Zach Gibbons pounded out five hits, Bobby Dalbec added three and JC Cloney tossed six shutout innings to earn his sixth victory of the year as the Arizona Wildcats won the series-opener at Hawaii 11-2 Friday night at Les Murakami Stadium.
Arizona had 17 hits in the win with five players producing multi-hit games. The Cats have now won four games in a row, scoring 36 runs in that stretch. Coach Jay Johnson’s team is now 36-20 on the season. Hawaii dropped to 23-28.
The Cats got on the scoreboard in the second inning when designated hitter JJ Matijevic launched a solo home run over the scoreboard in right-centerfield. It was the slugger’s third home run of the season and the team’s first since Bobby Dalbec went deep against Arizona State last month in Phoenix. It was Matijevic’s first home run since April 20, when he left the yard at Hi Corbett Field against New Mexico State.
Arizona tacked on another run in the fourth and Matijevic was at the heart of it again. The designated hitter opened the inning with a double down the right field line. Dalbec squared to bunt, but Kyle Von Ruden’s pitch nearly hit Dalbec and skittered by to the backstop for a wild pitch to move Matijevic to third.
Dalbec then laced a single into left on the next pitch to bring in Matijevic and make it 2-0 Cats. The run-scoring hit marked Dalbec’s 34th RBI of the season and 117th for his career.
Leading 2-0, Arizona struck together four hits in the fifth to extend their lead with a three-run frame. Zach Gibbons started it all with a one-out single up the middle. The senior then swiped second base to move into scoring position for freshman left fielder Alfonso Rivas. Rivas turned on a pitch and sent a single into right field to score Gibbons and make it 3-0.
Ryan Aguilar followed with a single down the right field line to move Rivas over to third. Matijevic brought Rivas home on a fielder’s choice to give Arizona a 4-0 lead. Dalbec made it 5-0 real quick when he lined a double over the right fielder’s head to score Matijevic all the way from first. The double gave Dalbec three multi-hit games in his last five contests.
The Cats kept on hitting in the sixth, plating another run to make it 6-0. Louis Boyd walked with one out and stole second. Cody Ramer then walked to put two on for Gibbons. Gibbons collected his third hit of the night, lining a single to right-center to score Boyd and move Ramer to third. The Cats couldn’t bring Ramer home, settling for the one run in the inning.
In the seventh, the Cats broke the game open for good. Matijevic started it off with a walk and quickly moved to third when Dalbec doubled off the top of the wall in right field. Matijevic scored on a passed ball and Dalbec came home when Jared Oliva singled to left. Later in the inning, Cody Ramer had an infield single that scored Oliva and Gibbons followed with a single of his own to score Cesar Salazar, who singled earlier in the inning.
The Cats plated their fifth and final run of the inning when Aguilar lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score Ramer and cap the scoring for the frame, making it 11-0 Arizona.
With the 11-run lead, Cloney exited after the Arizona five-run inning. The junior left-hander improved to 6-3 on the season, giving up just four hits over six scoreless, while striking out two and walking one. Cloney needed just 63 pitches to navigate the six innings, tossing 47 strikes.
His offense gave him more than enough support throughout. Gibbons, who upped his batting average to .378, produced his second five-hit game of the season. The other came last month in a win at Cal. Dalbec had a three-hit game, including two extra-base hits, for the second straight game.
Ramer, Matijevic and Salazar all had two-hit nights in the win. The Cats will go for the series win Saturday night. First pitch is set for 9:35 p.m., MST. Right-hander Nathan Bannister will start for the Cats. He’ll be opposed by left-hander Alex Hatch.
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