After an 11-9 loss to Grand Canyon this past Tuesday had dropped Arizona baseball to 18-20 this season and extended their losing streak to four games, UA head coach Jay Johnson admitted that it was a low point of his time in Tucson.
“It’s the most disappointed I’ve been in my time as the coach here,” Johnson said after the game. “We didn’t play at a level of emotional or physical investment that it requires to be a good Division I baseball team.”
With a trip to one of the best teams in college baseball looming, the loss seemed to be an omen that Arizona’s disappointing season was about to get even worse.
Well, only three days removed from the disappointment against GCU, the Wildcats just got their best win of the 2019 season.
Arizona defeated No. 3 Stanford, 6-3, on Friday night in Stanford, California.
Arizona rode an impressive start on the mound from their ace, Randy Labaut, and strong offensive performances from Justin Wylie and Nick Quintana to take the series opener against the highly-ranked Cardinal.
Labaut (4-3) got the win on the mound after throwing 6+ strong innings.
The big lefty allowed only four hits and three runs, while striking out another four and not issuing any walks in what was one of his best starts of the year.
The lack of walks was a huge factor in the victory, as the Wildcats came into the series dead last in the Pac-12 in walks per nine innings, a fact that’s certainly contributed to the team’s near horrific season.
Without so many additional baserunners to manage, the Cats’ pitchers looked much more in control than usual this year on Friday night.
Arizona opened the scoring in the second inning, when Wylie hit a sacrifice fly to score Dayton Dooney to give the Cats an early 1-0 lead.
The UA soon extended their lead when Branden Boissierre’s first career extra-base hit drove in Dooney again to make it 2-0 in the fourth.
After a couple of 1-2-3 innings, Labaut allowed a solo home run in the bottom of the frame, cutting Arizona’s lead in half, but their multiple run lead was soon restored when Quintana crushed a two-run home run to left-center field to make it 4-1 in the top of the fifth inning.
It was “Q”’s team-best 10th HR of the season and the Wildcat’s star third baseman now has a team-high 45 RBIs to boot.
Notably, it was Matt Dyer who was on base for Quintana’s home run. Dyer had singled to extend his hitting streak to 16 games, which is Arizona’s longest hitting streak in more than three seasons.
He is also now hitting a team-best .396 - good for 10th in the entire Pac-12.
Stanford got a run back in each of the fifth and seventh innings, bringing the score to a too-close-for-comfort 4-3, before Wylie drove in two huge insurance runs in the eighth to bring the score to 6-3, ultimately sealing the victory for the Wildcats.
Wylie finished with three RBIs on the night and continued to take advantage of the additional playing time he has recieved in the wake of injuries to both Matt Fraizer and Jacob Blas.
The multidimensional Wylie started at second base on Friday.
Vince Vannelle, Avery Weems and Quinn Flanagan combined to work 2.2 scoreless innings out of the bullpen for the Cats to close out the upset.
The importance of the win shouldn’t be understated for an Arizona program who desperately needed it.
Not only was it the Wildcats’ first conference road victory of the season, but it came after a stretch of only one win in seven games and occurred against the best opponent Arizona had beaten all season.
At 19-20 overall, an NCAA Tournament appearance is still a pipe-dream at this point for sure.
Without the postseason, the year will likely be looked at as a disappointment.
A few more wins like the one on Friday night against Stanford could go a long way in making the season actually somewhat enjoyable for the entire program — coaches, players and fans alike.
Arizona and Stanford are back at it tomorrow at 5 p.m. MST.