and racking up four strikeouts through the first four innings, but he came apart in the fifth, when Wisconsin-Milwaukee scored five runs off of the Wildcats’ starter.
Labaut was removed with one out in the inning and runners on second and third, and after those two came around to score off of Brown, the score was tied 6-6. All six runs were charged to Labaut.
His final line of eight hits, six earned runs, zero walks and four strikeouts was much uglier than the actual performance.
“I thought he pitched well the first time through the order,” Johnson said, “it just seemed like he was up in the zone tonight.”
Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s big fifth inning erased an early 6-1 Arizona lead.
The Wildcats started their scoring in the bottom of the second, when Donta Williams hit a sacrifice fly and Tate Soderstrom drove in two runs to put Arizona up 3-0.
In the next inning, Arizona took advantage of some wild pitching and poor defense from the Panthers to add to their lead. It was 5-1 after Austin Wells singled in Ryan Holgate, and Quintana came around to score on a dropped strike three that got away from the catcher.
Leadoff man, Matt Fraizer then hit a solo shot in the bottom of the fourth to make it 6-1.
It was all Arizona after Milwaukee-Wisconsin’s big inning tied the game at 6-6 in the top of the fifth inning.
The Wildcats answered immediately in the bottom of the fifth when Matt Dyer singled in Williams to restore their lead at 7-6. They busted the game open with a fun run inning of their own in the sixth.
Four of the five runs Arizona scored in the inning came as a result of the Panthers’ pitching struggles, as the Wildcats scored runs on a hit by pitch, two walks with the bases loaded and a wild pitch.
Two more runs in the seventh sealed the 14-6 victory for Arizona.
“I don’t look at it as an individual accomplishment,” Johnson said of his 200th Division 1 win. “It’s just a combination of a lot of good players and a lot of good coaches.”
Brown got the win for the Wildcats, who are back in action against Wisconsin-Milwaukee Saturday at 6 p.m. MST.