Crooked numbers on the scoreboard have become a habit for Arizona’s offense, but unfortunately that’s also been the case much of the season for opponents. So when there’s almost a second shutout in three games, it’s kind of a big deal.
Bradon Zastrow threw six scoreless innings and the Wildcats came within two outs of its second shutout in three games, crushing Utah 19-2 on Saturday night at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona (21-15, 8-12 Pac-12) has won its last four games, scoring 67 runs in that span, and has raised its team batting average to .323. The UA has won six in a row at home and can go for its first conference sweep since the opening weekend on Sunday afternoon.
“This is the offense, that’s what it looks like,” said freshman Mason White, who had a grand slam and drove in five runs while extending his hitting streak to 12 games. “That’s what the fall looked like, what the preseason looked. I’m not even surprised. There’s too many good hitters that are not going to contain it.”
White’s blast, with two out in the fourth, made it 19-0. It was Arizona’s second grand slam of the game, the first one a 451-foot blast by Tony Bullard as part of a nine-run third, giving the Wildcats multiple grand slams in the same game for the first time since Colin Porter and Rob Shabansky did it against Portland State on Feb. 14, 1998.
Bullard, who drove in six, has raised his average 78 points to .281 since returning from a concussion. In those 10 games he’s hitting .400 (18 for 45) with five homers and 20 RBI, and if he hits another Sunday he’ll be the first Wildcat to do so in five straight games since school career homer leader Shelley Duncan in 2001.
“He knows it’s his last year here,” UA coach Chip Hale said of Bullard, a fifth-year senior. “He wants to end it strong, he wants the team to end it strong and he knows he’s a leader. And I think sitting out for those games with a concussion and all the symptoms he had, he just has buckled down. He knows what he needs to do to be good. He’s a Gold Glove third baseman, we know that, and now we’re starting to get some of the power. It’s exciting.”
Nik McClaughry added a 3-run homer during a 6-run second, giving Arizona nine homers in the past three games.
It was almost too much offense for Zastrow, who walked the first batter in the third, fourth and fifth after having to sit so long in the dugout. Each time, though, the left-hander responded by getting Utah hitters to put the ball on the ground, inducing two double plays (including a rare 1-3-4 twin killing) and nearly a third.
“This is a new stage for me, so every time I run out there it gets more comfortable,” said Zastrow, who improved to 4-2. “Just fine tuning my pitches and letting the defense work, as they did tonight, they did a heck of a job for me, so I can’t thank them enough.”
Zastrow allowed only two hits, walking three and hitting a batter with one strikeout on 79 pitches.
“We’ve been going with him almost exclusively at five innings, with 100 pitches, so he’s getting better at throwing strikes,” Hale said. “He just has very tough pitches to hit, so a lot of times instead of him getting an out after one or two pitches, it takes four or five pitches because they foul it off. They don’t put it in play because it’s really good stuff.”
Righty Aiden May (3-2, 6.28) will go for Arizona in the finale against Utah (14-23-1, 4-15-1). The Wildcats’ only conference sweep came the first weekend against Cal.