TUCSON, AZ - JC Cloney twirled seven shutout innings and eight of nine starters had at least one hit in Arizona's 6-0 win over Eastern Kentucky on opening day Friday at Hi Corbett Field.
Cloney, who tossed 16 straight scoreless innings to end the 2016 season, upped his streak to 23 innings with a dominant performance Friday against the Colonels. The senior left-hander gave up just one hit and struck out six, while not issuing a walk over seven scoreless innings.
Cloney gave up a double to leadoff hitter Daniel McFarland to lead off the game, but then didn't give up another hit the rest of his outing. Cloney retired 15 straight after the double to McFarland. The only other baserunner to reach on Cloney was Jacob Abbott, who reached on a strike three wild pitch to lead off the sixth. A sacrifice bunt moved Abbott to second, but Cloney got a strikeout and a groundout to end the inning.
He picked up right where he left off in the seventh inning and put together a 1-2-3 frame, getting a pop out and two ground outs. Cloney then exited after 74 pitches, 57 of which went for strikes. Cloney tossed seven shutout innings in last year's College World Series against UCSB and then followed that up with a shutout against Coastal Carolina. He now has gone 23 straight innings without allowing a run and his team has shut out the opponent in all three games.
The Cats wasted no time getting Cloney a lead on opening day. Mitchell Morimoto, a junior college transfer from Mesa CC, was hit by EKU starting pitcher Jack Piekos to lead off the game. A Cal Stevenson bunt moved Morimoto to second and then Jared Oliva roped a single to left field to plate Morimoto and make it 1-0.
Arizona added another run in the third and again Morimoto started it. He singled to center on a 3-1 count and then moved to second on a wild pitch. Stevenson singled to put runners on the corners with no outs. Oliva grounded into a double play, but Morimoto scored to give Cloney another run.
That remained the score until Arizona broke the game open in the sixth with three runs. Oliva reached on an error to start the inning and moved to third on a single from JJ Matijevic. Freshman Nicholas Quintana followed with a double down the left field line to plate Oliva. Senior Kyle Lewis followed with a single to score Matijevic and make it 4-0.
After a strikeout, Lewis and Quintana executed a double steal perfectly, allowing Lewis to swipe second and Quintana to score easily when Eastern Kentucky catcher Logan Starnes tried to throw out Lewis at second.
With a 5-0 lead, coach Jay Johnson went to the bullpen to start the eighth and brought in junior college transfer Seve Romo. Romo struck out the side in the eighth to quickly get Arizona back up to the plate. After Quintana walked with one out, Cory Voss tripled to right with two outs to score Quintana and make it 6-0.
Romo pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out another and allowing a double to McFarland to close out the game.
The win marks Arizona's ninth straight opening day win and is the team's first shutout on opening day since a 16-0 win over Coppin State in 2013. Cloney won on opening day for the second straight year.
The Cats and Colonels will meet again Saturday at 1 p.m. Right-hander Tylor Megill will start for the Cats.