After enduring a winless seven-game road trip to UCLA, San Diego State and ASU, the Arizona Wildcats got back in the win column on Friday night with a much-needed 9-3 victory over the Washington Huskies at Hi Corbett Field.
The win temporarily stopped the bleeding for a team that came into the affair under .500 and riding its worst losing streak since Jay Johnson took over as head coach 2016.
Arizona (14-14, 3-7 Pac-12) was paced on the night by the longball and a strong start on the mound from junior left-hander Randy Labaut, who threw six strong innings.
“It was good to be back at home,” Labaut said. “I had some elevated pitches that got touched a little bit but we got the dub and that’s the ultimate goal every single game.”
The Wildcats hit four home runs to back up Labaut, who allowed 11 hits, two walks and three runs while striking out four.
The first two homers came in the bottom of the first inning, when freshman Austin Wells smashed his third homer of the season to put Arizona up 2-0. Nick Quintana promptly followed up with a solo shot.
Arizona added to its lead in the third when it had back-to-back homers yet again.
Quintana blasted his second solo shot, giving him a team-best six homers for the season, off the scoreboard in left field before freshman Dayton Dooney got in on the act with a solo blast to right to make it 5-0.
“It felt really good,” Quintana said after the offensive explosion.
Labaut (3-3) worked a scoreless first four innings before he ran into some trouble in the fifth and sixth, allowing three runs in those frames.
The runs wouldn’t come back to haunt Arizona however, as the Cats added four more runs and Vince Vannelle worked three scoreless innings of relief to earn the save.
“It was a great performance on all sides of the ball,” Johnson said. “Randy set a really good tempo, I thought Vince gave us our best relief outing of the year from anyone so far and I thought there were a lot of sound at-bats all throughout the order. I was really pleased with the performance.”
Wells went 4 for 5 with three RBIs while Quintana went 2 for 3 with his two homers. After a slow start to the season, Quintana is now leading the team in both HRs (6) and RBIs (31) while Wells has the Wildcats’ highest batting average at .394.
Friday’s win laid out a formula that Arizona can try to use for the rest of the season: the Wildcats backed up yet another strong offensive performance by not making any errors against the Huskies (14-10, 5-5) and getting a shutout relief appearance from their bullpen.
It was a step in the right direction for a team that has truly struggled defensively and on the mound.
Due to the team’s struggles, Johnson refused to talk afterwards about what the win meant for the “big picture” of the season but admitted that it was a step in the right direction.
“Really we’re not in a place to look at big picture right now,” he said. “We just have to focus on the play. Tonight, I thought the play was excellent.”
Arizona and Washington meet again Saturday at 3 p.m. PT.
A win for the Wildcats would secure the series and get them back above .500 for the season.