TUCSON, Ariz. – Senior JC Cloney once again turned in a masterful performance at his home park Thursday night in the series opener against McNeese State and lifted the Wildcats to a 9-3 victory at Hi Corbett Field in front of 1,924 fans.
Cloney went 7 1/3 innings, giving up just six hits and two walks, while striking out three. He gave up three runs, but all were unearned. The senior left-hander is now 6-1 lifetime at Hi Corbett Field and is 4-0 in his last four starts at home. The senior also hasn’t given up an earned run in his past 30 innings, stretching back to last season.
The lefty ran into a bit of trouble in the first inning when leadoff hitter Robbie Podorsky singled up the middle to open the game. After a groundout moved him to second, Cloney issued an intentional walk to put Matt Gallier on with two outs. After a wild pitch moved both runners over, Joe Provenzano reached on an error to plate both runs and make it 2-0 Cowboys.
But Arizona answered back in the bottom half. Mitchell Morimoto and Cal Stevenson started the inning off with back-to-back singles, to put runners on the corners with no outs. A double play brought home Morimoto for Arizona’s lone run of the inning.
Cloney then settled in and retired 11 in a row, before surrendering a base hit to Will Fox with one out in the fifth. But by that time, the Wildcats had given him plenty of run support.
In the home half of the fourth, Arizona struck for five runs. Nick Quintana started the inning off with a double and Alfonso Rivas followed with a hit by pitch to put two men on for Kyle Lewis. Lewis bunted both runners over to put two into scoring position for catcher Cesar Salazar. Salazar singled to center to score Quintana and knock starter Bryan King out of the game.
Reliever Tyler Wesley came on to face Louis Boyd, who reached on a fielder’s choice sacrifice to load the bases. Rivas then scored on a wild pitch and Salazar and Boyd each moved up a base. Morimoto brought both runners home with a double down the left field line. After a groundout, Morimoto eventually scored on a wild pitch for Arizona’s fifth run of the inning and sixth of the game.
Cloney worked around his single in the fifth to get the next two batters and again Arizona gave him more breathing room in the bottom half of the inning. Quintana again started the inning off with a single and moved to third on a double from Rivas. Lewis brought Rivas home on an RBI groundout to make it 7-2.
That remained the score until McNeese State scored another unearned run off Cloney in the seventh. The lefty came back out for the eighth and got a strikeout to start the inning. But after a single and a walk, Landon Faulkner came on and got a pair of strikeouts to end the inning and keep it 7-3.
The Cats tacked on two more in the eighth for insurance purposes. Salazar walked to start the inning and moved to second on a passed ball. Boyd then reached on a bunt single and moved Salazar to third. After Morimoto struck out, Boyd swiped second to put two into scoring position. A double steal on an attempted squeeze scored Salazar and Boyd scored on a sacrifice fly from Stevenson to make it 9-3.
Senior Austin Schnabel pitched a perfect ninth to finish off the win for the Wildcats. Morimoto, Stevenson, Jared Oliva, Quintana and Salazar all had two hits in the win. Morimoto added two runs scored and two RBI. Quintana scored a pair of runs as well. Boyd finished 1 for 3 with two runs scored and a pair of stolen bases.
The Cats return to action Friday at 6 p.m., in the second game of the four-game set. Arizona is looking for its first 6-0 start since 2007.
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