For most of its first five games, whether it be wins or losses, Arizona hadn’t faced too many tense moments where the outcome could hinge on a single pitch or swing. Friday finally provided the Wildcats with such a scenario midway through their 9-1 win over Milwaukee at Hi Corbett Field.
Starter TJ Nichols and reliever George Arias Jr. both worked out of situations with multiple runners in scoring position in the sixth and seventh innings, respectively, then the UA put up five runs in the bottom of the seventh and two in the eighth to blow things open.
“It was a good baseball game,” coach Chip Hale said. “I was really impressed by their starter, (Nick) Mahoney was really good.”
Mahoney, a left-hander, used an array of off-speed pitches to keep the UA’s hitters off balance, resulting in a 1 for 11 start to the game with runners in scoring position.
“Our hitters were getting frustrated on the bench, and we told them ‘listen, obviously it’s not one guy swinging at bad pitches it’s a lot of guys, so he’s got some deception,” Hale said. “We just got to battle through and get him out of the game and see what we do against the bullpen.”
A Jack Grant single and a Nik McClaughry walk to start the seventh chased Mahoney, and Milwaukee reliever Andrew Neu walked two batters and threw two wild pitches. A passed ball brought in Arizona’s first run of the seventh, to make it 3-1, when the second came in on a wild pitch.
The big blow came via a 2-out, 2-run single by Garen Caulfield, making it 6-1, then Noah Turley drove home another with an RBI single.
Caulfield finished 2 for 4 with three RBI, making him 4 for 8 with four RBI since shifting back to second base after playing the first three games at third and going 3 for 16.
“I’m seeing it a bit better,” Caulfield said. “I’ve been late, but I’m putting the balls in play, though.
“Second base is more like short than third is,” said Caulfield, a junior college transfer who played shortstop at that level but didn’t get in any games the previous two years due to his school’s seasons being canceled by COVID-19.
Nichols allowed a run and four hits over six innings, tying the longest outing of his career, while posting a career-best nine strikeouts. He threw four innings in Arizona’s season opener but should be fully stretched out for his next start.
“It’s not only the pitch count, it’s the up and down,” Hale said. “Last time it was four, this was six, so next time he’ll be eight, right?”
Arizona (5-1) finished with 11 hits, with Daniel Susac going 2 for 5 with 2 RBI. Blake Paugh had a single and three walks, giving him seven in six games, and Tanner O’Tremba had two more hits to give him 13 for the season.
The Wildcats and Milwaukee will play the third game of their 4-game set Saturday at 2 p.m. MT.