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Patient Wildcats take opener at Oregon State for historic Pac-12 win

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Whoever first coined the phrase “a walk is as good as a hit” probably had Arizona’s Friday night showing in Corvallis in mind.

The Wildcats drew 11 walks against the best pitching staff in the Pac-12, with seven of those free passes coming around to score in a 12-4 win at Oregon State.

It was the 20th victory in conference play for the Wildcats, who improved to 37-13 overall and 20-8 in the Pac-12. It’s only the third time in school history Arizona has won at least 20 conference games, the last time being in 2012 when it went on to win the program’s fourth College World Series title.

Arizona had only three hits through the first seven innings yet still had a 6-4 lead. That’s because the Wildcats loaded the bases with walks three times, bringing all three home in the fifth to take a 4-1 lead and plating two more walked baserunners in the seventh.

Five of their hits were for extra-bases, though, including solo home runs by Donta’ Williams and Tyler Casagrande and a 2-run shot by Jacob Berry. The last two bombs were part of a 6-run eighth that broke open what had been a close game until that point.

OSU (32-19, 14-11) took a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second on a wild pitch, one of five thrown by UA starter Chase Silseth, who entered the game with only five wild ones in 73.2 innings but his breaking balls kept bouncing off the artificial turf and away from catcher Daniel Susac.. The sophomore right-hander went six innings, allowing four runs and six hits with two walks and five strikeouts to improve to 8-1.

Arizona tied it in the third on Williams’ solo homer, its only hit through the first four innings. The Wildcats went up 4-1 with a 3-run fifth as their first three batters walked against OSU starter Kevin Abel, who walked five and struck out nine in five innings, then with one out Mac Bingham singled up the middle to score two and Branden Boissiere drove in another on a sacrifice fly.

OSU got a run back in the bottom of the fifth and then tied it with two runs in the sixth.

The Wildcats loaded the bases with walks again in the seventh, setting the stage for Berry to punch a 2-out, 2-run single through the left side for a 6-4 lead. A solo homer to lead off the eighth by Casagrandewho was inserted for Ryan Holgate in right field with two out in the bottom of the seventh—put the UA up 7-4, then after three more walks Boissiere cleared the bases with a 2-out double.

Boissiere, who had four RBI, has driven in 11 runs in the past eight games despite being only 3 for 32.

Berry then smashed a 2-run homer to right, his team-best 14th of the season. He had four RBI to give him 64, tops in the Pac-12, and that homer gave him a UA freshman season-record 139 total bases with at least seven games remaining.

The game was a homecoming for UA pitching coach Nate Yeskie, who spent 11 seasons at Oregon State before coming to Tucson last year, and his impact on the Wildcat pitching staff was in full effect. Relievers Randy Abshier, TJ Nichols, Riley Cooper and Dawson Netz combined to allow two hits and a hit batter with six strikeouts over the final three innings, with the UA pitchers fanning 10 in a game for the 25th time this season.

Arizona, which has not lost the middle game of a Pac-12 series this season, can clinch its eighth conference series with a win Saturday at 6 p.m. PT. The UA last won a series at OSU in 2012.