Arizona had to use six pitchers to survive a 17-16, 10-inning marathon on Friday night, and its Sunday approach of late has been bullpen by committee.
And in between: the first complete game for a Wildcat in two years.
Garrett Irvin threw 114 pitches in allowing eight hits and a walk with six strikeouts as the UA beat Washington 4-1 before a season-high crowd of 1,858 fans at Hi Corbett Field.
Those who stuck to the end saw the junior left-hander allow two ninth-inning singles but also induce a pair of weak pop-ups and then a routine ground ball to third baseman Tony Bullard to finish off Arizona’s first complete game since Avery Weems went the distance against Sam Houston State on May 13, 2019.
“I was mostly just keeping the ball down,” said Irvin, who improved to 5-1 this season and 9-1 in his UA career. “I think I’m able to mix my pitches well, but today I think I did a better job of keeping my fastball down and my off-speed down so that even if they were in a leverage count they can’t really do anything with the pitches I’m throwing.”
UA coach Jay Johnson said Irvin induced a lot of “weak contact,” which was a big reason he opted to stick with him instead of pulling him after the seventh as he nearly did.
“I just kinda had a gut feeling, I didn’t like the swings they were getting on him, I didn’t think they were seeing the ball well,” Johnson said. “I thought he executed. I thought he put the ball where he wanted to. Once we got the lead, it really just felt like the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth happened like that.”
It didn’t hurt that Arizona’s defense had one of its best performances of the season behind him, doing so a night after it committed four errors and several other miscues in the field.
“I could not have even come close to nine innings without the defense that was behind me tonight,” Irvin said. “Yeah, we had some errors last night, but I knew coming into today that it was going to be a total opposite, and that’s exactly what happened.”
Nearly every defensive player had at least one notable grab or throw, including catcher Daniel Susac, who barehanded a fouled bunt attempt in the seventh.
“We just know we have great players on both defense and offense so we just stuck with it,” said Bullard, who also had two of Arizona’s nine hits including a 2-out, 2-run single in the third to break a 1-1 tie. It was Bullard’s first multi-RBI game since March and his first in a Pac-12 game in two years.
“He’s just continued to work every day,” Johnson said of Bullard, who at .256 is the only player in Arizona’s lineup not hitting over .300. “He’s given us a nice balance of offense and defense. Really, we don’t need him to do anything but take quality at-bats, and he did that. He did that last series against Stanford. We’re getting very comfortable with Tony coming to the plate in any situation.”
Arizona, which clinched its seventh Pac-12 series win—including every one at home—can go for a third straight conference series sweep at 11 a.m. PT Sunday. Righty Austin Smith has made the previous four Sunday starts, but regardless of who the Wildcats put out there first they’re likely to use several after the bullpen got a night off.