TUCSON, Ariz. - The 10th-ranked Arizona baseball team jumped ahead early and pulled away late, dispatching visiting Coppin State, 13-9, to complete a three-game sweep before a crowd of 2,680 at Hi Corbett Field on Sunday afternoon.
Arizona (3-0) cruised to a pair of victories behind dominant starting pitching on Friday and Saturday, but Sunday was a different story as the Wildcats needed stellar relief pitching in the late innings.
Coppin State (0-3) fell behind 5-0 in the first inning, but immediately began chipping away at the deficit, scoring a pair of runs off UA starter Stephen Manthei in the second and third innings, respectively. Even so, Arizona re-extended its lead to 9-4 following a three-run bottom of the third.
Then, just as quickly, the Eagles stormed back against reliever Tyler Hale to tie the game with five runs in the top of the fourth. The big blow came on one of the rarest plays in baseball - an inside the park grand slam.
With two outs and the bases loaded, David Hamlett sent a sinking line drive towards right-centerfield. Arizona centerfielder Johnny Field sprinted over and made a diving attempt to catch the ball, but the ball skipped past his glove and to wall. Hamlett scampered around the bases and crossed home with CSU's first home run in more than a full season.
From there, Arizona's pitching locked the game down. Lefty Augey Bill took over to strike out the next hitter and end the five-run fourth inning. Bill went on get 10 outs before giving up his first hit of the game to lead off the eighth. In 3.1 innings - his longest career outing - Bill registered three strikeouts and did not walk a batter.
With a runner on and no outs in the eighth, left-hander Tyler Crawford entered to register a strikeout and a harmless fly out to left. Then the ball was handed over to right-hander Mathew Troupe, who came on to strike out all four batters he faced to close the game.
Bill, Crawford and Troupe combined to throw 5.1 innings without a walk allowed, while tallying eight strikeouts. In fact, only two Eagles batters reached base and none got past first in the final five innings. Bill (1-0) earned the win, while Troupe collected his first save of the season.
Offensively, the Wildcats rapped out double-digit hits and produced double-digit runs scored for the third straight game. After collecting nine extra base hits in the first two game's, UA mustered just one on Sunday - a double by Johnny Field. Nonetheless, the Wildcats extended their streak to 50-consecutive games with an extra base hit dating back to last March.
Cleanup hitter Brandon Dixon was just 1-for-2 at the plate, but was walked twice and hit by a pitch once to lead to three runs scored. Dixon stole three bases and essentially had a fourth when he scored on a double-steal attempt, but due to Trent Gilbert getting tagged out in a run-down after the run, Dixon's play statistically could not count as a stolen base.
Designated hitter Tyler Parmenter, the club's top hitter by average in the first two games, did not record an official at bat. But he was walked three times, hit by a pitch once and scored three runs. He also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
The game was still up for grabs into the eighth inning when UA was holding on to an 11-9 advantage. The Wildcats found some wiggle room, though, when Joseph Maggi lined a two-out, bases-loaded single to left field to add a pair of insurance runs.
Arizona erupted for five runs on four hits as they sent 10 batters to the plate in the opening inning against CSU starter Anderson Burgess. The lefty lasted just 1.2 innings and was charged with six earned runs before turning things over to Myles Taylor. Taylor (0-1) gave up five runs - three earned - on five hits over 2.2 innings of relief, but was charged with the loss after surrendering the lead in the bottom of the fourth.
In the series, Eagles' pitchers walked 24 and hit 13 walks. Those 37 free passes helped give the Wildcats, who hit .363 (33-for-91) a blistering .519 on-base percentage. Arizona outscored Coppin State, 43-10, in the series.
The sweep pushed the program's overall winning streak to 14 games dating back to the end of the 2012 season. The Wildcats have now won 19-straight opening weekend series dating back to 1995 and have a won-loss record of 48-10 during that span. Under head coach Andy Lopez, UA is now 31-5 on opening weekend.
The 2,680 in attendance Sunday brought the weekend total 10,794 to pass through the Hi Corbett Field gates. A crowd of 5,145 was on hand on for a festive Friday night, while 2,969 turned out Saturday to cheer on the defending national champions.
Arizona will hit the road for a pair of mid-week games at Long Beach State beginning on Tuesday, Feb. 19, at Blair Field in Long Beach, Calif. First pitch is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. (PST). The brief series is scheduled to conclude on Wednesday, Feb. 20, with a game slated for 3:30 p.m. (PST).
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