Arizona Baseball

Arizona clinches a spot in the conference tournament by taking down USC 6-3

Emilio Corona rounds third after hitting a leadoff solo home run in the bottom of the sixth inning on Friday evening at Hi Corbett Field. (Arizona Athletics)

Arizona took care of its business, defeating USC 6-3 in game two of a doubleheader on Friday evening at Hi Corbett Field to clinch a spot in the Pac-12 conference tournament and no less than eighth place. The top nine teams in the conference qualify for the conference tournament.

The Wildcats (30-22, 12-17 Pac 12) beat the Trojans 13-4 in game one of Friday’s doubleheader.

Arizona was up 4-0 heading into the sixth, but USC (32-22-1, 16-13 Pac-12) wouldn’t remain scoreless for long.

USC’s Ryan Jackson walked to lead off the inning before Bryce Grudzielanek singled up the middle to advance Jackson to third, prompting a change at the mound for Arizona. Dawson Netz replaced starter Bradon Zastrow after pitching five shutout innings.

Arizona head coach Chip Hale was impressed with Zastrow’s performance on the mound on Friday evening.

“He did a beautiful job. It”s not pretty sometimes — the walks, the hit batsmen, but he’s a tough guy to hit,” he said. “It’s hard to square him up. He got a ton of ground balls. He got a double play in there. He did a wonderful job.”

With one out, Cole Gabrielson singled through the left side to score Jackson. Netz then hit Hedges with a pitch to load the bases before Jacob Galloway singled to left field, scoring two runners to narrow Arizona’s lead to 4-3. 

Eric Orloff replaced Netz on the mound and steadied the ship for Arizona, getting out of the half-inning without allowing USC to inflict any more damage. 

Emilio Corona gave Arizona some breathing room when he drilled a leadoff solo home run down the left field line in the bottom of the sixth. With one out, Tony Bullard hit a solo home run of his own to left center to extend Arizona’s lead to 6-3. 

“I think we’re playing our best baseball right now,” Hale said. “Tony Bullard, as he has always done, is finishing strong and being a leader and I think the biggest events of the game were Corona and Bullard hitting home runs after we give up the three runs.”

The sudden scoring burst prompted a pitching change for USC, with Caden Connolly relieving starter Conner Aoki on the mound.

Casey Hintz took over for Orloff on the mound in the top of the seventh, allowing two runners to get on base before getting out of the top half.

Trevor Long took the mound in the top of the eighth to close out the game for the Wildcats. The save marked the 12th of his career, tying him with Vince Vannelle (2019-21) for ninth on Arizona’s all-time save list.

The milestone is something he’s not dwelling on.

“It’s a cool feat, but right now I don’t think about it,” Long said. “Right now, I’m just focusing on winning and we got a goal this year. That’s to go back to what we did two years ago (Arizona made it to the College World Series in 2021) and I hope we make it, I really do. I think we can.”

Arizona got on the board first in the bottom of the third inning.

Mac Bingham singled to left field with one out, and Nik Mclaughry followed it up with a blooping single to shallow right field to put two men on.  Chase Davis then singled through the left side to score Bingham and give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. 

Kiko Romero grounded out to second, scoring McClaughry to extend Arizona’s lead to 2-0.  Corona followed Romero, singling to the left side to score Davis to put the Wildcats up 3-0. 

Arizona tacked on another run in the bottom of the fourth.

Bullard doubled down the right field line to lead off the bottom half, and a one-out single to left field from Brendan Summerhill brought him home to put the Wildcats up 4-0. 

After USC’s Ethan Hedges singled through the right side in the top of the fifth, Zastrow hit two batters with pitches to load the bases with one out, but Austin Overn lined into a double play to keep USC scoreless going into the bottom of the inning. 

A double by Mason White in the bottom of the second inning tied the freshman conference record of 12 set by Daniel Susac in 2021. 

Arizona next plays USC in the series and regular season finale tomorrow at Hi Corbett at 6 p.m. Tucson time.

FOLLOW @KEVINMURFEE ON TWITTER! 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.


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