Another Night, Another Walk-Off
March 5, 2010
TUCSON, Ariz. – It was another typical night at the ballpark for the Arizona baseball team, which knocked off No. 18 Cal State Fullerton, 8-7, in 11 innings on Friday at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium.
For the second game in a row and the third time on the season, the Wildcats won in walk-off fashion in extra innings. This time, it was all courtesy of a pair of freshmen.
Freshman shortstop Alex Mejia walked to lead off the bottom of the 11th and moved to second base on a fake bunt slash play by Bryce Ortega, who was retired at first base. That set the table for freshman Seth Mejias-Brean, a seventh-inning defensive replacement, to deliver a one-out, game-winning single to right field as Mejia slid home to beat the throw at the plate.
Early on, the game did not figure to be as close as it turned out to be. Arizona scored a run in the first, two in the second and one in the third to lead 4-1 after three innings.
The Wildcats jumped on top 1-0 in the first inning as leftfielder Bobby Rinard opened the game with a walk and a stolen base. He came home to score on Jett Bandy’s run-scoring double.
In the second inning, Titan starter Daniel Renken was lifted from the game after hitting Joey Rickard with a pitch to lead off the frame. He was replaced by Tyler Pill, who was announced as Sunday’s tentative starter earlier in the week. The Wildcats plated two runs in the inning on an RBI single by Mejia and later an RBI double by Rinard.
Cal State Fullerton finally tacked a run on the board in the third inning off UA starter Kurt Heyer. A one-out triple by centerfielder Gary Brown was followed by a Corey Jones single to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 3-1.
But the Wildcats quickly answered with another run as Bandy smacked his fourth home run of the season to left center field. The sophomore catcher finished the game 3-for-4 at the plate with two RBI and two runs scored, while improving his team-best batting average to .514.
Heyer, who was tops amongst Pac-10 pitchers with 20 strikeouts entering the game, fanned six Titan hitters on the night, scattered six hits and allowed just two runs. However, his pitch count neared 100 entering the sixth inning and a solo home run by Carlos Lopez and a single by Billy Marcoe ended Heyer’s night after 5.1 innings pitched.
Even so, the freshman turned over a 4-2 lead to the Wildcat bullpen and a pair of insurance runs were on the way in the home half of the sixth.
Mejia, who collected three RBI and scored two runs, delivered a two-run single to center to extend the Wildcats’ lead to 6-2.
The Titans, however, did not back down. Jones hit a seventh-inning three-run home run off UA’s Nick Cunningham which drew the visitors to within a run of the Wildcats, 6-5.
In the bottom of the inning, Arizona used Bandy’s third hit of the game and a clutch two-out RBI single by Steve Selsky to open up a two-run lead again, 7-5.
That lead evaporated quickly in the eighth inning. Tyler Hale relieved Grayson Adams, who issued a two-out walk. Hale then gave up a two-run homer to the first batter he faced, Brown, which tied the game at 7-7.
From there, Hale and the Wildcats settled down. So did the Titans, for a while.
Titan closer Nick Ramirez came on in relief of Pill, who had given up five runs – four earned – in six innings of work. Ramirez shut the Wildcats down over the next three innings as he allowed just two hits, before picking up his first loss of the season in the 11th inning.
The Wildcats stuck with Hale for three innings of work as well going into the top of the 11th, before calling on Joe Allison with two outs and two runners on.
Allison plunked the first batter he faced, which loaded the bases. But he was able to end the scoring threat with a ground ball back to mound, which he fielded and tossed over to first and sent the Wildcats back to the dugout.
A total of seven UA pitchers, including five freshmen, saw action on Friday night. As a staff, they stranded 12 Titan runners.
Offensively, the Wildcats got scoring contributions from six different players, while five collected RBI.
Arizona (5-3), which played just one extra-innings game last season, picked up its third victory in such a game in 2010. All three have ended in walk-off victories, including Bandy’s solo home run on Feb. 21 against Utah Valley and Wednesday’s game-winner scored by Bobby Brown on a defensive miscue by UNLV.
The Wildcats and Titans will be back in action on Saturday evening for the second game of the three-game series. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. at Kindall Field/Sancet Stadium.