TUCSON, Ariz. – The University of Arizona baseball team was involved in another Pac-12 Conference sweep this weekend. Fortunately for them this time it went in their favor.
The Wildcats scored two late runs and then held off a ninth-inning rally to complete a three-game pasting of visiting Utah with a 2-1 victory on Saturday afternoon at Hi Corbett Field.
The three straight wins follow six straight losses to start the conference campaign as UA was swept in back-to-back series against Oregon and Oregon State.
Buoyed by run-scoring hits from Johnny Field and Trent Gilbert in the seventh and eighth innings, respectively, Arizona (18-11, 3-6 Pac-12) carried a two-run advantage to the top of the ninth. However, Utah (12-13, 2-7 Pac-12) had three more outs to work with.
Closer Mathew Troupe, who worked a harmless eighth inning with two strikeouts, surrendered a leadoff single to Tyler Relf in the ninth. One out later, Wyler Smith singled to centerfield, which put the tying run on base.
Troupe seemed to stem the tide with his third strikeout of the game, but Braden Anderson's single to left field drove in Relf to cut the deficit to 2-1. The next batter, Kody Davis, then reached to load the bases when Troupe fielded a comebacker but threw in the dirt to first base.
With the tying run on third and the go-ahead run on second, Trey Neilson stepped to the plate. Nielson hit a sharp grounder in the hole on the left side of the infield, where shortstop Kevin Newman's only play was to try and get the force out at third. The savvy freshman did just that, tossing to Brandon Dixon to end the game.
The late scoring for both teams overshadowed quite a pitching duel over the first seven innings. Arizona's Tyler Crawford earned his first career weekend start and did not disappoint, pitching 6.1 shutout innings while tying his career high with five strikeouts in a no-decision effort.
Utah's Dalton Carroll (L, 2-2) was also strong, allowing just one run on six hits over 7.0 innings. The lone blemish on Dalton's line was enough for the right-hander to take the loss.
The Wildcats' first run of the game came after Joseph Maggi, who finished 2-for-2, reached on a two-out single in the seventh. Field followed with his second hit of the game, a double to right-center that allowed Maggi to scoot all the way from first base with the go-ahead run.
Arizona added a valuable insurance run in the eighth against reliever Josh Chapman. Brandon Dixon, who went 3-for-4, led off with a single and stole second. Gilbert, fresh off his career-high five-RBI night on Friday, followed with a run-scoring single to right field to give the Wildcats a two-run edge.
Utah threatened throughout the game, but was unable to get any timely hits early in the ballgame. The Utes stranded 11 runners, including the three in the ninth, but were just 2-for-16 with runners in scoring position. Both hits were in the ninth.
Crawford, who scattered five hits and three walks, worked out of jams in the second, third and fourth innings as the Utes left two runners on base in each frame. The sophomore lefty was then able to work into the seventh inning, when he was lifted in favor of Augey Bill with a runner on first and one out.
Bill induced a sacrifice bunt that moved, at the time, the potential go-ahead run into scoring position. The left-hander ended the inning with a soft grounder, and his work was done after just four pitches.
With the Wildcats taking the lead in the bottom of the inning, Bill (W, 3-0) earned the victory after he turned the game over to Troupe to start the eighth. Troupe earned his six save of the season.
The three-game sweep for the Wildcats is a welcomed reversal of fortune for a team that was swept in its first two Pac-12 series against Oregon and Oregon State. It also marked the program's second home sweep of a conference opponent since moving into Hi Corbett Field at the start of last season. Coincidentally, both such sweeps have come in the final weekend of March after the Wildcats took three tilts from Stanford last March 30-April 1.
Arizona will carry its modest three-game winning streak into another home conference series next weekend. The Wildcats host California for three games beginning on Friday, April 5, at 6 p.m. at Hi Corbett Field. All three games will be broadcast on 1290 AM in Tucson, while the finale on Sunday will be televised on ESPNU beginning at 1 p.m.
Copyright 2013 Arizona Athletics. All rights reserved.
David Kelly contributed to this story.