If the Arizona Wildcats end up making the trip to Omaha this season, that journey will have been fueled by an epic comeback in Corvallis.
Down 5-1 and its offense held in check for the second straight game, the UA rallied for four runs in the eighth inning and then scored the winning run in the ninth for a 6-5 victory at Oregon State on Sunday afternoon, clinching at least a share of the Pac-12 title and its first NCAA Tournament bid since 2017.
Arizona (38-13, 21-9) wrapped up league play with the second-most wins in school history, earning at least a piece of its first Pac-12 title since 2012. Oregon, which is 18-9 after losing in 12 innings at home to Stanford on Sunday, would have to win all three games at Cal next weekend to keep the UA from winning its first outright conference crown since 1992.
The UA took two of three from the Ducks at home in March, giving it the Pac-12’s automatic bid. The Wildcats seem all but assured of earning a top-8 seed for the NCAA tourney, meaning they’d get to host both regional and Super Regional games at Hi Corbett Field.
The team stayed on the field at Goss Stadium to watch the end of Oregon’s loss:
Proud! Pac 12 Champions! #Cats pic.twitter.com/pvuZzewD9I— Jay Johnson (@UACoachJ) May 23, 2021
After their bats were quiet in a 3-1 loss on Saturday night, the Wildcats had only five hits through seven innings on Sunday against OSU starter Jake Pfennigs. The Beavers (33-20, 15-12) looked like they were going to go up 7-1 in the bottom of the seventh on a 2-out, 2-run double by Wade Meckler, but Arizona appealed that Meckler missed first base and he was called out, erasing the two runs.
Arizona capitalized on the baserunning mistake by getting four straight singles to start the eighth to make it 5-3. A wild pitch brought in another run and moved Donta’ Williams to second with one out, then with two outs Kobe Kato blooped a single to short left field to tie it up. Williams, who has an 8-game hitting streak and has reached base in 38 consecutive games, was 4 for 5 with 2 RBI.
Defensive replacement Kyson Donahue, who had only eight at-bats entering the day, was hit by a pitch with one out in the ninth and moved to second on a Tanner O’Tremba groundout. No. 9 hitter Nik McClaughry then singled to right to score Donahue for his second RBI.
Senior right-hander Vince Vannelle, Arizona’s sixth pitcher used, gave up a leadoff single in the ninth—OSU got the leadoff man on in all but one inning—but then induced a groundout and struck out the final two Beavers. He had four strikeouts in his two innings of work to improve to 4-2 as the UA pitchers recorded 14 punchouts, all by relievers after opener Austin Smith was pulled after allowing two hits and a walk in the first inning.
OSU led 3-0 after the first, upped the edge to 4-1 in the third and 5-1 after four but went 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position the rest of the way.
Arizona wraps up the regular season with a 3-game nonconference series against Dixie State (23-30) beginning Thursday at Hi Corbett. The NCAA will announce the 16 regional hosts next Sunday, with the 64-team tournament field revealed on Memorial Day.