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Arizona baseball knocks off Houston in series opener

pac-12-college-baseball-tournament-2021-scottsdale-arizona-wildcats-update Photo by Peter Aiken/Getty Images

After going on the road and winning at Texas earlier this week, the Arizona Wildcats returned to Hi Corbett Field Friday night and defeated the Houston Cougars 7-1 in the first of a three-game series.

The UA (9-4) got the victory behind some excellent pitching — first from starter Garret Irvin and then out of the bullpen from freshmen Blake Peyton and Hunter Cope.

Irvin (4-0) threw 116 pitches in his start, going 6.2 innings and allowing just one run — an unearned run at that — and he struck out seven while walking none.

Coming out of the pen in the seventh, Peyton worked two scoreless innings — and aside from hitting a man, was perfect. He didn’t allow a hit or a walk in the outing, while striking out four.

In his collegiate debut, the 6’11 Cole got the last out of the game after issuing the Wildcats' only walk of the night.

Afterwards, UA head coach Jay Johnson heaped praise on his trio of pitchers.

“Outstanding performance," Johnson said. "I thought we had a good plan coming in, I thought Garrett was great, not good, great. He executed his pitches, no walks, no free passes. He really executed, changed speeds and did what he does.

“Blake Peyton was outstanding, like not just good like really good. And then it was good to get Hunter out there for the first time. So, I’m really pleased with the effort of the pitching staff tonight.”

Offensively, Arizona was led on the night by Donta Williams — who despite going 0-2 finished with three RBIs thanks to two sacrifice flies and a run-scoring groundout.

Matt Dyer hit a home run as well.

The solo shot was Dyer’s third home run of the season and also his third in the last four games.

The Wildcats took an early lead over Houston in the bottom of the second inning, scoring the first run on a bases loaded walk to Mac Bingham and the second on a Williams ground out to the Cougars’ second baseman.

Houston would get a run back in the top of the fourth — on an error by Dyer at second — but Arizona answered with runs in each of the next four innings to put the game out of reach.

Williams hit a sacrifice fly in the fifth, before Dyer’s 419-foot blast to left center field in the sixth.

Dyer is hitting .333 with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs in his last four games — but because of a slow start is still hitting just .204.

“Oh, it’s great,” Johnson said after the game of Dyer’s resurrection at the plate.

“He’s a hard worker, he loves baseball, he’s a good hitter. I mean the game is not easy and sometimes it can be tough on you and you try to do a little bit too much and you know kind of get out of your plan. I think he’s done a good job of just going back to work. I really liked the home run swing. I mean that was a very good baseball swing, he didn’t try to do too much, he was on time and on line and and got rewarded for it. Even the last ball he hit, the ground out in the ninth, was a good swing. He’s really coming back into form.”

The UA capped the scoring in the seventh, when a wild pitch allowed Jacob Blas to come across and Williams hit yet another sacrifice fly.

Game two between the Cats and the Cougars is set for Saturday evening at 4 p.m MST. Sophomore righty Quinn Flanagan is getting the start on the mound for the Wildcats.

Postgame interviews

Jay Johnson

Here’s Arizona head coach, Jay Johnson, after the Wildcats defeated Houston 7-1 tonight in the first of a three-game series at Hi Corbett Field: The UA is now 9-4 in 2020.

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, March 6, 2020

Garret Irvin

Here’s Arizona’s starting pitcher tonight, Garret Irvin, after his win against Houston: Irvin threw 116 pitches in 6.2 innings of work, allowing just five hits while walking none and striking out seven. He’s now 4-0 this season.

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Friday, March 6, 2020