The Arizona Wildcats scored four runs in the ninth inning to come back and top the USC Trojans 8-5 Thursday night at Dedeaux Field.
The victory marked Arizona’s sixth straight and gave head coach Jay Johnson his 100th career Division I victory.
Trailing 5-4 heading into the final inning, Ryan Aguilar led off the frame with a single and moved to third when Bobby Dalbec singled to right-centerfield. J.J. Matijevic then collected his fourth hit of the night to score Aguilar and tie the game at five.
Ryan Haug then dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners up a base. He was able to reach first on an error to load the bases with no outs. After a strikeout, Justin Behnke was hit by a pitch to plate the go-ahead run and make it 6-5. Cody Ramer walked to make it 7-5 and then Zach Gibbons singled to third base to make it 8-5 and complete the four-run ninth.
“That’s what Arizona baseball is all about,” coach Jay Johnson said. “We just keep fighting and fighting no matter the situation.”
Dalbec came on in the ninth to close out the game and earn his sixth save of the season. The junior also went 2 for 5 at the plate.
Trailing 5-3 after six innings, left-hander Rio Gomez entered for the Cats and was dominant, tossing two scoreless innings and striking out four. The Cats scored one in the eighth, before the four-run ninth to complete the comeback and get Gomez his second win of the season.
“He’s been having some great bullpens and has been grading out very high on our reports,” Johnson said. “We felt like it was a good spot for him, and he came through.”
USC (19-21, 8-8) grabbed an early lead, plating three runs in the first inning off Arizona starter Nathan Bannister. Bannister entered the game having allowed just one earned run in his last 26 innings and having thrown two straight complete games. But the Trojans were able to get to the red-hot Bannister.
Timmy Robinson, Jeremy Martinez and A.J. Ramirez all had RBI hits in the inning to give the Trojans the 3-0 lead after one.
That remained the score until the third inning when Arizona plated its first run of the game. Ramer, who led off the inning with a single, scored the run when USC starter Joe Navilhon was called for a balk to make it 3-1.
Arizona continued to chip away at the lead, scoring another run in the fifth. Behnke led off the inning with a walk and stole second. Ramer then walked and Gibbons dropped down a sacrifice bunt to move both runners up a base. Third-place hitter Alfonso Rivas then produced an RBI groundout to first base to score Behnke and cut the lead to 3-2.
An inning later, the Cats tied the game at three. Matijevic and Aguilar put together back-to-back one-out singles and pinch-hitter Cesar Salazar followed with a walk to load the bases for Behnke. On a full count, Behnke dropped down a squeeze bunt to score Matijevic and tie the game after falling behind early.
An inning later, after Bannister tossed four straight scoreless innings, USC got to the right-hander again, plating two runs to take a 5-3 lead, which stayed the score until Arizona’s late-innings rally.
The Cats and Trojans will continue their series Friday night at 7 p.m. Left-hander J.C. Cloney will start for Arizona. USC will counter with right-hander Kyle Davis.
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