SCOTTSDALE — Arizona baseball is peaking at the perfect time as its bats remain on fire in the Pac-12 Tournament at Scottsdale Stadium. The Wildcats took down top-seeded Stanford 14-4 by run-ruling the Cardinal, bringing an end to the game after the seventh inning and advancing to the conference championship game.
The No. 8 Wildcats, 33-23 overall and winners of seven of their last eight games, will play No. 6 Oregon (36-20) in the championship on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Scottsdale Stadium.
“They say, ‘Don’t let the Cats get hot,'” said Arizona slugger Chase Davis, who belted his 21st home run of the season and tallied six RBIs in the win over Stanford. “That’s an expression we’ve been saying. … Any team is going to take the momentum from one tournament or one game to the next game, whether it’s a win or a loss. We know what we need to do, and we’re just gonna keep on playing these games.”
Bradon Zastrow (6-5) got the start and was able to pitch through the seventh inning to pick up the win for the Wildcats. He allowed 10 hits, four runs and no walks. He struck out five.
“It’s one of those things where you just go,” said Zastrow, a former Pima College standout. “It’s win or go home, so I’m gonna throw my best stuff. You know, give it the best I’ve got to give my team a chance to win.”
“Hell of a performance,” Davis said about Zastrow’s pitching. “He’s awesome, and to see the pitchers come around and do what they need to do is awesome. I’m super proud of him.”
Stanford (38-16) was able to strike first in the bottom of the first inning.
Eddie Park got things started with a lead-off single before advancing to second on a wild pitch. Tommy Troy then knocked the ball over the wall in right-center field for a two-run homer, putting Stanford up 2-0 early in the game.
“Since I was a young player, Tom Kelly was my manager in Minnesota,” Arizona coach Chip Hale said. “He used to always say sometimes a home run is a rally killer, and when Troy hit that home run it was 2-0 in the first inning, but guess what? There’s nobody on base and now we get those three outs. That was impressive.”
“It’s not a fearful thing,” Zastrow said about giving up the two runs in the first inning. “I have a good offense and a good defense behind me.”
While Arizona’s motto according to Hale is to win the first inning, the Wildcats ended up coming to life in the top of the second, establishing dominance and setting the tone for the rest of the game.
Salpointe graduate Mason White came up to bat to start the inning and was able to answer Stanford’s two runs with a home run of his own, making it 2-1 in the top of the second.
Tony Bullard followed White, hitting the ball to left-center field nearly over the fence for a double. The fun for the Wildcats wouldn’t stop there, though, as things were just getting started. Tommy Splaine would follow by hitting the ball to nearly the exact same spot as Bullard for an RBI double, making it 2-2.
Garen Claufield was then hit by a pitch to advance to first base and prompting a mound meeting for Stanford. Mac Bingham also walked, loading the bases with no outs.
Nik McClaughry followed with an RBI single to give Arizona the 3-2 lead. Davis then came to the plate and split the third baseman and shortstop for a two-run RBI single, extending the lead to 5-2.
Later in the inning, McClaughry was able to beat the throw from the outfield to home on a pop fly by Kiko Romero for the first out, further extending the lead to 6-2. It was Romero’s 85th RBI of the season, one shy of matching the school record of 86 set by Ron Hassey in 1974.
ARIZONA SEASON RBI LEADERS
Ron Hassey, 1974, 86
Kiko Romero, 2023, 85
Ron Hassey, 1976, 84
Terry Francona, 1980, 84
Terry Francona, 1979, 81
Alan Zinter, 1989, 81
Mike Senne, 1986, 80
Jordan Brown, 2005, 80
The Wildcats kept the momentum going in the second when Emilio Corona walked before a fly out at first base got the second out of the inning and prompted a pitching change.
Drew Dowd came out to the mound to replace Quinn Mathews. Despite the pitching change, Bullard walked, loading the bases once again. Splaine followed with a two-run single to center field to extend the lead to 8-2.
“We just kept hitting those doubles and it keeps guys on base, which is hard for pitchers,” Hale said.
In the bottom of the third, an RBI single from Braden Montgomery cut Arizona’s lead to 8-3, but great defense from Arizona got the remaining two outs and prevented Stanford from putting up any additional runs.
The bats remained hot for Arizona in the top of the fifth inning, when Bullard got things started off with a single to center field. Splaine followed with another hit to right-center field for a double, before a ground out allowed Bullard to cross home and extend the lead to 9-3. Bingham walked, putting two on with one out before McClaughry was also walked to load the bases.
ARIZONA CAREER HR LEADERS
Shelley Duncan, 1999-2001, 55
Brad Glenn, 2006-09, 43
Chase Davis, 2021-23, 39
Kenny Corley, 1995-98, 36
Nick Quintana, 2017-19, 35
David Shermet, 1985-88, 34
Les Pearsey, 1975-78, 33
C.J. Zeigler, 2007-08, 33
Moises Duran, 2001-04, 32
Todd Trafton, 1983-86, 31
Bill Rhinehart, 2004-07, 31
Deciding it was time to change pitchers once again, Stanford coach David Esquer brought in Nicolas Lopez to replace Dowd.
Davis came up to bat.
The change at the bump made no difference to Davis, who absolutely crushed it. He sent the ball into the outfield stands for a grand slam, extending the lead to 13-3 before the Cardinal could get out of the inning.
“We have a scouting report for all the pitchers we face,” Davis said. “That kind of guy, I knew he was going to be coming from lower, a little lower, three quarters. So I had to set my sights to that, pick up the ball and do what I needed to do.”
“That was a big blow for [Stanford],” Hale said.
In the top of the sixth inning, Arizona was able to extend the score to 14-3 after an error on a single by Bingham.
Going into the seventh inning, Arizona knew it was just three outs away from ending it. Stanford attempted to rally and was able to drive in one run to cut the lead to 14-4 with one out, but it still would be too little too late.
Keeping his composure, Zastrow was able to get the final two outs and bring a close to the game.
“I think they knew it was my game,” Zastrow said. “I was still in the zone. I was still getting quick outs. I was having good innings, so I knew they weren’t gonna yank me.”
Hale said despite being up by so much in the game, there was still never a moment where his team could relax or breathe on the field.
Oregon and Arizona faced each other previously this season at Hi Corbett Field, where the Cats dropped all three meetings to the Ducks. For Saturday’s game, Hale says it’s still undecided who will be his starting pitcher.
The Wildcats are working toward their first Pac-12 tournament championship, which results in an automatic bid for the NCAA tournament field.
It’s still questionable whether or not Arizona will make the cut based on its 15-18 Pac-12 record including regular season and conference tournament games. The Wildcats are also 4-14 on the road (with seven of the losses by two runs or less). They are 6-1 in neutral-site games, however.
“We’re battling and fighting our tails off,” Hale said.
“Wether it’s here or any regional in the country, we’re ready to go,” Davis said.