GOAZCATS - Arizona Baseball opens 2020 season with win over Albany
baseball Edit

Arizona Baseball opens 2020 season with win over Albany

Arizona had one of the top offensive teams in college baseball last season, and it opened 2020 by showing that it still has plenty left in the tank with another impressive performance in a 12-7 win over Albany at Hi Corbett Field on Friday night.

The Wildcats (1-0) have a loaded lineup this season that combines talent and experience, and Friday night Arizona found balance at the plate in its win over the Great Danes.

Arizona received contributions from most of its batting order Friday night with seven players finishing the opener with hits, including nine extra base hits. The Wildcats were able to pick up right where they left off in 2019 when they finished the year ranked third in the country with a .326 team batting average.

"I thought our players were ready to play," UA head coach Jay Johnson said. "I thought they controlled the opening-night thing, you know, everybody's a little excited and can try to do too much. I don't think they did that.

"We're very prepared in that manner and I think it led to a lot of good play. I think the offense was really good. I thought our two-strike hitting was outstanding. I thought our ability to execute and move runners along was outstanding."

Sophomore catcher Austin Wells was the standout player for UA at the plate in the season opener as he hit a three-run home run in the second inning to give the Wildcats a lead they would never relinquish. Wells finished his night with three hits and a game-high four runs batted in.

"I think we're right on par with where we left off last year," Wells said about Arizona's offense on the first night of the season. "It didn't seem like there were any lulls at all. Everyone kind of stepped into their role and really got the job done."

The potency of Arizona's offense is not in question as the 2020 season begins, but the pitching staff will have plenty of critics and attention in the coming weeks. UA's pitching staff had plenty of struggles throughout 2019, but the Wildcats went out and made a big offseason move to land Nate Yeskie from Oregon State to guide the pitching staff this year.

Acquiring a coach with Yeskie's track record is going to bring about expectations of a quick turnaround and one game into the season the Wildcats certainly looked improved on the mound for most of the night.

Newcomer Garrett Irvin earned the start Friday and the junior college transfer was able to perform well enough to earn the victory in his first appearance at Hi Corbett Field. He surrendered two earned runs and just four hits with an impressive seven strikeouts during his five innings on the mound.

"It was nerve-wracking," Irvin said of his first start for the Wildcats after starting his career at Riverside Community College in California. "We work all fall to to prepare for today and and the rest of the season, so it was nice to kind of get it out of the way. There's a lot of nerves going into the first game, so it was just everyone getting out there and getting used to it – the home crowd and everything.

"For me it was a lot of fun. Early on I was just a little nervous."

Irvin said he found out early in the week that he would get the Friday night start. The junior hoped he could pitch more innings in his first start at UA, but he said with his off-speed pitches not working it resulted in shorter appearance. Johnson said he didn't think Irvin was "sharp" in his first game with UA.

"But, he threw strikes," Johnson added. "He didn't give them anything, so they had to earn everything that they got. So I thought that was positive."

Arizona finished the night with 14 strikeouts, which is better than any game during the 2019 season. The season high for the Wildcats last year was 12 strikeouts. The blemish for UA's pitching staff came late when Albany was able to take advantage of a couple mistakes on the mound and in the field to put up five runs in the top of the ninth inning that were all charged to Zach Sherman, who came in to finish the game for UA.

UA's other relievers, Vince Vannelle and Nate Brown, faced 13 batters over three innings and finished their time on the mound without giving up a hit to go with seven strikeouts.

The Wildcats will be back in action Saturday night for the second game of their series with Albany, which is set for a 6 p.m. start at Hi Corbett Field.

Arizona leaders
Player ABs Runs RBIs HRs

Austin Wells

3-4

2

4

1

Matthew Dyer

3-5

1

1

0

Donta Williams

2-3

3

3

0

WP: Garrett Irvin (1-0) – 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 Ks