After using seven pitchers to outlast North Dakota State in 12 innings on Saturday, Arizona needed left-hander Bradon Zastrow to go as deep as possible in order to avoid overtaxing the bullpen just ahead of Pac-12 play.
Challenge accepted, although Zastrow didn’t consider it an ultimatum.
“As a starter, we’re expected to go that far anyway, regardless of how many pitchers we use,” Zastrow said after going six innings in the Wildcats’ 11-1 win in eight innings over the Bison on Sunday afternoon at Hi Corbett Field to complete a weekend sweep. “It’s just my job to go out there and go as many as I can go.”
The Pima College transfer struck out eight, most by a UA starter this season, while allowing five hits with two walks and a hit batter. The only run he yielded came on a solo home run to start the sixth, which was followed by two walks before he fanned the final two batters he faced.
Zastrow, who is 2-0 in three Sunday starts, said he was trying to make up for what he felt was a subpar effort last week in a 15-5 UA win.
“I had a tough outing, not what I expected,” he said. “But this week I came out and was just trying to be more efficient, and more mechanically sound this time, to allow me to go more innings.”
Arizona (8-3) hit three home runs on Sunday, two by Mac Bingham, who has had 2-homer games on consecutive Saturdays along with 10 of his team-high 17 RBI. But don’t call him a power hitter.
“Contact and put a good swing on it, let the ball do whatever it’s going to do after that, you can’t do anything once it leaves the bat,” said Bingham, whose five homers this season are one off his career high. “Just try to hit it, hit it good, hit it pure and let everything else work itself out.”
The UA took a 3-0 lead in the bottom of the third on a 3-run homer from Kiko Romero, his second bomb in as many games. Bingham made it back-to-back jacks with a deep shot to left-center, the same place he hit his second to in the fifth to put the Wildcats up 6-0.
Arizona’s first four hits were all for extra bases, while the next five were singles. Two of those were by No. 9 hitter Tyler Casagrande, who had two RBI and was a late addition to the lineup after Chase Davis was scratched due to a sore foot.
Hale said Davis, who fouled a ball of his foot in Saturday’s 7-6 win over North Dakota State, would have played if the game were in the afternoon or evening. First pitch was just after 10 a.m. MT, with a 2 p.m. travel curfew, and a pregame agreement to halt play if either team led by 10 late came into effect when the Wildcats scored three in the bottom of the eighth.
Bingham ended up delivering the “walk off” single that scored Romero.
Arizona has won five in a row, averaging more than 11 runs per game during the streak after hitting only .234 during a 3-3 start.
“Everyone’s been putting good swings on the ball and hitting the ball hard. In the beginning, most balls just weren’t dropping. Even Nik (McClaughry) today, he had a good swing to right in the beginning of the game that they dove and caught, and that’s just baseball. I think just slowly the hits will come and they’ll fall and that’s what you’ve been seeing.”
The UA has one nonconference game left before starting Pac-12 play next weekend at home against Cal, and it should be a good one. The Wildcats play Tuesday night at Grand Canyon, which beat them two of three last season.
“It’s a big game, it’s gonna be huge up there,” Hale said. “They pack that place. I told the young guys, be ready. You’re gonna be surprised at what you see. They’re a very, very good team. A good challenge for us.”