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Hot start, strong pitching help Arizona baseball bounce back vs. Nevada in series finale

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Slow starts at the plate have been an issue for Arizona all season, and when combined with a rough beginning for its starting pitcher it can lead to bad things, like being shut out for the first time in 2017 games.

When neither of those things happen, though, the results have been pretty good for the Wildcats.

The UA scored five runs in the bottom of the second and had five pitchers combine on a 3-hitter in beating Nevada 8-2 on Sunday afternoon at Hi Corbett. Arizona (32-14) took three of four from the Wolf Pack and bounced back from Saturday’s 2-0 loss, the first time it failed to score since March 2018.

Freshman right-hander Anthony ‘Tonko’ Susac got his second win in five days, following up a 5-inning performance at New Mexico State with another solid five. He walked the first batter of the game on four pitches and then retired 12 in a row and allowed one run on two hits with two walks, throwing 65 pitches after 57 at NMSU on Tuesday.

“It was really important for the pitcher come out of the bullpen ready to go, ready to shut them down early,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “We babied him a little bit in the fall for sure, and then this spring he hasn’t really gotten a chance to sort of show his stuff. If you notice, I believe his velocity is way up from where it was a month ago. So yeah, he’s feeling it.”

Susac, the cousin of Arizona catcher Daniel Susac, had surgery on his right elbow in December 2020, which caused him to miss his final high school season. He was eased into things during the fall and this season had gone back and forth from starting and relieving, sitting with a 9.75 ERA through his first 24 innings.

In his last 13, spanning three appearances, Susac has allowed three runs with nine hits and three walks along with 10 strikeouts, dropping his ERA to 7.30.

“Me and Coach Lawn have done a lot of work on being repeatable and everything,” Susac said. “We’ve started cleaning up. Just getting on the mound more often helps. Throwing more often, in order to get better pitching you got to practice pitching.”

At the plate, Arizona got eight of its first 10 batters to reach against three different Nevada pitchers, breaking through in the second via four hits, two walks, a hit batter and an error. Blake Paugh ended the UA’s 10-inning scoring drought with an RBI single, which was followed by a 3-run double from Nik McClaughry and an RBI on a grounder from Tanner O’Tremba.

Daniel Susac drove in a run with a single in the sixth and then came home on Chase Davis’ 13th home run of the season. Davis was 3 for 5, raising his average to .295 after going 9 for 17 in the series with five RBI, including one on a walk-off walk to beat Nevada on Thursday, and including the trip to NMSU was 12 for 22.

“Just trying to be the best I can and every at-bat, really,” Davis said of his hitting. “I know it sounds cliche, but just hit it hard. Get a pitch I can drive and hit early in the count. That’s something I really changed, be aggressive and hit early in the count and get a good pitch I can drive and it’s been working out pretty well.”

The Wildcats are 19-3 when scoring first.

Arizona plays its final nonconference game of the season Tuesday when it hosts Grand Canyon at 6 p.m. PT at Hi Corbett. The teams have split their two previous meetings, with the Antelopes (30-15) winning 19-3 in Tucson in the UA’s home opener and the Wildcats taking a 5-3 game in Phoenix on March 29.