In the grand scheme of things, Monday’s nonconference game at UC-Irvine won’t help or hurt Arizona’s slim chances to make the postseason this year. But it may have shown that the future looks bright for the Wildcats beyond this season.
An inexperienced lineup combined with stellar pitching from some young arms to give the UA a 4-3 win over the Anteaters in its regular-season road finale.
Combined with Sunday’s adventurous 21-20, 10-inning win at Pac-12 champ Stanford, Arizona (28-22) won consecutive road games for the first time since last April. The Wildcats finished their road slate with a 4-14 mark, 7-15 if you include neutral-site games, ahead of wrapping up the regular season this weekend at Hi Corbett where they’re 21-7.
Head coach Chip Hale decided to give several of his regular hitters a day off, resting outfielders Mac Bingham and Chase Davis and shortstop Nik McClaughry. He started four freshmen, and the quartet of Casey Hintz, Maddox Mihalakis, Brendan Summerhill and Mason White combined to go 5 for 16 with two walks, a triple, a home run, two RBI and three runs scored.
Mihalakis had the game-winning RBI, an 8th-inning single that scored Hintz—starting in center field after previously only appearing as a relief pitcher—from first base. Hintz was 2 for 4, his first two career hits, while White led off the game with his seventh homer of the season and added a triple to give him 30 extra-base hits.
But White also made a fielding error that led to all three runs for Irvine (32-17). He bobbled a grounder up the middle with two out in the fifth and Arizona leading 1-0, and the next batter clubbed a 3-run homer off Jackson Kent.
Kent, a left-handed redshirt freshman, allowed only four hits over 4.2 innings in the longest outing of his career. After George Arias Jr. finished out the fifth, sophomore righty Anthony ‘Tonko’ Susac threw three scoreless innings to pick up the win and sophomore lefty Eric Orloff had a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts for his first career save.
Down 3-1, Arizona tied it in the seventh on an RBI double from Kiko Romero—his 75th of the season, moving into a tie for 10th on the school single-season list—and a run-scoring single by Tony Bullard, who was 3 for 5.
Arizona now turns its attention back to Pac-12 play, where it enters the final weekend tied for ninth place with Cal at 10-17 while Washington State (9-17) is a half-game ahead in eighth. The top nine teams make next week’s Pac-12 Tournament in Scottsdale.
The Wildcats host fourth-place USC (16-11) while Cal visits second-place Washington (16-10) and WSU hosts first-place Stanford (20-7). USC is 5-13-1 on the road and hasn’t won away from its home field since April 1.