The Arizona Wildcats stayed alive in the Lafayette Regional on Sunday night, topping Sam Houston State 6-5 in an elimination game at M.L. “Tigue” Moore Field.
Bobby Dalbec pitched into the seventh inning, allowing four runs and two walks, while striking out five in 105 pitches to improve to 9-4 on the season. Freshman Alfonso Rivas came on to get the final two outs in the ninth to earn his second save, while going 2 for 4 with two RBI at the plate to keep Arizona’s season alive.
The win improved Arizona to 40-21 on the season, marking the first time the Cats have reached the 40-win mark since 2012 and fourth time since 1990. Sam Houston State fell to 42-22 with the loss. The Cats will now face Louisiana at 11 a.m., MST on Monday. The Cats will need to knock off the Ragin’ Cajuns twice in order to advance to the Super Regionals. Should Arizona win the 11 a.m., game, the two teams would play again at 5 p.m., MST.
The Bearkats struck first in Sunday’s nightcap, plating a run in the second to take a 1-0 lead However, Arizona tied it up one inning later in the third. Catcher Cesar Salazar led off the inning with a single up the middle and moved to second when Louis Boyd drew a one-out walk. After a fly out, Zach Gibbons came up and hit a hard ground ball to second that took a bad hop, forcing an error by Sam Houston second baseman Lance Miles. The error brought Salazar home to tie the game at one.
After Dalbec threw up a zero in the bottom half, the Cats took the lead for good in the fourth, plating two more runs. Ryan Aguilar led off the inning with a triple to deep right-center and JJ Matijevic followed with a double to right-center to score Aguilar. After a pop out, Salazar came through again, doubling off the wall in right-center –nearly the same spot as Matijevic’s spot – to score the designated hitter and make it 3-1.
The Cats extended their lead to 4-1 an inning later in the fifth after another zero from Dalbec. Gibbons singled with one out and Rivas doubled down the left field line to put runners on second and third with one out. Aguilar brought Gibbons home on a sacrifice fly to make it 4-1.
Sam Houston State cut it to 4-2 in the fifth on an RBI fielder’s choice.
But Arizona again created breathing room in the sixth with two more runs. With two outs and nobody on, Cody Ramer doubled down the right field line. The Bearkats then opted to intentionally walk Gibbons to put two on with two outs for Rivas.
The freshman made them pay when he tripled to right-center, plating Gibbons and Ramer and making it a 6-2 game.
The Bearkats again fought back in the seventh, eventually plating three runs off Dalbec and relievers Cameron Ming and Kevin Ginkel. But with two men in scoring position, Ginkel struck out Hunter Hearn to end the seventh and keeping it a 6-5 game.
Ginkel then posted a 1-2-3 eighth to move the Cats into the ninth. With a runner on, Aguilar put a charge into a ball, but it was caught at the warning track. A groundout then ended the inning.
In the ninth, Ginkel started the frame and got a fly out from Miles for the first out. Coach Jay Johnson then went to Rivas for the final two outs. Rivas got a strikeout, and then after a walk, got the 27th out via a fly out to right field to secure the win for the Wildcats.
Rivas and Salazar, both freshmen, finished 4 for 8 in the win with three RBI and three extra-base hits. Matjievic had an RBI double for the second straight game after homering on Friday in the team’s first win over Sam Houston State.