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February 23, 2013

No. 23 Wildcats rally for wild, walk-off win

The No. 23-ranked Arizona won in walk-off fashion Friday night, as clean-up hitter Brandon Dixon lined a two-out, bases-clearing triple to complete the Wildcats' 8-7, come-from-behind victory over San Jose State at Hi Corbett Field.

The 'Cats rallied with two outs, trailing 7-5 in the ninth inning. Freshman Scott Kingery reached on an error and Riley Moore followed with a five-pitch walk, the first time the sophomore reached base all game.

With two on, center fielder Johnny Field then approached the plate with a home run earlier in the game to his credit. Field instead drew a full-count walk, loading the bases for Dixon.

"Our guys did a great job with two outs to get on," Dixon said. "To be honest, I was sitting slider the whole time. I figured I'm just going to compete and hit something to the right side."

Dixon did just that, driving the 1-2 offspeed pitch into deep right-center field, over the head of center fielder Andre Mercurio, and all the way to the wall to bring home the winning run.

In comparison to his tiebreaking double in the ninth inning of the College World Series championship, Dixon said it felt similar, but wanted to focus on the rest of the series.

"It's a lot different because we still have to take care of two more games this weekend, but definitely similar feelings," Dixon said.

If you like to pay attention to game tendencies, however, it should not have come as a major shock that the Wildcats came back to win in the ninth. All eight of the runs Arizona scored against the Spartans came with two outs.

Furthermore, five of San Jose State's seven runs came with two outs as well, bringing the combined two-out run total to 13.

In his second start of the season, ace Konner Wade lost control in the fifth inning and eventually took the no-decision for the Wildcats.

After getting catcher Jon Nelson to ground out leading off the inning, the wheels came off the wagon for Wade, who had been dominant thus far. In order, Wade gave up a walk, a double, hit a batter, allowed a run-scoring sacrifice fly, a passed ball, a two-run single, a steal, an RBI single and an RBI double for a grand total of five runs.

"I felt pretty good (before the game) in the pen," Wade said. "I let that inning get big, I didn't minimize damage."

It looked as if Wade had turned the page, however, in the sixth and seventh innings. The junior shut down the Spartan hitters with just 18 pitches.

But as fate would show, this just wasn't Wade's night. Wade left one high for Spartans first baseman Matt Carroll, who subsequently took the changeup down the left field line, scoring Jacob Valdez from second.

"He just wasn't sharp," head coach Andy Lopez said.

Wade was replaced with two outs in the eighth inning by Tyger Talley. The freshman threw just two-thirds of an inning, and giving up a run before being pulled for Augey Bill.

Bill (2-0) pitched the remaining two-thirds of an inning and earned the win.

San Jose State starter Johnny Melero threw 5 2/3 innings, gave up five runs - including a three-run homer to Field - and struck out four. Relief pitcher Kyle Hassna (1-1) pitched the remaining three innings, allowed three runs - none of which were earned - and took the loss for the Spartans.

"Great one to win, tough one to lose," Lopez said. "All in all, we got away with one tonight."

Game 2 of the three-game series will continue Saturday at 4 p.m. at Hi Corbett. Gates open at 2 p.m.

Danny PassovoyDanny Passovoy
GOAZCATS.com Baseball Staff Writer

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