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Arizona baseball rallies to beat Utah in series opener as bats stay hot

6 wins in the last 8

arizona-wildcats-baseball-recap-utah-utes-garen-caulfield-derek-drees-pac12-2023 Arizona Athletics

Scoring double digits shouldn’t be a requirement to win a college baseball game, but over the past six weeks that’s become the case for Arizona.

Good thing the Wildcats are pretty adept at getting to that tally, and often above.

The UA rallied from a pair of 4-run deficits, taking its first lead in the bottom of the 6th with six runs to beat Utah 14-9 on Friday night at Hi Corbett Field.

It was the third straight victory and sixth in eight games for Arizona (20-15, 7-12 Pac-12) as well as 14th win in 15 tries when scoring 10 or more runs. The Wildcats have scored 10-plus in nine consecutive wins, their last win when scoring in single digits coming March 11 against Cal during the first weekend of Pac-12 play.

“We know as hitters we’re gonna score runs, we’re very confident in that,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “We have one of the better offenses in the country.”

Arizona banged out 17 hits, the 11th straight game with 10 or more, with Mac Bingham, Garen Caulfield and Mason White registering three apiece. White is hitting .396 in Pac-12 play, while Bingham is up to .382 overall.

Caulfield drove in three runs while going 3 for 5, after having gone 5 for 32 in his previous nine games. That stretch included getting pulled after failing to run out a pop-up April 7 against Washington.

“Chip’s always just telling me to stay ready,” Caulfield said. “He’s promised me that I’ll be back in there. I got a bunch of mental ABs at Washington State when I wasn’t playing, so I feel like that helped me, just taking a step away for a second.”

Arizona scored five runs in the first three frames but never had the lead, as Utah (14-22-1, 4-14-1) got seven hits off UA starter Jackson Kent in 1.1 innings. TJ Nichols came on and allowed a 2-run double but managed to go four innings, yielding four runs.

“TJ came in and gave us some outs, it’s just about getting outs,” Hale said of Nichols, who has been working out of bullpen the last three weeks. “I thought the pitchers battled, man, they battled their tails off.”

Down 9-5 with one out in the sixth, Eric Orloff escaped a two-in-scoring position situation but then ran into his own trouble in the seventh, giving up back-to-back singles before Derek Drees came on. Drees retired three straight batters, the last on a grounder up the middle that shortstop Nik McClaughry fielded, but not before Drees made a stab at the ball that went comically wrong.

“I don’t know if you noticed, I launched my glove,” said Drees, blaming it on his hand being so sweaty.

Orloff got the win because he was the pitcher of record when Arizona scored six in the bottom of the sixth, a rally that began with White reaching on a bunt single. He came home on Tony Bullard’s mammoth 479-foot blast to left-center, his fourth homer in the last three games, cutting the deficit to 9-7.

The first seven Wildcats would reach in the sixth, with Kiko Romero’s fielder’s choice tying the game and Tommy Splaine’s RBI groundout giving Arizona a 10-9 lead. Caulfield would then triple in Romero, and in the eighth his 2-out, 2-run single provided extra insurance.

Arizona won in a Pac-12 series opener for only the second time this season, the last being the conference opener March 10 against Cal. A win Saturday would clinch back-to-back home series after it took two of three from Washington two weeks ago.