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Arizona baseball hangs on to beat North Dakota State for 3rd straight win

arizona-wildcats-baseball-ndsu-bison-recap-highlights-trevor-long-chip-hale-tj-nichols-2023 Arizona Athletics

There’s no such thing as an ugly win, but if there was this might be a candidate.

What looked like it was going to be a laugher early on became a tight one down the stretch, with Arizona holding off North Dakota State 8-6 on Friday night in the series opener at Hi Corbett Field.

The Wildcats (6-3) won their third straight by jumping out to a 7-0 lead after two innings, but after Chase Davis led off the bottom of the fourth with his fourth home run of the season the bats went cold. The UA had only one baserunner the rest of the way, a one-out hit batter in the sixth.

“Chase’s big home run was outstanding, but we just couldn’t get it going again,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “That’s concerning.”

Arizona scored three runs in the first and four in the second, registering eight hits off North Dakota State starter Cade Feeney. But two of those hits, both by Kiko Romero, were gifts bestowed by the Bison outfielders struggling with fly balls as dusk descended over Hi Corbett.

Romero hit a high fly to right with one out in the first that NDSU right fielder Druw Sackett never saw, the ball dropping 10 feet behind him and resulting in a 2-run triple. And in the second Romero’s fly to left was misjudged as well, dropping in for a double that scored two more to make it 7-0.

“We took advantage of a lot of their mistakes early,” Hale said. The tough sky, just getting used to our field pretty much. I thought we did a really nice job of that, to capitalize on it.”

The home scoring and two perfect frames from TJ Nichols on the mound set the stage for what figured to be a breeze of a night for Arizona. But then Nichols allowed three runs in the top of the third, starting with a long home run to center and later allowing two more hits with a walk.

Nichols ended up going five, allowing four runs (three earned) on four hits with two walks and a hit batter, improving to 2-0.

“I think he just overthrew a little bit, wasn’t really landing his breaking ball like he wanted to,” Hale said. “That’s part of being a starting pitcher.”

Arizona’s bullpen produced mixed results, with Casey Hintz allowing two runs in the sixth before Dawson Netz cleaned up the mess that frame but then allowed a walk (his first in five appearances this season) and a hit in the seventh. Eric Orloff started the eighth but couldn’t finish it, giving up two walks and a hit, leaving a bases-loaded, two-out situation for Trevor Long.

Long, who got the loss last Friday when West Virginia stole home off him in the 11th inning, induced a groundout on the first pitch he threw, then in the ninth struck out the first batter and got the next two on grounders for his second save.

“I’m a firm believer in trusting my defense,” said Long, who got four outs on nine pitches. “So my goal is just put it in the zone and let my defense behind me work. That’s always been my motto, and I’ve never gone away from that.”

Arizona and North Dakota State (1-9) play again at 1 p.m. MT Saturday, with the UA sending right-hander Tonko Susac (0-2, 6.10) to the mound.