An exhausting weekend that saw the California Bears make the decision to hang on to its baseball program Friday morning, followed by an Arizona come from behind walk-off win later that night, and a Sunday doubleheader that featured 42 runs and 65 hits has finally come to an end. The Wildcats were finally able to win their first Pac-10 series of the year, putting them right back into the thick of the conference race.
WildcatAuthority.com now breaks down the critical series win for Arizona.
Friday 4/8: Arizona 5 California 4
W: Matt Chaffee (4-1) L: Matt Flemer (1-2)
Sunday 4/10 (Game 1): Arizona 10 California 8
W: Kyle Simon (6-2) L: Justin Jones (4-2)
Sunday 4/10 (Game 2): California 17 Arizona 7
W: Kevin Miller (4-2) L: Tyler Hale (3-3)
Player of the Series: Matt Chaffee. The new Wildcat closer did exactly what you want your closer to do in tight situations: throw strikes and get outs. In game two he entered the game for Kurt Heyer after Cal had regained a 4-2 advantage and struck out Vince Bruno looking with a sweeping curveball that left the bases loaded for the Bears. UA probably doesn't come back to win if it's down by any more than those two runs entering the bottom of the ninth
Chaffee did it again Sunday afternoon in game two, coming in to shut down a California rally in the 8th inning after the Bears had cut Arizona's lead to 9-8 after the Wildcats had led 9-4 after the 6th inning. Chaffee stayed in to pitch the ninth and collected the save; also clinching the Wildcats' first conference series win. ‘
"My goal is just to try and keep my team in the game and just throw strikes," said Chaffee.
Lately it seems Chaffee is one of the few guys in the Arizona bullpen that can throw strikes, making it no coincidence that he leads all Wildcat pitchers in appearances this season with 21.
The Unsung Hero: Haven't done one of these in a while, but Josh Garcia really deserves a mention for what he did in this series. In Arizona's two wins he went 5 for 6 at the dish and racked up 4 RBIs, including a home run and the pinch-hit game tying double in the bottom of the ninth Friday night.
All but one of his hits went for extra bases and his homer over the left field fence in the 5th inning of game one of Sunday's doubleheader made Garcia the conference leader in dingers with six on the year. Josh did this all while playing with two sore right legs after suffering "one of the worst cramps I have ever seen" as coach Andy Lopez described it. Garcia may have lost some playing time due to Steve Selsky's return, but it's definitely not because of lack of production.
He's batting .322, leads the team in homers, and is fourth on the club in RBIs (25). These are monster numbers for a guy that hasn't even started 70 percent of Arizona's games.
1. Mind over Matter: After the ASU loss on Tuesday, the players assembled in right field for a "players only" meeting that lasted at least 45 minutes. Apparently it worked. Not only did Arizona win a series it had to have against one of the superior teams in the conference, but it also did so by winning two very close games. In the Wildcats' two victories, they only outscored California by three runs and actually easily could have been swept if it weren't for some key situations in games one and two.
In game one Arizona tied the game at two in the bottom of the 8th inning, but the Bears struck back with two runs in the top of the ninth with two outs and the bases loaded. To make matters worse, Johnny Field popped up to lead off Arizona's half of the ninth. The way things had been going for the UA, it would have been easy to fold and pack it in, but it didn't and instead pulled off the signature win of the season up to this point.
Arizona again faced a situation in game two where it showed its resiliency. The Wildcats blew 9-4 lead in the 8th frame, but the Arizona offense stole back the momentum in it's half of the inning, scoring a run to make it 10-8 going into the ninth. With the tying run at the plate, Matt Chaffee retired Cal's Marcus Semien to give Arizona probably its best quality save of the season.
2. Power Ball: The Wildcat offense combined for three home runs, nine doubles, a triple, and 40 total hits for the series. Arizona had double-digit hits in all three games and scored 13 runs off a Cal starting staff that had an ERA of 2.49 coming into the series.
3. Against all Odds: Cal came into the weekend winners of 9 out if its last 11 games and undefeated in series play so far this season. After this weekend, those stats no longer apply.
1. Missing the Bridge: For the most part Arizona starters haven been solid all year long and now it looks like the Wildcats have finally found a legitimate closer in Matt Chaffee, but getting to Chaffee is still a big problem.
Arizona relievers not named Chaffee surrendered 11 earned runs in only 4.2 innings this weekend. Six different relievers were used in the series and only two of them (Matt Chaffee and Daniel Ponce De Leon) didn't give up a run. In fact Vincent Littleman and Nick Cunningham both made appearances where they each failed to record a single out before getting pulled.
2. Finishing the Deal: The series win was nice but the Wildcats had a chance to make up some serious ground in the standings with the sweep. After being down 9-4 at one point in game three, the Cats cut the lead to 9-7 by the end of the seventh. The Wildcats couldn't finish the deal and instead of gaining three games on the Bears, Arizona only managed to make up one.
3. Uncharacteristic mistakes: Kurt Heyer and Bobby Brown each committed their first errors of the season over the weekend, with Joey Rickard and sure handed Bryce Ortega each committing their second.
Quote of the Series:
"We are definitely missing a bridge right now to get to Chaffee. This is kind of a new problem for us. We've definitely got some candidates, they just have to perform."
--UA head coach Andy Lopez
On Deck: Arizona will now head to Southern California to take on last year's national runner up and the conference leader in the UCLA Bruins for a three-game weekend series that will start this Friday.
Series Recap: UA vs. Cal
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