The Arizona Wildcats picked up a pair of wins Sunday at Hi Corbett Field on the final day of the Wildcat Invitational.
The Cats defeated St. Mary’s 11-5 in the opening game and then took down Northwestern State 4-1 in the nightcap. Arizona improved to 8-4 on the season with the two victories and completed a 3-1 weekend at the tournament.
Against Northwestern State, the Wildcats got a dominant start from senior Nathan Bannister. The right-hander tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, walking none and striking out five. He earned the win to improve to 2-0. It’s the senior’s second straight victory, after he held Cal-State Fullerton scoreless over 6 2/3 innings Wednesday.
On Sunday, Bannister didn’t allow a baserunner until there was one out in the fourth inning. He retired the first 10 batters he faced with only two balls leaving the infield. He exited in the seventh inning with a runner on and two outs. Left-hander Rio Gomez then entered, and after issuing a walk, the sophomore retired the side, coaxing a groundout from Matthew Alford.
The Demons scratched a run across in the eighth, but Bobby Dalbec entered to slam the door and earn his third save of the season. Dalbec tossed 1 2/3 innings without allowing a hit and striking out two. He lowered his season ERA to 0.73.
Offensively, the Wildcats did most of their damage early in the game. In the second inning, Dalbec started a two-out rally when he singled. He was moved to second when Justin Behnke drew a walk. Junior infielder Louis Boyd then roped a double to left-centerfield for a two-run knock to make it 2-0.
That remained the score until the fifth inning. Cody Ramer started the frame with a single, before Jared Oliva was hit by a pitch to put two on with none out. Ryan Aguilar grounded out to first to move both runners up a base. Zach Gibbons then laid down a bunt back to the pitcher, which wasn’t handled cleanly. Ramer scored from first and Gibbons was safe at first on the error.
The Cats added another run later in the inning when Gibbons stole second and Oliva broke with him, dashing home from third and sliding in safely to make it 4-0.
That was plenty for Bannister, who cruised into the seventh. The righty has a scoreless streak of 13 1/3 innings and lowered his season ERA to 2.62. All total this season. Bannister has allowed just 14 hits in 24 innings and has just one walk to 17 strikeouts.
Bannister finished off a solid day for the Cats, which started with a convincing win over St. Mary’s in the first game of the day.
Freshman Michael Flynn earned his first career win in that one and Gibbons, Ramer and Aguilar all had two-hit games in the six-run victory.
St. Mary's opened the game with two runs in the top of the first off of starter Cody Moffett. But the Wildcats responded right away, plating four runs in the bottom half of the inning.
The Cats loaded the bases and freshman Alfonso Rivas reached on an error, which scored Aguilar from third for the first run. Dalbec then hit a sacrifice fly to right to plate Gibbons and tie the game. J.J. Matijevic scored on a wild pitch and Rivas broke for home and scored when Justin Behnke took off from first base and induced a run-down.
After Flynn put up a scoreless second, the Cats went right back to work in the bottom half. Gibbons connected for a two-run, two-out single to make it 6-2. Flynn again put up a zero in the top of the third and Arizona scored three more in the bottom half to extend the lead to 9-2.
In that inning, freshman Cesar Salazar had a two-run triple and Ramer had a sacrifice fly.
The Cats extended the lead to 11-2 in the fourth when Rivas had a two-run single to score Gibbons and Matijevic.
The Gaels scored three in the fifth to get it to 11-5, which capped the scoring for the game.
Junior right-hander Austin Schnabel provided a solid outing in relief for the Wildcats, throwing 2 1/3 hitless innings and striking out two. Freshman Cody Deason and sophomore Cameron Ming combined for two scoreless innings to close it out.
Salazar, Rivas and Gibbons all had multiple-RBI games for the Cats. Aguilar and Gibbons also reached base safely for the 11th straight game and then extended it to 12 games in the nightcap. Matijevic extended his hitting streak to nine games with a second-inning single, but saw the streak end against Northwestern State.
The Wildcats will return to action Friday at home versus Sacramento State. First pitch is set for 6 p.m.
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