The Arizona Wildcats scored five runs in the eighth inning to storm back and top No. 18 Cal 7-6 Sunday afternoon at Evans Diamond to complete the three-game sweep.
Arizona moved to 26-14 on the season and 10-8 in Pac-12 play and becomes the first team in the league to reach 10 conference wins. The Wildcats with the win vault to third place in conference-play just percentage points behind Washington and Oregon State who are tied for first place (9-6).
Trailing 2-1, Cal put together a five-run inning to snag a 6-2 lead in the seventh inning. Starting pitcher Cameron Ming exited after one out in the inning and the Bears were able to get to Matt Hartman and Alfonso Rivas for the five-run inning.
But Arizona came right back and responded with a five-run inning of its own. J.J. Matijevic led off the inning with a double and Ryan Haug followed with a double of his own to deep left-centerfield to score Matijevic and make it 6-3. Louis Boyd then singled up the middle to score Haug to make it a two-run game.
The Cats were just getting started.
Pinch-hitter Cesar Salazar singled through the right side to move Boyd up to second. Cody Ramer followed with a single through the left side to load the bases with still nobody gone. After Zach Gibbons popped out, Bobby Dalbec came to the plate. The junior singled to plate Boyd and pinch-runner Justin Behnke to tie the game at six.
On the very next pitch, Ryan Aguilar blooped a single to center to score Ramer and give Arizona a five-run inning and more importantly a 7-6 lead.
Rivas then tossed a scoreless eighth and ninth to secure the thrilling win for the Cats and complete the sweep after a 13-inning victory Saturday night.
“That’s as impressive as it gets in terms of staying with the one pitch at time, one inning at a time deal,” coach Jay Johnson said. “They were staring adversity in the face and didn’t even flinch. Good teams can do that, and I think we learned a lot about ourselves this weekend. We’re excited to keep improving.”
Rivas earned the win to improve to 2-1 on the season. He retired the side in order in the ninth, facing Cal’s three most dangerous hitters, Robbie Tenerowicz, Mitchell Kranson and Brett Cumberland.
“That’s like going through Jeff Kent, Adrian Gonzalez and Joe Mauer in the ninth,” Johnson said. “Our pitching staff all weekend was great. Coach (Dave) Lawn did a great job of calling pitches against a very good offensive lineup.”
For the second straight game, Arizona plated two runs in the first inning to snag a lead. Ramer opened the game with a single to put a man on for Gibbons, who entered the game as the Pac-12’s leading hitter at .386.
Gibbons hit a sharp ground ball to Tenerowicz at second that he couldn’t handle. The error allowed Ramer to move to third and Gibbons up to second. Dalbec then came up and doubled down the right field line to plate Ramer and Gibbons to give Arizona an early 2-0 lead.
Cal starter Matt Ladrech retired the next three batters he faced to strand Dalbec at second and keep the deficit at two.
Ming threw up zeroes in his first three innings and Ladrech settled down to hold the Wildcats scoreless over his next three as well. In the bottom of the fourth, Cal finally got to Ming for its first run of the game.
Kranson led off the inning with a single and then tried to score when the next batter, Cumberland, doubled to left field. However, Aguilar fired to Ramer at shortstop, who was able to nail Kranson at home with a perfect throw to Haug. Nick Halamandaris then singled to move Cumberland to third. Cumberland eventually scored on a sacrifice fly to make it 2-1.
That remained the score all the way until the seventh inning when Cal plated its five runs.
Dalbec finished 3 for 5 with four RBI to lead the Cats after earning the win on the mound in Saturday’s 13-inning game.
“When your guys are your guys, things change,” Johnson said of Dalbec. “He’s taken better at-bats than the results show, and it was great to see him get some results today.”
The Cats will return to action Tuesday at Arizona State in a non-conference matchup. The game will be televised by Pac-12 Networks with Daron Sutton and Scott Erickson on the call.
Copyright 2016 Arizona Athletics. All rights reserved.
David Kelly contributed to this story.
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