SCOTTSDALE—Stanford brought the regular season title, the Player of the Year, the Pitcher of the Year, the Freshman of the Year and the Coach of the Year into the Pac-12 Tournament semifinals against Arizona. It gets to take all those awards back to Palo Alto after becoming the latest team to run into the Wildcat buzzsaw.
Arizona obliterated Stanford 14-4 on Friday night, enacting the 10-run mercy rule after seven innings and moving on to Saturday’s final. The Wildcats (33-23) will face Oregon (36-20) at 7 p.m. PT with the Pac-12’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament on the line.
Win that game and the UA is guaranteed a spot in the NCAA tourney, but it may have done so with arguably its most impressive performance of the season.
“We knew we had this potential all year,” said UA coach Chip Hale, whose team has scored 39 runs in three conference tourney games. “Obviously we’ve scored a ton of runs, and we’ve given up a ton of runs, and the hitters finally just said, you know what, we’re a team. And if if we need 20-something runs to win a game we will.
“And some days we’re gonna get this one, where (we) gave up four agains one of the best hitting teams in the country.”
The Wildcats knocked Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year Quinn Mathews out of the game after just 1.2 innings, taking the lead for good with an 8-run second inning. They put the game in mercy-rule territory with a 5-run fifth capped by a Chase Davis grand slam that quickly went viral on Twitter.
Holy shit. pic.twitter.com/UCDw7zEeS1— Jared Carrabis (@Jared_Carrabis) May 27, 2023
Davis was 3 for 4 with six RBI, the first two coming on a single that he bounced away from the shift during the second. His 21 home runs this season and 39 for his career are both third-most in school history.
Tommy Splaine added three hits and three RBI, all in the second, after entering the night with 13 RBI in 28 games. The Wildcats also drew eight walks and had three batters reach on hit by pitches as Stanford (38-16) used five pitchers.
“Here’s the thing, you could put our 9 hitter in our leadoff spot, you could put our 1 hitter in the 8 spot, 9 spot, it doesn’t matter,” Davis said. “Our whole lineup does the same exact thing. It’s not like one through four is really good and the five through nine is a drop off. It’s not the case.”
Arizona, which won at Stanford 21-20 in 10 innings in their last meeting two weeks ago, trailed 2-0 after one inning. The Cardinal got a 2-run homer from Tommy Troy on the third batter of the game, but the junior left-hander settled down and retired seven of the next eight.
And after allowing three straight singles with one out in the third retired nine of 10 Cardinal batters. Not bad for a guy who threw 44 pitches in 1.2 innings of relief on Tuesday and looked “tired” in the eyes of Hale.
“It’s one of those things where you just go,” said Zastrow, who threw a 7-inning complete game on a season-high 107 pitches, slowing down a Stanford team that had scored at least six runs in 17 straight contests. “It’s win or go home, so I’m gonna throw my best stuff, give it the best I’ve got to give the team a chance to win.”
Zastrow said he knew during his pregame bullpen that his velocity was down due to the short turnaround, but he said that played into his favor. The ball moved more at slower speeds, and he learned from his last outing against the Cardinal how to pitch them.
“They don’t miss,” he said. “Keep the ball up, they’re gonna hurt you. I left one up and they did damage. Once I found the bottom of the zone and mixed my pitches, it turned out well.”
It was the first complete game by an Arizona pitcher since Garrett Irvin threw nine shutout innings against UC-Santa Barbara in the 2021 NCAA regionals. He allowed 10 hits, striking out five and allowing no walks for the first time in 15 starts.
Combined with the off day Thursday, the Wildcats’ entire bullpen is rested and ready for the final. Hale wasn’t ready to name a starter, but said he was prepared to throw the kitchen sink against Oregon.
“We were going to do it tonight, but Zastrow was phenomenal,” he said.
Oregon, a 12-7 winner over Washington in the first semifinal, swept a 3-game series in Tucson during Arizona’s 10-game conference skid. One of those losses saw the Wildcats blow a 10-0 lead after two innings.
The UA has already beaten two teams in this tourney (ASU and Oregon State) that it was swept by in conference play, but it heads into the championship game having won seven of eight and now is firmly on the NCAA Tournament bubble.
“Let’s win tomorrow and we won’t have to worry about it,” Hale said.