Led by dominant offensive performances from Kiko Romero and Tyler Casagrande, Arizona pulled out a 7-5 win over California to secure the series, and its eighth straight win in front of 2,849 fans at Hi-Corbett Field on Saturday afternoon.
Arizona head coach Chip Hale believes the two previous home series contests prepared them for the series with Cal.
“I think we were ready to go. North Dakota State is not a very sexy name, but they came in and played us very hard, and they had good pitching. They played the game the right way, and West Virginia was very good against us. So those two series I think set us up well for this one, and obviously getting the first two of the three is important. Now we’re going to see if we can get the third one.
“We talk to the players constantly. Every day in the Pac-12 is tough. It doesn’t matter what you did last night. It’s not going to work. These teams are mature enough to put it behind them, so we’re going to have to play our best baseball tomorrow.”
Romero and Casagrande each went 3 for 4, combining for four RBIs.
Hale is particularly impressed with Romero’s play of late.
“He’s starting to lock it in. Obviously, you’re the NJCAA World series MVP, you’re a pretty darn good ball player,” Hale said. If you want to say he got off to a slow start, so be it, but he’s helped us win games, and he’s starting to do the things that we know he can do”
Arizona took little time getting on the board, when Mac Bingham scored from third base on a passed ball to put the Wildcats up 1-0 in the bottom of the first inning. On the next at-bat, Kiko Romero hit an RBI single to right field, bringing in Nik McClaughry to put the Wildcats up 2-0.
“I feel like it’s somebody new every day. We get the offensive player belts, and it’s never the same guy two days in a row. I think it’s like who’s hot and who’s not at the point,” Romero said of his performance from the plate on Saturday.
Cal got two runners on with one out on the board in the top of the third inning off a throwing error from McClaughry that helped Caleb Lomavita reach first base, and a single through the right side by Rodney Green Jr. A two-RBI single from Peyton Schulze tied the game up at 2-2.
In the top of the fourth Lomavita struck again, doubling to left center and bringing two runs in to give the Golden Bears their first lead at 4-2.
In the bottom half of the inning, Cameron LaLiberte hit a ground ball single to left field, followed by a single through the left side by Tommy Splaine. Another single through the left side by Tony Bullard sent LaLiberte home, but he was called out at the plate. Casagrande drove in two RBIs with a line drive triple to right field that tied the game at 4-4. McClaughry fouled out to left field, but Casagrande scored from third to give the Wildcats a 5-4 lead heading into the fifth.
Relief pitcher Casey Hintz took over for Zastrow in the top of the fifth inning.
In the bottom of the fifth, Garen Caulfield hit a sac fly to left field to bring in Chase Davis, extending Arizona’s lead to 6-4.
Cal’s Cade Campbell singled to left center in the top of the sixth, scoring Kade Kretzschmar and closing the gap for the Golden Bears at 6-5.
Chris Barraza took over on the mound in the top of the seventh for Arizona, striking out two batters in the inning. He would strike out the side in the top of the eighth inning.
Casagrande got an insurance run for the Wildcats in the bottom of the eighth when he hit an RBI single to center field, scoring Splaine to extend Arizona’s lead to 7-5 heading into the ninth inning.
Trevor Long closed out the side in the ninth inning for the save. It was his eleventh career save, putting him at tenth place in all-time saves at Arizona. He passed Tylert Lawton, who played from 1979-82.
Arizona (11-3, 2-0) will host Cal (8-5, 0-2) in the third game of the series Sunday at noon.
Tickets for Sunday’s game are available at ArizonaWildcats.com/BSB.
FOLLOW @KEVINMURFEE ON TWITTER!
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com writer Kevin Murphy was born and raised in Tucson, and has followed Arizona Wildcats athletics since childhood. Murphy is a journalist product manager with the Green Valley News & the Sahuarita Sun. He has a bachelor’s degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU.