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Mac Bingham paces offensive onslaught as Arizona baseball beats West Virginia to avoid sweep

arizona-wildcats-baseball-recap-highlights-west-virginia-mountaineers-2023-updates Arizona Athletics

Mac Bingham entered Sunday with four hits in Arizona’s first six games this season, but he wasn’t worried about the slow start. He said as much to his mother in their last phone call.

“I told her it was only a matter of time,” Bingham said.

Little did he know he wasn’t just predicting his own future, but that of his team.

Arizona (4-3) cranked out 20 hits in a 15-5 win over West Virginia at Hi Corbett Field, salvaging the finale of the 3-game series and avoiding its first home-opening series sweep since 1979.

Bingham was responsible for a big chunk of the production, going 4 for 5 with two home runs and seven RBI. He was a triple shy of the cycle, something no UA player has done since 2015.

“I’ve been working a lot in the cage, just trying to back the ball up a little bit, which was my issue earlier,” said Bingham, who leads the Wildcats with three homers and 12 RBI. I was going out to get the ball. I didn’t think it was anything mechanical. So I think just slowly getting used to seeing other guys, not our own teammates, kind of just worked itself out.”

Bingham had a 2-run home run in the bottom of the first, giving Arizona a 3-1 lead. He doubled in a run in the second, cracked a 3-run shot in the fifth as part of a 6-run inning for the Wildcats and then had two chances at the cycle, getting a sacrifice fly in the sixth and popping out in the eight.

His seven RBI are the most by a Wildcat since Daniel Susac did so in 2021, and gives him 99 for his UA career.

The 20 hits were the most for Arizona since it had 20 in the series-clinching win over Ole Miss in the 2021 Super Regionals. Five Wildcats had at least three hits including freshman Brendan Summerhill, who got his second straight start in right field and went 3 for 5.

“He’s a very, very talented baseball player and he’s learning,” Arizona coach Chip Hale said of Summerhill, a member of Hale’s first signing class who had originally been committed to Kentucky. “He’s learning on the job as a freshman. He’s a really good hitter. He can make it he can really run, so that helps him with the bunt game.”

Summerhill’s first hit, in the bottom of the third, was a drag bunt up the third base line that moved a runner into scoring position. Garen Caulfield followed with a sacrifice that helped set up a sacrifice fly, and Arizona’s 6-run fifth began with Summerhill and Caulfield singling and then Tyler Casagrande reaching on what had been intended as a sac bunt.

“I think the bunting game was big today,” Hale said. “Those things change the game a little bit, they help us out a lot.”

As for Arizona’s pitching, left-hander Bradon Zastrow looked good through the first four-plus innings other than allowing an early solo homer to West Virginia’s JJ Westerholt, who had seven hits (and the game-winning steal of home on Friday) in the series, and another solo shot to open the fifth. But with two out in the fifth he hit Wetherholt, who stole second and third before scoring on a single, ending Zastrow’s day.

Dawson Netz entered with two on, got a fly out and then threw a clean sixth to get the win. The junior righty has allowed one baserunner through four innings of work over three relief outings to start 2023.

“I think Dawson has really solidified hisself as a guy who could come in with guys on base and get us out of trouble … and then maybe pitch another inning, or two,” Hale said. “We’re really long that way with our bullpen. They can go a couple innings, which we did on purpose this preseason.”

Three other relievers, all freshmen, combined to allow one unearned run over the final three frames.

Arizona returns to action Tuesday night for the first midweek game of the season, hosting Cal Baptist at Hi Corbett at 6 p.m. MT. The Wildcats’ next series begins Friday night at home against North Dakota State, their last nonconference series before Pac-12 play begins.

“This was a great team win,” Summerhill said. “20 hits today, I mean, that’s really impressive. A lot of guys got five at bats. That’s really good, and I think that’s gonna give us momentum into Tuesday and into next weekend against North Dakota State.”