The University of Arizona baseball team only needed one Pac-12 game to run into adversity but the Wildcats recovered to take the weekend series from Washington State.
After a solid midweek road split at top-10 Rice the Cats were ambushed by Washington State in the Pac-12 opener. The UA’s Kurt Heyer gave up a run in each of the first four innings while the league’s top-hitting team was held without an extra-base hit.
“(WSU) coach (Donnie) Marbut did a marvelous job getting those guys ready,” Arizona coach Andy Lopez said, “and we were not ready. Obviously that’s my fault. My responsibility.”
After Wazzu’s 6-0 victory things looked bleak for the home team and the weather wasn’t helping. With storms forecasted for Sunday the two teams were forced to play a doubleheader on Saturday, further threatening Arizona’s already-shaky bullpen.
If the Friday night loss wasn’t enough of a wakeup call for the Cats, WSU’s five-run first inning in Saturday’s early game did the trick. The UA outscored the Cougars 8-2 from that point to claim a one-run victory and even the series.
The key play came with one out in the top of the 7th. WSU’s Taylor Ard, second in the Pac-12 in home runs behind teammate Derek Jones, came to the plate with a man on and the Cougars looking to add to a 6-5 lead. Ard hit a fly ball down the right field line into foul territory and Wildcat junior Robert Refsnyder made a catch you have to see to believe.
In the winner-take-all third game the Cats used six hits and three WSU errors to score seven runs in the 5th en route to an 11-3 lead. Arizona held off a couple Wazzu rallies for a 12-9 win, a doubleheader sweep and a 2-1 series victory.
Refsnyder had three hits in each of Saturday’s games and third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean had five RBIs on the day. On the mound, Stephen Manthei picked up the win in both games out of the bullpen while Mathew Troupe closed out each victory.
It was a reminder that there are no easy outs on the Pac-12 schedule this year. Even Utah, who came into the weekend with a 4-11 record, swept a doubleheader at top-25 USC to win that series.
After a pair of midweek home games against New Mexico State the Cats travel to face Oregon State, the only Pac-12 team to record a three-game sweep on opening weekend. If that wasn’t tough enough, the following weekend is the showdown with Stanford, the #2 team in the nation.
The UA responded well to its first taste of Pac-12 adversity. The experience of winning a windy doubleheader should help this team battle back the next time it’s backed into a corner.
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