Arizona baseball’s NCAA Tournament hopes are still alive.
On the heels of a weekend series against USC that was cut short due to bad weather, the Wildcats (25-24, 12-14) claimed two crucial RPI victories on Monday night when they swept a doubleheader against Sam Houston State at Hi Corbett Field.
Going up against a Bearkats’ squad who came into the doubleheader with a RPI of 55, the Wildcats won the first game 14-7 behind a complete game from Avery Weems, before taking the second game by a score 16-2.
The sweep got Arizona’s record back over .500 and meant they have won four games in a row and seven of their last eight.
More importantly, it boosted the Cats’ RPI from 67th in the country all the way to 58th.
Any other result likely would have ended the small hope the Wildcats had of receiving a postseason invite, though they probably still need to sweep Penn State and Washington State in their final six games to keep those chances alive. All six are on the road, where Arizona is just 4-14 this season.
If the UA were to win out, they would finish 31-24 overall, 15-14 in the Pac-12 and 10-14 on the road, marks just good enough to warrant a look from the selection committee.
“We’re going to go enjoy the opportunity,” head coach Jay Johnson said of the looming season-defining road trip, “we’re going to keep trying to grow the team and just see what we can make of it.”
After a rough start in game one against Sam Houston State, when he allowed three runs in the top of the first inning, Weems simply dominated the Bearkats in his last start at Hi Corbett.
The senior righty threw a complete game, setting career highs in both strikeouts (7) and innings pitched (9) and at one point retired 17 straight batters before being roughed up a little bit in his last inning.
Arizona led 14-3 before he surrendered four runs in the top of the ninth.
Johnson went out to the mound after the Bearkats got those runs back, but opted to leave Weems in to finish the job.
“When he came out to visit me he asked me what I wanted to do,” Weems said of the mound visit from his skipper, “I told him I wanted to finish it and he kind of pounded on my chest a little bit and told me I could do it and just to take it one pitch at a time and that’s what I did. I’m glad to end it on a note like that.”
Dayton Dooney was the offensive star on the night for Arizona. The freshman finished with a home run and five RBIs in the first game of the doubleheader.
Cameron Cannon and Branden Boissiere each finished with two RBIs as well, while Nick Quintana, Austin Wells and Tony Bullard drove in a run apiece. Boissiere hit his second HR of the season in the win, while Cannon hit his 26th double of the year, the most in college baseball.
Game two got off to a weird start for the Wildcats, as their starting pitcher, Gil Luna, didn’t record a single out before being taken out. The diminutive lefty was removed after issuing a walk to lead off the game and firing multiple pitches over the catcher’s head and into the backstop.
However, George Arias Jr. pitched well when he relieved Luna and the freshman picked up his first win of the season after throwing four scoreless innings issuing just three hits and a walk.
Dooney again shined at the plate in game two, smacking a grand slam off the Terry Francona Hitting Center and finishing with four RBIs in the game.
That ball is smacked right into TFHC and it's a GRAND SLAM from @DaytonDooney!! The freshman has 9 RBI tonight alone! Cats plate seven in the second— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) May 14, 2019
Bot 2 | Arizona 8, SHSU 0 pic.twitter.com/N0J2o0QbQJ
He finished with nine RBIs in the doubleheader.
“It was just one of those days,” Dooney said afterwards with a laugh.
The Preseason All-American duo of Cannon and Quintana had a strong second games also, posting four and three RBIs, respectively. Boissiere chipped in with another two RBIs, while Donta Williams and Justin Wylie had one each as well.
Cannon went yard in the bottom of the first inning to open the scoring.
The combination of Zach Sherman, Cameron Haskell and Jonathan Guardado worked the last three innings to seal the sweep of the Bearkats.
The doubleheader represented the last home games of the season for Arizona, who are now 94-30 at the friendly confines of Hi-Corbett Field since Jay Johnson took over as head coach – good for a .758 winning percentage.
The Wildcats finished 2019 with a home record of 21-10.
First pitch against Penn State is scheduled for Thursday at 3:30 p.m. MST.
Here is Arizona baseball head coach, Jay Johnson, after yesterday’s sweep of a doubleheader against Sam Houston State:Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Here is Arizona baseball pitcher, Avery Weems, after yesterday’s sweep of a doubleheader against Sam Houston State:Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Tuesday, May 14, 2019