Daniel Susac said the mentality of Arizona’s team is “having nothing to lose,” and the Wildcats embodied that down to their last pitch against Miami in the ninth inning Sunday.
Tanner O’Tremba provided the heroics with a two-run double with two outs in the top of the ninth to lift Arizona to a 4-3 win over host Miami in an elimination game of the Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional.
“When you play with nothing to lose, and you play with your tail on fire, I think that’s when we play best, when our backs are against the wall,” Susac said.
Arizona (39-24) plays Ole Miss (34-22) at 10 a.m., Tucson time, Monday in the championship round of the regional. The Wildcats must beat the Rebels twice to move on to the Super Regionals.
— Arizona Baseball (@ArizonaBaseball) June 6, 2022
O’Tremba’s clutch hit was against Miami’s All-American stopper Andrew Walters, who struck out the first two batters of the ninth inning after entering with a 1.14 ERA and 14 saves.
“Wow, it was exciting,” said Arizona coach Chip Hale, whose team earlier in the day held off Canisius 7-5 in another elimination game. “Just letting them play, letting it go and leaving everything on the field the best they can.
“They really did. They never stopped fighting and I’m very proud of them.”
Nik McClaughry started the rally with an infield single in which shortstop Dominic Pitelli fielded it deep in the hole and his throw to first base was high. Daniel Susac was then hit by a pitch when he was down to his last strike on a 1-2 count.
O’Tremba followed with a double to the gap in left-centerfield on a 1-1 count that scored McClaughry and pinch-runner Tyler Casagrande.
“The biggest thing you can do as a hitter in that situation against a guy who is that good and throws that hard is to try to hit something hard the other way,” said O’Tremba, a right-handed batter. “Not try to do too much. Take a deep breath and I think that’s the biggest thing I told myself is to give us a chance by putting the ball in play.”
Arizona baseball fighting and clawing their way to a lead against Miami in this elimination game pic.twitter.com/0ZeekxsYr9
— D1Baseball (@d1baseball) June 6, 2022
Miami tried to mount a rally in the bottom of the ninth against reliever Quinn Flanagan with Ariel Garcia reaching on a single to lead off the inning.
Garcia went to second base on a wild pitch and moved third on a fly ball to deep center field by CJ Kayfus.
Flanagan then struck out Gaby Gutierrez before intentionally walking Yohandy Morales, who had four home runs in the regional, including one earlier in the game.
After Morales ran to second base uncontested, Gonzalez grounded out to McClaughry at shortstop to end the game.
“We had the lead late but couldn’t close them out,” Miami coach Gino DiMare said. “It’s tough to swallow right now.”
Flanagan did not have a save before Sunday. He earned one against Canisius and Miami. Trevor Long, who pitched a hitless eighth against the Hurricanes, was the winning pitcher. He improved to 6-3.
The game was a constant display of Arizona picking itself up with extra-base hits after Miami powered its way to leads off home runs.
“The whole night, they never died — the whole day against Canisius the same way — they kept fighting and it was electric,” Hale said.
Arizona rallied from behind from the beginning of the game after Kayfus hit the first pitch from Dawson Netz in the first inning out of the park.
Netz then threw four-plus hitless innings over his next 60 pitches. He was relieved by Anthony Susac after allowing a leadoff walk in the fifth.
“We’ve been trying to get him back to get some more innings and some more pitches,” Hale said of Netz, who suffered from an arm injury this season. “You have to really tip your cap to him.”
Mac Bingham answered in the third inning on the first pitch delivered by Miami starter Alejandro Rosario to tie the game at 1.
Morales hit his home run in the sixth, a two-run shot off Anthony Susac to give Miami a 3-1 lead.
Tony Bullard connected on a home run on a full-count in the eighth after reliever Greg Ziehl struck out the first two batters of that inning.
Arizona stuck out 13 times against Miami (after having 20 in a 7-4 loss to Ole Miss on Saturday) but it beat the Hurricanes because it connected on extra-base hits when the Wildcats needed them the most.
“It’s been all or nothing and those hits like that (home runs and O’Tremba’s double) are exciting,” Hale said. “You get guys on, you hit it to the gap and watch some guys run. The biggest factor is really good pitching.
“Ole Miss and Miami have fantastic, electric arms coming out of the bullpen. You’re going to strike out.”
Arizona’s postseason matchups with Miami have been epic.
The Wildcats have played the Hurricanes in the College World Series in 1979, 1986 and 2016 (winning in 1979 and 2016) and in the Coral Gables Super Regional in 2008 (Wildcats lost two out of the three games).
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.