The Arizona Wildcats are one win away from advancing out of regional play and into the Super Regionals thanks to Garrett Irvin’s spectacular complete-game, three-hit shutout performance in a 4-0 win against the red-hot UC Santa Barbara Gauchos Saturday night at Hi Corbett Field.
“His ability to stay pitch to pitch, I’d call it a heightened focus in his body language, there was no doubt in my opinion that he would pitch well” said Arizona head coach Jay Johnson when talking about his starting pitcher’s performance in their second game of the Tucson Regional.
“But to execute like that it showed a lot of his mental toughness and his strength and mindset, and our team just really fed off that.”
UCSB head coach Andrew Checketts was very complimentary of Irvin during his postgame press conference.
“He had four pitches going for him, he did a really nice job and pitched his ass off, landing the breaking ball early, and we really didn’t adjust and when he would land it up in the zone, we just kinda took it for a strike,” he said.
No. 1 seeded Arizona (42-15) and No. 3 UCSB (40-19) both won their respective matchups Friday at Hi Corbett in convincing fashion, setting up the matchup between Irvin and Gauchos star pitcher Michael McGreevy, who came into the game with a 9-1 record.
The Wildcats were in a bit of a unique situation, as they were the designated away team in their own home stadium, which meant they were up to the plate in the top of the first.
They took that opportunity to seize control of the game early, when Donta Williams, similar to what he did in Friday’s game against GCU with his glove, gave the Wildcats their first spark of the night by reaching first base to open the game.
After a steal attempt on a 3-2 swinging strikeout, a groundout to shortstop, and a base hit by catcher Daniel Susac up the middle, the Wildcats took a 1-0 lead.
The Wildcats capitalized on each of the first two times they got the lead off hitter on to start an inning, with shortstop Nik McClaughry getting hit by a pitch to lead off the third inning, before coming around to score on a Branden Boissiere single to left later in the inning, making it a 2-0 game early.
If that had been all the run support the Arizona offense could muster up, it would have been more than plenty with the way Irvin was pitching.
Irvin was spectacular throughout the game, with one specific pitch being there for him all night long.
“I think my slider today,” he said. “Usually, i think as each week goes on, it’s a new pitch each week, but but this week it was definitely my slider, just because it had a lot of action early I could see they were just taking it but I saw when I threw it down and threw it as hard as i could, they swung over the top of it.”
Irvin, who teammates and fans have come to know as “Gary,” finished with 10 strikeouts, including the final four batters that he retired, all going down on strikes. He was really only in what someone could consider “trouble” once, in the fifth inning, when he allowed two base hits, setting up a first and second situation with one out.
A strikeout to the following batter and a spectacular catch by Tanner O’Tremba in foul territory down the left field line running full speed into the fence quickly put to rest what would end up being UCSB’s only real chance against him all night.
O’Tremba, one of the stars in last night’s 12-6 comeback win, ran hard into the waist-high fence, nearly going over it. When the Wildcats came up to bat the following inning, and O’Tremba was due up, Tyler Casagrande was hitting in his place.
Concerns over whether or not O’Tremba was okay arose, but coach Johnson was quick to explain the change was simply matchup based to get the left-handed batter in Casagrande against the right-hander in McGreevy, who’s night was nearing an end after 100 plus pitches through five innings at the time.
“Tanner is fine, first of all, I know it was an amazing play, I don’t know if the fence is fine” Johnson said with a small smile. “Great play by Tanner and that was a matchup thing we wanted to do there.”
Tony Bullard, similar to his solo home run last night, put a charge into a ball, this time more to left-center field, for a two-run shot after a Kobe Kato hustle play to beat out a throw at first on a ground ball.
Bullard says that his recent improvements with his power at the plate come from working with the Arizona coaching staff on his swing and maximizing it by working on what the lower part of his body is doing during his motion.
“I feel like I am just using my legs more, I feel like my stance now is a lot lower than it previously was, so just being able to hips and my legs in my swing that’s helped a lot,” Bullard said after the game.
Arizona awaits the winner of UCSB and Oklahoma State game tomorrow at noon, which will set up a matchup between an Oklahoma State team (36-18-1) that Arizona has yet to see or a rematch with UCSB.
The first pitch of the Wildcats’ game is at 6 p.m.