After all the emotion and enthusiasm surrounding the previous home series against ASU, it was understandable that Arizona’s energy level seemed much lower for its first game of a 4-game set against Nevada.
Even the walk-off play to win the series opener was far less thrilling. Instead of a home run, as he did in the opener against ASU a week ago, this time Chase Davis drew a bases-loaded walk in the bottom of the ninth to give the Wildcats a 6-5 win Thursday night at Hi Corbett Field.
The UA (30-13) trailed 3-0 after two innings and had only two hits through the first five, seeing two runners picked off along the way.
“Neither guy was going, so it was a little bit mystifying to me how they got picked,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “I don’t mind it they’re running there. If I give them the steal, or they’re going to steal on their own and they get picked, so be it.”
Down 4-1 in the sixth, Arizona seemed to flip a switch on offense. It got one run that inning on a sacrifice fly, then Tony Bullard led off the seventh with his fourth home run of the season and first at home since belting two against Ole Miss in the NCAA Super Regionals.
That started a 3-run rally in which the first seven batters all made hard contact against Nevada reliever Tyler Cochran but Arizona still found itself with the bases empty and two out before getting four straight hits. Nik McClaughry singled to left and scored to tie it on a double up the third base line by Tanner O’Tremba, getting sent home by third base coach Toby DeMello despite the Wolf Pack (21-18) being in position to throw him out only to have the relay to home sail over the catcher’s head.
“He sent me but it was at the last second,” McClaughry said of DeMello, who is also Arizona’s hitting coach. “I thought he was gonna stop me and then he said keep going, so I kept going. Once I saw the catcher look up I knew I was gonna be safe.”
Daniel Susac followed with an RBI single to put Arizona up 5-4. An unearned run for Nevada in the top of the eighth evened the score, then after Trevor Long had his 11th consecutive scoreless outing in the top of the ninth the stage was set for another walk-off.
McClaughry drew a one-out walk and found himself once again in a position to score off an O’Tremba double, but he said he was fooled by the Nevada left fielder—“he kind of deeked me a little bit, he put his glove up,” McClaughry said—and hesitated rounding second.
With second and third and one out, Nevada intentionally walked Susac, who reached base all five times and had his 26th multi-hit game of the season, loading the bases for Davis. He fouled off a pair with two strikes, and on the eighth pitch of the at-bat drew his team-leading 35th walk of the season and second with the bases loaded.
“We’re gonna have to win some games like this,” Hale said. “You win ugly sometimes. But you gotta give (Nevada) credit, they came out and they were ready to play and they jumped all over us. We expected them to battle and it’s going to be a tough 4-game series for us.”
Arizona finished with 11 hits, two each by Susac, Davis and Bullard and four by O’Tremba, who is 14 for 24 with two homers and 12 RBI in his last five games.
Long got the win to improve to 4-0, while starter Chandler Murphy allowed four runs and nine hits in a season-high 5.2 innings but looked much better than in his previous few outings.
“He pitched way better and he was under control, he threw his breaking ball for strikes,” Hale said. It was definitely a step forward, for sure.”