Arizona Baseball

Tommy Splaine’s walk-off hit against USC secures last Pac-12 tournament title for Arizona

Tommy Splaine’s postgame interview with the Pac-12 Network gets interrupted when teammates dump a water cooler on him. (Arizona Athletics)

SCOTTSDALE — With the game tied at three in the bottom of the ninth and two runners on base, Tommy Splaine stepped to the plate to attempt Arizona’s eighth walk-off win of the season and beat USC in the championship game of the last-ever Pac-12 Tournament on Saturday night.

At that point, he was 0 for 3, but he said his mindset with the at-bat was to be confident and have fun. He credits Arizona assistant coach Toby DeMello for what happened next.

“I was just really hitting off-speed there, Splaine said. “My hitting coach helped me out there.”

Splaine singled to left field, scoring Emilio Corona from second base to seal a Pac-12 Tournament championship for the Wildcats in the last season of the conference.

“It means a lot,” Splaine said of his walk-off hit. “I really wanted to pull through for this team. We all love each other, so that was just a big thing. It was really just playing for the team.”

Splaine’s game-winning hit capped off a comeback that didn’t seem like it was in the cards when USC starting right-hander Caden Aoki had a no-hitter through 7 1/3 innings.

Mason White single through the right side broke up the no-hitter, and Arizona scored one run later in the seventh when Blake McDonald hit an RBI sacrifice fly to left field off USC reliever Xavier Morales.

Arizona tied the game in the eighth by adding two more runs from an RBI single from Brendan Summerhill and an RBI sacrifice fly from Garen Caulfield.

Splaine said the mentality in the dugout didn’t change in the seventh and eighth innings as Arizona clawed its way back into the game.

“We always trust each other,” he said, “We have full trust in what we have as a team and the guys next to us. We really didn’t have our heads down at all. It didn’t go well at the beginning, but we knew what we could do.”

Splaine dealt with adversity at the plate all season, and Arizona head coach Chip Hale says he handled the ups and downs like a “consummate professional” and never let it affect his play defense.

“That’s why he’s out there,” Hale said. “He holds down that infield. I was just so happy that it was him who got the winning hit tonight.”

Splaine’s game-winning RBI single was Arizona’s eighth walk-off win of the season. 

He says he can’t remember being on a team that had eight walk-off wins in a season, and he also doesn’t remember being on a team that is so close with each other.

“We just really fight for each other, and I think that speaks volumes,” he said.

Winning the last-ever Pac-12 championship means a lot to Splaine, who grew up rooting for Arizona and watching baseball in the conference.

“I grew up an Arizona fan — a die-hard, and a die-hard Pac-12 fan, so this is a real good one for Arizona.”

Arizona (36-21) is safely in the NCAA tournament field at No. 31 in RPI. After winning the Pac-12 regular season and tournament championships, the Wildcats have a chance to be one of the 16 host schools for next week’s regional round of the NCAA tournament.

Splaine thinks the Wildcats are a dangerous team to face no matter where they play in the opening round of the tournament.

“We’re a great team,” he said. “We love each other. You see what we can do and all that. We’re a fun team to watch, and we all love each other. I think we can do a lot of damage in the postseason.”

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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