Arizona must literally and figuratively answer an early-morning wakeup call on Sunday in Miami to keep its season alive after striking out 20 times in a 7-4 loss Saturday night to Ole Miss in the opening round of the Coral Gables (Fla.) Regional.
The Wildcats (37-24) are now forced to play a win-or-go-home game against Canisius (29-24) at 8 a.m. Tucson time on Sunday.
If Arizona (37-24) beats Canisius, the Wildcats will play the loser of Miami or Ole Miss in the regional elimination-bracket semifinal Sunday night (starting time to be determined). Miami and Ole Miss play the winners bracket semfinal at 12:06 p.m., Tucson time.
Three games are scheduled Sunday to make up for Friday’s games that were postponed due to rain.
The 20 strikeouts by Arizona’s batters is the most in a nine-inning game in program history. The Wildcats had 21 strikeouts in a 17-inning game at Ole Miss in a 2001 regular-season game.
Ole Miss second baseman Peyton Chatagnier, batting .255 this season, accounted for five of the Rebels’ runs — a two-run home run in the seventh against starter Garrett Irvin and a bases-clearing double in the eighth against reliever Trevor Long.
Ole Miss starter Dylan DeLucia did not factor in the decision but he recorded a career-high 12 strikeouts with one walk in six innings.
Josh Mallitz (1-0) picked up the win striking out five in two innings and closer Brandon Johnson struck out the side in the ninth for his 10th save.
In between those strikeouts in the ninth, Johnson had to work through a jam after Tony Bullard walked to lead off the inning and Garen Caulfield followed with single. Johnson then threw a wild pitch that advanced both runners.
He then struck out Tommy Splaine, Noah Turley and Mac Bingham consecutively to end the game.
Chase Davis returned to Arizona’s lineup in a big way after not playing following the first inning of last week’s loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament because he jammed his shoulder against the wall while making a catch.
Davis and Caulfield homered off starter DeLucia in the second inning to give Arizona a 2-0 lead. Davis’ 17 home runs this year are tied for the most by an Arizona player since C.J. Ziegler blasted 20 in 2008.
Ole Miss answered in the fourth inning on Jacob Gonzalez’s two-run home run off Irvin.
Arizona regained the lead, 4-2, after Tanner O’Tremba started the rally with a double with two outs in the sixth inning. Davis was intentionally walked and Bullard followed with double to centerfield that scored O’Tremba and Davis.
Bullard experienced a postseason last year in which he had five hits and four RBIs in the three games against Ole Miss in the Super Regional at Hi Corbett Field.
The Rebels tied the game at 4 in the seventh inning after Kemp Alderman singled and Chatagnier followed a one-out home run to left field.
Irvin allowed eight hits in 6 2/3 innings while tying a season high with nine strikeouts with no walks.
Ole Miss’ go-ahead rally in the eighth started with Gonzalez and Tim Elko walked by Javyn Pimental (1-1), who was then relieved by Long.
Arizona produced a wild out when Davis charged toward a blooper hit to left field by Kevin Graham. Davis made the grab but while trying to avoid shortstop Nik McClaughry, who drifted back in an attempt to make the catch.
While Davis sidestepped McClaughry, his glove with the ball in it fell to the ground and the ball bounced to the grass. McClaughry promptly threw out Gonzalez at third as a force out.
Alderman then walked to load the bases before Chatagnier hit a double that cleared the bases and put Miami ahead 7-4.
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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.