Zach Gibbons went 4-for-5 with two RBIs and scored on Kevin Newman's game-winning single in the ninth inning as Arizona took the rubber match against No. 22-ranked UCLA, 6-5, Sunday at Hi Corbett Field.
Gibbons led off the inning with a double over the head of left fielder Ty Moore. After Trent Gilbert struck out, Tyler Krause grounded a single up the middle, setting up runners on the corners for Newman.
Newman chopped the two-strike pitch to third base, giving Gibbons just the right amount of time to cross home plate for the winning run.
"He got ahead with a fastball, but I just got my foot down and he threw another fastball high and in," Gibbons said after the Wildcats' fifth win in six games. "We're still going to take it one game at a time, but I definitely feel better about the team right now."
Tyger Talley (1-0) took the mound for Arizona, fresh off his best start of the season in which he pitched seven strong innings while allowing just one run against Utah. It took just one inning for UCLA (19-15, 7-5 Pac-12 Conference) to surpass that earned run total. The right-hander allowed consecutive two-out RBI singles to Christoph Bono and Luke Persico to give UCLA an early 2-0 lead.
Arizona (17-20, 6-9 Pac-12) fought back in the bottom of the first, scoring on an RBI single to left field from Newman.
The Bruins added a run in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by center fielder Brian Carroll. But the Cats again responded in the bottom half, bringing home a run on a sacrifice fly by Joe Maggi that scored Kenny Meimerstorf.
For the third consecutive inning, the Bruins pushed a run across the board off Talley, scoring on a sacrifice fly to center off the hot bat of Bono.
Talley lasted just three innings and allowed four runs on seven hits. But the Arizona bullpen held UCLA to just one earned run over 6 1/3 innings to give the bats a chance.
"There are still some things that irritate me," head coach Andy Lopez said. "But I really think we're going in the right direction. I'm just thankful for the energy level and competitiveness. I've always been a believer that if you compete really hard, everything else seems to fall into place."
Like clockwork, the Wildcats came storming back in the fourth. Riley Moore led off the inning with a double, making Arizona a perfect 4-for-4 from the leadoff position through as many innings and finished 7-for-8 and reached on an error to start innings on the evening. Grant Dyer replaced UCLA starter Cody Poteet on the mound and allowed a walk, passed ball and wild pitch that allowed Moore to score from third. A walk to Cody Ramer and sacrifice bunt by Maggi put runners on second and third for Gibbons, who lined a two-run double into deep left for the Wildcats' first lead, 5-4.
Poteet didn't fare much better than Talley, allowing three runs and six hits over three innings as well.
Morgan Earman took over for Talley in the top of the fourth and got the Bruins out in order. However, the freshman's success would end there as he allowed a walk, hit a batter and was tagged for an RBI single by Kevin Williams in the next inning before exiting. Left-hander Cody Moffett replaced Earman with two outs and got Bono swinging to end the inning.
Moffett allowed just two hits and struck out three batters in 3 2/3 innings of work. Reliever Bobby Dalbec (2-2) replaced him in the ninth and held the Bruins scoreless, stranding a runner in scoring position, to earn the win.
"I feel like we've started to turn it around," Moffett said. "It's just really nice to get the win. We're starting to get hot and I really feel like we're going to keep it going too."
Added Lopez: "There's no secret to it. Our pitching numbers have not been anything short of disastrous. I have a saying with our guys, as the pitching staff goes our program goes. Moffett was outstanding tonight. He's probably the reason we won.
In the bottom of the sixth inning, Maggi hit a soft liner into the left-center gap that resulted in a collision between Bruins outfielders Carroll and Moore. Moore was able to stay in the game, however Carroll left due to an apparent head injury.
The Wildcats will head to USC next weekend to face the Trojans in a three-game series.
Click Here to view this Link.Danny Passovoy
GOAZCATS.com Baseball Staff Writer