Arizona Baseball

Summerhill’s three-run HR against Stanford lifts Arizona to last Pac-12 championship game

Brendan Summerhill celebrates after his three-run home run in the third inning on Friday night. (Arizona Athletics)

SCOTTSDALE — As Clark Candiotti anchored No. 1 seed Arizona from the mound, Brendan Summerhill brought the Wildcats to life in the bottom of the third inning of the Pac-12 tournament semifinals with a rocket of a three-run home run that hooked down the right field line before bouncing off the foul pole and over the fence.

It was Arizona’s second hit against No. 8 seed Stanford and proved to be the game changer the Wildcats needed in a 6-3 win that moved Arizona (35-21) into the last Pac-12 tournament championship game against No. 4 seed USC (31-27) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Scottsdale Stadium.

Summerhill thinks it would have hooked foul at Hi Corbett Field, where the right field fence is about 20 feet further back.

“That’s a foul ball at Hi-C,” he said. “It hit off the pole, and I was like, ‘Let’s go.'”

The three-run blast by Summerhill broke Arizona’s recent trend of going down early in games. The Wildcats lost to California in pool play on Thursday after trailing 3-0 in the third inning and had to come from behind from a 2-0 deficit in the first inning to beat Washington on Wednesday in pool play.

Arizona also trailed early in the first two games of the last regular season series, resulting in two losses to Oregon State.

Summerhill thinks that after the first inning on Friday, the team started to settle in at the plate and figure out Stanford right-hander Matt Scott’s four-seam fastball and his slider.

“The heater is hard, and the slider is also hard, so you have to be on time, you have to be early, and I think that once we started to do that, we got to him.”

Candiotti (7-3) struck out 11 and allowed one run off four hits with no walks in seven innings.

He pitched a complete-game shutout against the Cardinal in a 5-0 victory at Hi Corbett Field on May 4, in which he struck out seven and walked none.

It’s performances like these that Summerhill is starting to expect out of Candiotti.

“It seems like every time he goes out, we’re going to have zero runs into the sixth. That’s a recipe to win every time,” he said.

On Saturday, Arizona will face a USC team playing its best baseball of the season on a nine-game winning streak.

Arizona will start right-hander Cam Walty (8-1, 2.76), and USC will likely start right-hander Caden Aoki (2-3, 4.24). 

The Wildcats won two out of three at USC in the first conference series for both teams in early March. Walty gave up four runs off 10 hits in 6 1/3 innings in Arizona’s loss in the series. Aoki gave up nine runs off nine hits in 2 2/3 innings in game one of the series.

Summerhill remembers how scrappy the Trojans were.

“They’re going to hang around every game,” he said. “They’re not going to go away… We’re going to have to bring our A-game tomorrow. We’ve got Walty on the mound, so I think that’s going to be good.”

While Arizona is safely in the NCAA tournament field at No. 30 in RPI, Summerhill wants to win the Pac-12 Tournament championship game and add a tournament title to Arizona’s regular season title.

The Wildcats can also become a host site of the NCAA tournament regionals next week if they can add a tournament title with their regular-season championship of the Pac-12, which is in the last year of its existence.

“We’ve got to go be the undisputed champs, and I think there’s no ‘let off the gas’ (Saturday),” he said. “I don’t care if we’re in the tournament, not in the tournament. We want to win tomorrow.”

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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