Tucson, Ariz. – Alfonso Rivas tied it and classmate Cesar Salazar won it for Arizona on Monday as the Wildcats topped Eastern Kentucky 9-8 in front of 1,895 fans at Hi Corbett Field on a walk-off hit by pitch in the ninth inning.
Trailing 8-6 entering the ninth, JJ Matijevic started things off with a single to center off of Alex Hamilton. The Colonels then brought in right-hander Brian Mroz to replace Hamilton. Mroz walked the first batter he faced, Nick Quintana, before Louis Boyd reached on a fielder's choice to load the bases with nobody out.
Rivas then roped a single to right field to score Matijevic and Quintana and tie the game at eight. After a ground out by Casey Bowman and a walk to Ryan Haug, Salazar came up with the bases loaded and one out. On a 1-1 count, Mroz hit Salazar in the elbow, allowing Boyd to score to give the Wildcats the win and the sweep over the Colonels to start the inning.
The hit by Rivas marked the third time in his young career that he had a game-tying hit in the ninth inning or later. In fact, in the past three walk-off wins for Arizona, Rivas has been the player to tie the game to set up the walk-off.
The sophomore from San Diego finished the game 1 for 3 with three RBI and a pair of walks. The left-hander also started on the mound for the Cats, before moving to designated hitter. He pitched 1 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and six unearned runs.
After his offense got him a pair of runs in the first inning on back-to-back doubles from Jared Oliva and Matijevic, the Colonels put up six runs in the second off of two Arizona errors and a passed ball.
But the Cats eventually responded in the fifth inning with four runs to tie the game at six. In the fifth, Oliva led off the inning with his first home run of the season. Matijevic then doubled and Quintana singled to move him up a base. Boyd then walked to load the bases and Rivas followed with a walk of his own to score Matijevic. Freshman second baseman Cameron Cannon followed with a single through the left side to score Quintana. Boyd scored on a double play to tie the game at six.
Eastern Kentucky put up two runs in the sixth to grab an 8-6 lead, which stood up until Arizona's heroics in the ninth inning.
The walk-off win wrapped up a four-game sweep of the Colonels and gave Arizona a 4-0 start to the season for the third time since 2007. The Cats' 49 runs in their first four games of the season are the most since Arizona scored 51 runs over their first four in 2005.
In Monday's win, Matijevic finished 3 for 4 and is 9 for 19 to start the season overall with five extra-base hits. Oliva went 2 for 5 with two runs and two RBI. Cal Stevenson also had two hits and finished 2 for 4 with one run scored.