The No. 11-ranked Arizona baseball team took advantage of an early four-run lead after the fourth inning and held off a near comeback by UCLA in the ninth, taking the second game of a three-game series with a 4-2 win Saturday night at Hi Corbett Field.
Arizona (17-6, 6-2 Pac-12) lost the first game to UCLA (14-8, 2-3) Friday, so winning this game was a must if it wants to win the series Sunday.
“You could feel the energy in the dugout where it’s not like our backs are against the wall, it’s more like everyone almost plays more aggressively,” starting pitcher Garrett Irvin said. “So it’s not that I prefer at all to lose a first game, but the one benefit would be that we all really wanna win game two, especially after last night, losing by eight runs, everyone’s fired up. It makes me fired up and we want to put up a zero.”
Arizona got off to a fast start in the first inning, following a 1-2-3 inning pitched by the left-handed pitcher.
“It was super important,” Arizona coach Chip Hale said. “We talked about it in our meetings and in our prep with the hitters, ’Let’s get our zero in the first, come in and and play clean defense and let’s score a run.’ We scored three so that was important.”
With two outs and the bases loaded, Mac Bingham blasted a flyball into center field, where it dropped just in front of the center fielder, forcing in Daniel Susac and Tanner O’Tremble.
Noah Turley, the next batter up, had a hit into left field and brought in Chase Davis for the third run of the inning.
Irvin pitched two more 1-2-3 innings in the second and third, leaving the entire UCLA batting lineup with an 0-for-1 start.
Arizona found home plate again in the bottom of the third inning. Davis found himself on second base after hitting a double deep into center-left field.
Tony Bullard hit the ball up the middle and got the RBI single, scoring Davis and improving the Wildcats lead to 4-0.
Arizona had another opportunity to put more runs on the board with the bases loaded and two outs in the third inning. Nik McClaughry was the next batter up and struck out to end the third inning.
Both Arizona and UCLA couldn’t get any runners to home plate for the fourth and fifth innings. Irvin was perfect through the first four innings, but allowed his first hit in the fifth.
UCLA was close to scoring a run in at the top of the seventh inning with two runners on base and no outs.
Bruins first baseman Jake Palmer grounded the ball towards McClaughry at shortstop and McClaughry picked it up to make the play at second and first base for the double play.
Irvin walked the next UCLA batter and struck the last one out to get out of the inning with no runs.
Trevor Long came in for Irvin at the top of the eighth inning with a walked UCLA runner on base and two outs.
UCLA finally got a run in following the pitching change. The very next batter, Daylen Reyes, grounded the ball up the middle and brought in Palmer for their first run of the game to cut Arizona’s lead to 4-1.
Irvin finished the game with 8 2/3 innings pitched, three hits allowed and only one run earned.
UCLA made the ninth inning interesting for the 3,890 fans in attendance. With the bases loadeed and no outs, JonJon Vaughns hit a sac fly into right field to bring in Carson Yates, making Arizona’s lead tighter at 4-2.
With the next batter at the plate, Vaughn advanced to second base after a wild pitch was thrown by Christian Holden, who replaced Long at the top of the ninth. The batter put the ball into play with a grounder towards third baseman Garen Caulfield.
Caulfield fielded the ball easily and made the throw at first base for the final out.
Susac went 3-for-5 with a double and a triple. He has seven three-hit games this season. He leads the team with 16 multi-hit performances this year.
Bingham was 1-for-3 with two RBIs. Bullard went 2-for-4 with a RBI. Turley finished 1-for-4 and an RBI.
Arizona and UCLA play their third game — the rubber match of the series — Sunday at noon at Hi Corbett Field.