In a normal season, a series opener in mid-March would easily draw four figures worth of fans to Hi Corbett Field. But under the circumstances, having anybody in the crowd was a welcome return to some semblance of normalcy.
An announced crowd of 583 saw the Arizona Wildcats beat Wichita State 8-5 on Thursday night at Hi Corbett in the first UA home sporting event with fans in more than a year.
“It was so great to see some of the fans that love Arizona baseball,” UA coach Jay Johnson said. “It felt really normal. It’s really awesome to be able to share this team with the community.”
With the lineup board in the concourse still listing Houston—Arizona’s last opponent with fans, last March—the Wildcats (11-2) won their 10th straight game thanks to clutch hitting and a stellar performance from starting pitcher Chase Silseth.
Arizona had 12 hits, seven coming with two outs, and hitting .400 with runners on base and .353 with runners in scoring position. The Wildcats scored five times in the bottom of the third, all with two outs, sending 11 to the plate overall to take a 5-0 lead. They had five hits in that half inning, though four never left the infield, as well as two walks.
“I thought we hit several hard balls with runners on base,” Johnson said.
Ryan Holgate got the scoring started with a two-out single that ate up Wichita’s second baseman, nearly hitting him the throat, bringing home Tony Bullard. Two batters later Jacob Berry hit a hot shot to first base that went off the fielder and scored Donta’ Williams and Holgate.
Mac Bingham then brought home Branden Boissiere on a bunt up the third base line, with the fifth run coming in on a fielder’s choice after Kobe Kato beat the throw to second.
Wichita scored twice in the fourth on a fielding error by Williams, who let what would have been an inning-ending flyout go off the top of his glove. Arizona got those runs back in the fifth thanks to a 2-out Wichita error that was followed by RBI singles from Williams and Bullard.
Berry, Holgate and Williams each had three hits, while Boissiere walked three times to extend his on-base streak to 34 games.
Silseth improved to 3-0 with seven innings of five-hit ball, allowing one earned run and striking out six with zero walks. It was a strong bounceback performance for the sophomore right-hander, who allowed 10 runs in 4.1 innings last week against Oklahoma in Frisco, Texas.
“I was really pleased with Chase responding in the fashion that he did,” Johnson said.
Quinn Flanagan allowed two runs in 1.1 innings before Preston Price closed it out with a pair of strikeouts (in between a run-scoring wild pitch) for his second save.
Arizona and Wichita play the second of three games at 6 p.m. MST Friday at Hi Corbett. A limited number of tickets are available online.