clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Arizona vs. Rice baseball: Wildcats take series from Owls behind pitching, base running

A nice start to the season for Arizona

Rio Gomez recorded a strikeout for Arizona in Sunday's loss to Rice
Rio Gomez recorded a strikeout for Arizona in Sunday's loss to Rice
Jason Bartel

The Arizona Wildcats have started the 2016 season with a very respectable series win at the No. 24 Rice Owls, taking two-of-three from the Conference USA favorites.

The way they did it is also very encouraging.

After a dominating performance from JC Cloney on Friday night, Cameron Ming followed that up with another impressive 6+ inning outing from a Wildcat starting pitcher. Ming, who had never pitched more than four innings in an outing, went 6 1/3, surrendering six hits, three walks, and two runs, exiting the game with the score tied at two.

Bobby Dalbec came in to shut the door for the final eight outs, and the offense rewarded him a with a four-run eighth to pick up a 6-2 win, and give the junior star a 1-0 record.

The 8th inning on Saturday was a snapshot of what Arizona did the entire weekend to score runs, and will probably continue to do as they look for ways to get guys across the plate.

Ryan Aguilar led the inning off with a single, and then in a pretty surprising move, Jay Johnson had Dalbec bunt Aguilar over to second. It caught Rice off-guard as well, as Aguilar was able to advance to third when the Owls failed to cover the bag.

Johnson then went with the squeeze play, and Louis Boyd got the bunt down. Rice's Friday night starter Blake Fox was playing first base, and threw the ball away trying to get Aguilar at the plate, giving Arizona the lead once again.

Two batters later, it was Sawyer Gieseke's turn to execute the squeeze, and Rice once again threw the ball all around the field, allowing both Boyd and Zach Gibbons to score.

"I've never been around a team that consistently bunted the ball that well," Rice head coach Wayne Graham told D1Baseball after the game. "(Arizona) would've exposed anybody because they've run the bases extremely well and they've bunted extremely well."

With Gieseke standing on third after a wild pitch (of course), Cesar Salazar hit a sac fly, closing out the scoring for the night.


The Wildcats got another solid performance from their starting pitcher. This time it was senior Nathan Bannister. The righty gave the Wildcats six one-run innings, exiting with a 3-1 lead after a leadoff triple by Dane Myers in the 7th.

Myers would score during the very next at bat, as reliever Matt Hartman gave up an RBI double to make it a 3-2 ballgame.

Hartman would then get the first out of the inning on a grounder to short before intentionally walking Connor Teyki.

Johnson would go to the bullpen again. Rio Gomez recorded a strikeout, then with another pitching change, Austin Schnabel would also record a strikeout, ending the threat and preserving the one-run lead.

After an uneventful top of the eighth for the Wildcats, Schnabel would return to the mound. He promptly gave up a leadoff home run to Grayson Lewis, tying the game at three.

This forced Johnson to turn to freshman Alfonso Rivas, who was the team's DH on Sunday. Rivas loaded the bases while recording one out on a sacrifice bunt, bringing up center fielder Ryan Chandler.

Chandler would hit a sac fly to center, giving Rice its first lead of the season, but that was all they would need.

Myers, who moved from third base to the mound after his triple off Bannister, would seal the deal, picking up the win while also going 2-for-3 at the plate with a couple of triples.

Series thoughts

Arizona leaving Rice with a 2-1 record is a somewhat pleasant surprise, The starting pitching exceeded expectations, with Cloney, Ming and Bannister all going at least six innings.

It's also very encouraging to see this team manufacture runs on the bases, and force the opposition to make plays. Rice committed seven errors over the three games, while the Wildcats were unscathed in that category. For a team without a ton of power, and that plays in a park like Hi Corbett more often than not, this is the kind of offense (and defense) we'll need to see from them if they are to make a run at the NCAA Tournament.

On deck

The Wildcats will close out their trip to Southeast Texas with a single game at Lamar on Monday. That game will start at 5 PM MT. I'd expect Michael Flynn, Kevin Ginkel or Cody Deason to get the start on the mound.