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Arizona baseball blasts Grand Canyon for 10th straight win, avenging earlier loss

arizona-wildcats-college-baseball-recap-grand-canyon-antelopes-hi-corbett-pac12-nichols-johnson-2021 Arizona Athletics

Time will tell if this season ends up being among the best in Arizona baseball history. Accomplishing something that arguably the program’s greatest squad was the last to do certainly helps this team’s case.

The Wildcats blew out Grand Canyon 13-2 on Tuesday night at Hi Corbett Field for their 10th straight victory. Arizona (31-11) has now won 10 in a row twice this season, something last done in 1976 when the UA won the first of four College World Series titles.

“We definitely knew we had it in us,” said freshman outfielder Mac Bingham, who was 2 for 4 with two RBI and went 14 for 31 with 11 runs scored and nine RBI since moving into the No. 3 hole at the start of the 8-game homestand. “We’re confident, we know what we’re capable of.”

Arizona, which entered the game leading Division I in batting average (.333) and on-base percentage (.435, topped the 10-run mark for the 16th time this season and seventh time during the win streak, which began in Pullman after the Wildcats lost 21-2 to Washington State. That was the tail end of a 3-game skid in which the middle setback was a 5-4 loss in 10 innings at Grand Canyon.

GCU (26-17-1) was no match this time for the UA, which scored three runs with two out in the first and never looked back. A 3-run second was highlighted by a 2-run home run from Donta’ Williams, then the Wildcats put up a 7-spot on the fifth that included a 2-run homer from Daniel Susac, a 2-run single from Mac Bingham and a 2-run triple by Jacob Berry.

Susac’s homer was his 11th, tying Berry for the team lead. They are the first Arizona freshman duo to each have at least 10 homers in a season.

Freshman left-hander Riley Cooper got his first career start and went the first two innings, allowing a run and two hits, then gave way to fellow freshman TJ Nichols, who allowed a walk and a single over 4.1 innings to improve to 4-3.

“I thought he was outstanding,” UA coach Jay Johnson said. “I thought he threw his fastball with pinpoint control, I thought he mixed speeds well with his curve ball and his change-up. I thought he completely dominated. It was great to see.”

Nichols hadn’t pitched since April 20, when he failed to make it out of the first inning against New Mexico State, a performance that came after he was sent home from a road trip with an illness. He said he’d actually been sick for more than a month.

“My body’s just kind of getting back under itself,” he said. “I think it was important just to show that I’ve still got it, and can come back from failure.”

Arizona is averaging 10.7 runs and 14.3 hits during its current win streak, but the road is about to get much tougher. The Wildcats, who are in first place in the Pac-12 with a 15-6 mark, play a 3-game set this weekend at second-place Stanford (24-9, 10-5).

The UA has won six consecutive Pac-12 series but last took one from Stanford in 2016 and hasn’t won a series in Palo Alto since 2015.

“I don’t really think the opponent is going to change their approach,” Johnson said.