Teams at opposite ends of the Pac-12 standings met at Hi Corbett Field on Friday night. So, naturally, what ensued was an extra-inning nailbiter that took more than five hours to play.
Arizona scored four runs in the bottom of the 10th inning, all with two out, rallying to beat last-place Washington 17-16 in a game it could not afford to lose. The Wildcats (33-13, 17-8) were actually down to their last strike, as sophomore Tyler Casagrande—a 9th-inning defensive replacement for No. 5 hitter Ryan Holgate in right field—roped an 0-2 pitch into left-center field for a 2-run single to make it 16-15.
Daniel Susac then doubled into the gap in right-center, in doing so tied Austin Wells school freshman record with 34 RBI in Pac-12 play, to tie it at 16. Following an intentional walk to Kobe Kato and a 4-pitch free pass to Jacob Blas, Nik McClaughry singled up the middle to score Susac and walk it off.
“That’s as good a win as I’ve ever had as a coach, and I mean that sincerely,” UA coach Jay Johnson said. “If you can’t get behind this team, don’t come to the ballpark.”
The 4-run rally was Arizona’s second in the final three innings, as it scored three in the bottom of the eighth to go ahead 13-12 on a 2-out, 2-run single by Mac Bingham. That was after the Wildcats blew leads of 2-0, 5-2, and 8-5 only to give away another lead in the ninth and force extra innings.
Washington (17-25, 3-16) looked nothing like a team that had lost six in a row and hadn’t beaten a Pac-12 team since April 11. The Huskies had 19 hits, 10 against UA starter Chase Silseth, who failed to win for the first time in eight starts at Hi Corbett, and got four more in the ninth and 10th innings against closer Vince Vannelle.
UW scored three in the top of the 10th on four hits, a hit batter, a walk and a throwing error, the Wildcats’ fourth of the game. The Wildcats had runners on second and third with one out in the bottom of the 10th when Jacob Berry—who hit his 12th home run of the season in the third—struck out swinging before the next five batters reached base.
“I’m just proud of these guys,” Johnson said. “So many guys contributed tonight.”
McClaughry, who had a chance to walk it off in the ninth but struck out swinging with a runner on second, was the ninth man to bat in the 10th.
“Once we got a couple hits, like Tyler Casagrande got that hit and Daniel had the hit and I knew, okay, I might come up,” said McClaughry, who was 3 for 6 and is hitting .347 from the No. 9 spot. “I just tried to put my mindset on what kind of opportunity I’ll be in.”
McClaughry was one of five Wildcats with three hits including Susac, who celebrated his 20th birthday with three extra-base hits and four RBI. He said he knew Washington reliever Dylan Lamb was going to throw a 1-1 fastball after throwing sliders on the first two pitches.
“Daniel Susac, I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Johnson said. “That’s a pretty good birthday.”
During the game Arizona had already fallen out of a three-way tie for first place in the Pac-12 with Oregon and Stanford, by virtue of win percentage, but a loss would have dropped them three games back of the Cardinal—whom they lose two of three to last weekend in Palo Alto—in the loss column.
Instead they pulled out a game that they made multiple attempts to drop along the way, one that could have severely impacted their postseason seeding.
“I think there’s tremendous value out of that game,” said Johnson, who earlier in the week said “I’m not fooled by their results” when previewing Washington.
The Wildcats and Huskies play the second of their 3-game series at 6 p.m. PT Saturday at Hi Corbett. Arizona, which will throw lefty Garrett Irvin, has yet to lose the middle game of any Pac-12 series.