Despite being in the homestretch of a season that head coach Jay Johnson described as “mediocre” just last week, Arizona baseball has been able to put on an offensive show throughout 2019.
Regardless of their well-documented struggles on both the pitching mound and defensively, the Wildcats—who are second in the country in runs scored and 15th in the nation in total hits—have simply punished opposing pitchers all year long.
That trend continued on Friday night, when Arizona (23-24, 11-14) blew out USC 12-4 in the first of a three-game series at Hi Corbett Field.
The Wildcats finished with three home runs and a whopping 16 hits in the rout.
On the back of a deflating midweek loss to in-state rival Arizona State, it was a much-needed victory for the UA.
“I’m really proud of the effort,” Johnson said after the win. “Emotionally that was a really tough loss on Tuesday and in the midst of it all we did a really good job of getting ourselves ready to play tonight.”
The Cats’ strong offensive performance backed up a great start from Randy Labaut, who shined in what could be his last-ever home appearance at Arizona should he decide to go pro.
Labaut (6-3) got the win, allowing just four hits and three runs (two earned) in seven innings of work.
“It did actually come to mind,” the junior said when asked if he had thought about the possibility of this being his last start at Hi Corbett. “I was in the training room before the game thinking this could be the last time, but I don’t let outside noise get to me. I just pitch to my abilities.”
He did just that Friday, delivering one of his more impressive outings this year.
His seven strikeouts on the night equaled his career high.
After the big lefty struck out the side in order to start the game, the Wildcats’ bats quickly gave him a nice cushion to work with.
A Cameron Cannon RBI single that scored Donta Williams was followed by back-to-back home runs from Nick Quintana and Dayton Dooney to promptly make it 5-0 in the bottom of the first.
USC never had the lead in the game.
Quintana’s three-run blast was his team-best 12th of the season and the 32nd of his Arizona career, tied for seventh most in school history.
“I mean it’s cool,” Quintana said of the accolade, “but I don’t necessarily set goals like that.”
After USC was able to get a run back in the third, the Wildcats responded with a run of their own in the bottom of the inning via an RBI single from Ryan Holgate.
The Trojans then added another run in the fourth, making it 6-2, but RBIs from Austin Wells and Quintana in the bottom of the fourth, plus another two in the fifth, via a Cannon solo HR and another RBI from Dooney, made it 10-2 and truly blew the game open.
The Cats tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the sixth through a wild pitch and Cannon’s third RBI of the game to bring the score to 12-2.
Cannon is now batting .388 and has 45 RBI this year.
Labaut allowed another run in the top of the seventh, before Randy Abshier and Cameron Haskell came out of the bullpen to close out the game.
Abshier surrendered a run in the eighth, while Haskell worked a scoreless top of the ninth to seal the win.
It was one of the cleanest all-around performances of the season and the fourth victory in five tries for an Arizona team that only has nine games left on its schedule.
Game two against the Trojans is set for Saturday at 6 p.m. MST.