Arizona Baseball

Arizona begins season with victory over No. 2 Tennessee behind TJ Nichols’ pitching

Arizona baseball is off to a 1-0 start after upsetting No. 2 Tennessee in the opening game of the MLB Desert Invitational in Scottsdale (Arizona Athletics photo)

Some of the information provided by the Arizona media-relations department:

Unranked Arizona opened its 2023 season Friday night in dominating fashion behind starting pitcher TJ Nichols in a 3-1 upset victory over No. 2 Tennessee at the MLB Desert Invitational in Scottsdale.

It is the 15th consecutive season-opening win for the Wildcats, who are under second-year coach Chip Hale, an Arizona legend.

Senior third baseman Tony Bullard, who has put his name in the transfer portal in the past and has stuck it out in his Wildcat career, hit the go-ahead home run in the second inning and contributed elite defense on his birthday to help propel the Wildcats to the win.

Nichols, rated the No. 69 MLB prospect by MLB Pipeline, turned in arguably the best performance of his collegiate career going a solid six innings. He allowed just one run on three hits while striking out six and walking one.

During the live stream, Tennessee coach Tony Vitello said Nichols is a “future major-league pitcher.”

Nichols outdueled Tennessee right-hander Chase Dollander, who is a highly-rated MLB prospect. Dollander took the loss, allowing three hits and two runs in 4 2/3 innings with seven strikeouts, a walk and a hit-by-pitch.

The Arizona bullpen of Eric Orloff, Dawson Netz and Trevor Long surrendered just three hits and struck out four down the stretch.

Orloff struck out three batters without a walk in 1 2/3 innings. Long picked up the save striking out one and allowing one hit in his one inning.

Centerfielder Mac Bingham had a two-run double and first baseman Kiko Romero, a CDO graduate, went 1 for 3 with a run and a walk.

Arizona will play its next game Saturday in the MLB Desert Invitational against Fresno State at 1 p.m. at Mesa’s Sloan Park.

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