Uncharacteristic rain washed out the opening game of Arizona’s final regular season series on Thursday night, forcing a doubleheader Friday at Hi Corbett Field that began in the early afternoon.
Otherwise known as the Wildcats’ sweet spot.
Arizona improved to 9-2 in home day games with a 13-4 win over USC, moving it closer to clinching a spot in next week’s Pac-12 Tournament.
The Wildcats (29-22, 11-17) moved temporarily into sole possession of eighth place, a half-game ahead of Washington State (10-17) and one up on Cal (10-18). The top nine teams make the tourney, and a UA win in the nightcap combined with a Cal loss at Washington will lock up a conference tourney bid.
The UA took advantage of eight walks and three hit batters, getting more free passes than hits (10). But when it did put the ball in play it went far quite often.
Tony Bullard, Emilio Corona, Chase Davis and Kiko Romero each hit home runs, giving Arizona 79 for the season, third-most in school history. Bullard’s 3-run shot put Arizona up 4-1 in the fourth, Romero and Corona went back-to-back in the fifth and Davis opened the sixth with a solo shot.
It was Davis’ 18th of the season, tying him with Washington’s Will Simpson for the Pac-12 lead and moving him into a tie with Kenny Corley for third on the UA career list with 36. Romero’s 16th, a 2-run bomb, gave him 77 RBI for the season to move into a tie for ninth on the school single-season list with Nick Quintana.
Bullard reached base all five times, going 4 for 4 with three RBI and three runs scored. In 24 games since returning from a concussion the 5th-year senior is hitting .386 with eight homers and 33 RBI compared to .205 with one homer and five RBI in 19 games beforehand.
“I’m just seeing the ball better,” Bullard said. “I’m swinging at my pitches and not the pitcher’s pitches.”
That was more than enough offense for UA starter Cam Walty, who allowed three runs and eight hits over 6.1 innings to improve to 5-0. Three relievers followed including sophomore Josh Randall, who made his season debut after being sidelined by a back injury, but all of Arizona’s high-leverage arms were saved for the nightcap and Saturday’s regular-season finale.
“We’re basically going to play three games in 24 hours,” UA coach Chip Hale said. “We needed length from (Walty), we need length from Zastrow. If we can get three quality stars in this series it would be huge for us.”
The second game between Arizona and USC (32-21-1, 16-12) is set for 6:05 p.m. PT and will be shown on Pac-12 Network. Left-hander Bradon Zastrow (4-5, 5.29) will start for the Wildcats against Trojans righty Caden Aoki (4-1, 2.09).