Arizona Baseball

Arizona in last Pac-12 championship game after eliminating Stanford behind Candiotti’s gem

Arizona senior pitcher Clark Candiotti while beating Stanford in the Pac-12 tournament semifinals (Arizona Athletics photo)

SCOTTSDALE – And then there were two.

The final Pac-12 baseball tournament championship will pit No. 1 Arizona (35-21) against No. 4 USC (31-27) after the Trojans took care of No. 6 California 7-4 and the Wildcats defeated No. 8 Stanford 6-3 on Friday night in Scottsdale Stadium.

This will be Arizona’s second consecutive year playing in the tournament championship game. Last year, the No. 8-seeded Wildcats lost to Oregon 5-4.

Arizona’s starting pitcher, Clark Candiotti grew up in Scottsdale, attending Chaparral High School before taking his talents to college (4 schools including Wichita State before transferring to Arizona before the school year).

The senior right-hander had another solid pitching night for the Wildcats, pitching seven innings, allowing four hits, one run and 11 strikeouts on 102 pitches.

At one point, Candiotti retired 16 straight batters from the first inning through the sixth inning.

After holding Stanford scoreless and pitching a complete game the last time he pitched against them May 4 at Hi Corbett Field, Candiotti had confidence he could duplicate the same outing Friday night.

“I mean, it helps a lot with confidence, knowing my strengths against this team, just kind of building off of that.” Candiotti said, “Even after the last outing against them, just kind of improving on the things I did well, improving on the things I didn’t do so well and taking that here.”

Things got a little dicey for Candiotti in the first inning. After striking out the first two Cardinal batters, Candiotti allowed a singled to center by Jimmy Nati, a double down the right field line by Malcolm Moore and then Charlie Saum was hit by pitch. With bases loaded Candiotti got Ethan Hott to fly out, ending the Stanford threat.

“I was trusting my stuff and just going right after hitters, nothing huge changes. Just kind of knowing the game plan and just like I said going right at them.” Candiotti said about the first inning.

Candiotti (7-3) held Stanford scoreless until the seventh inning when Hott reached on a fielders choice that scored Moore.

“Sometimes that’s how it is with your big star pitchers, good pitchers in the big leagues even,” Arizona coach Chip Hale said about Candiotti. “If you don’t get them early, watch out. They get hot and they get going and he got rolling.”

Casey Hintz came in to relieve Candiotti in the eighth giving up one run in the eighth and ninth innings.

Brendan Summerhill got the Wildcats on the board first in the third inning when he hit a 3-run home run that hit the foul pole in right field.

“When I was running I was like, ‘Oh, is it going to stay fair?,’” he said. “It’s shallower here, that’s a foul ball at Hi-C.”

Arizona scored a run in the fourth inning after Maddox Mihalakis tripled down the right field line. He then scored when Blake McDonald grounded out to second base.

The Wildcats added another two runs in the sixth inning on a Mihalakis double that scored Mason White and a McDonald sac bunt that brought Mihalakis across the plate.

McDonald had two RBIs.

The ending to the game didn’t come without a little drama.

The game-ending grounder was hit directly to White at shortstop. The most obvious throw was to first, but instead, White flipped the ball toward the bag at second.

Garen Caulfield wasn’t expecting the ball to go to second and wasn’t in position, had to reach for the toss getting his foot down just a split second before Stanford’s Owen Cobb (who left first base on the pitch) slid into the base. Cobb was called out. The call was reviewed and the final out stood.

“He blacked out; the ball got to him so quick he thought, oh easy flip,” said Hale. “I’m living my 60th year, I’m 59 years old. That’s not good for the heart.”

Arizona will start senior right-hander Cam Walty in the championship game. Walty is 8-1 and has an ERA of 2.76 on the season. He is coming off a stellar outing against Oregon State last week, when he pitched 8 1/3 innings in Arizona’s 4-3 victory for the regular-season championship.

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