Homefield advantage is a very real thing in college baseball, and Arizona has one of the best edges in the country. With another Pac-12 sweep in the books, the Wildcats’ chances of starting out the postseason at Hi Corbett Field are looking very good.
Arizona hit four home runs in an 11-2 win over Washington on Sunday afternoon, sweeping a third consecutive conference foe at home. The Wildcats (35-13, 19-8) wrapped up the home portion of their league schedule at 13-2, their best mark of the Pac-10/12 era.
“I’ve always viewed this place as a special place and a unique homefield advantage,” UA coach Jay Johnson said. “Over the five and a half or six years, whatever, that we’ve been here I think it’s proved that and I don’t think this year is any different.
Sunday’s win was the “easiest” of the three against last-place Washington (17-27, 3-18) yet still saw Arizona trailing earlier. The Huskies scored a run in the first and starting pitcher Stefan Raeth held the Wildcats hitless until Donta’ Williams led off the fourth with a single.
Branden Boissiere followed with a 2-run home run off the batter’s eye in center field, breaking out of a 1 for 24 slump in the process.
“I was here at 8 o’clock, did some work in the cages hitting, trying to just fix my swing and feel my barrel,” said Boissiere, who said he never let himself get down during the slump. “I’d say my old self would get frustrated with that.”
Ryan Holgate added a solo homer in the fourth, then Arizona added four runs in the sixth that included a 3-run homer from Jacob Berry, his team-best 13th of the season, to move him past teammate Daniel Susac for the Pac-12 lead with 58 RBI. Tony Bullard added a solo shot in the seventh, his first since May 4, 2019.
That date was also the last time Arizona had won a game in a walkoff prior to Friday’s 17-16, 10-inning victory. It was also the last time junior right-hander Gila Luna earned a win before Sunday, when he came on for starter Austin Smith in the third and through a career-best four innings.
“My biggest thing was next pitch,” said Luna, who allowed two hits and a walk with three strikeouts. “I didn’t really focus on how I was feeling, I didn’t really focus on how many innings I was going.”
Luna was one of 10 UA players who graduated this week, adding to the distractions the team faced in preparing for Washington. But Johnson believes those struggles, including the marathon Friday game and then an 11 a.m. start Sunday after a Saturday night tilt are all things that could occur during the postseason.
“Friday’s game was like ‘wow, like oh my goodness that was amazing, it’s going to be hard to go to sleep tonight, it’s going to be hard to bounce back,’” Johnson said. “But in the NCAA Tournament you’re going to play a good team, you’re gonna have a tough win and then you’re going to have to immediately reset and be ready to go the next day. And then when last night was over we approached it like, hey, to win a regional you have to win three games, at least, so we have to do that again. And it was a day game after a night game, there’s different distractions. They’ve done a good job of managing distractions all year long, but we did kind of dry-run that scenario and I thought they handled it really well.”
Picked as one of 20 potential NCAA Tournament host sites on Friday, Arizona has seven games remaining with four of those at Hi Corbett. But it’s next weekend’s series at Oregon State that could determine if the Wildcats not only host the first weekend of the NCAA tourney but also get one of the top eight seeds, which would mean hosting Super Regionals.
“Doing it in this ballpark gives us a really good advantage,” Johnson said.
Before going to OSU, though, Arizona hosts New Mexico State on Tuesday. The Wildcats beat the Aggies 11-4 at Hi Corbett on April 20.