One more to go

Arizona won two games on Sunday and now has one more win to go to advance.

The Arizona Wildcats haven't quite dug themselves out of their hole yet, but after Sunday the Cats can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Gritty pitching performances by Konner Wade in game one and Nick Cunningham in game two propelled Arizona to two wins, landing it in Monday's regional championship game.

Arizona's long day started with a rematch with Seton Hall (1-2), who beat the Cats 4-0 on Friday afternoon. The Wildcats (3-1) were determined from the beginning not to have a repeat performance, as Joey Rickard started things off with a double to left field, and later scored on a Cole Frenzel ground out to the right side. It was 1-0 Arizona, and that was all it needed, as freshman starting pitcher Konner Wade easily turned in his best outing of the year, tossing 7 innings of scoreless baseball.

The seven innings were just part of a streak of 23 straight innings of scoreless baseball thrown by the pitching staff, that goes back to the fifth inning of the regional opener against Seton Hall.

The Wildcat bats came alive for the second straight day in the fifth, when four consecutive Wildcats reached base to start the inning, leading to three more runs and the departure of Pirate starting pitcher Brain Gilbert. He went just 5 innings and surrendered five runs on eight hits, in what would be his final start of the season and Seton Hall's final game of the year.

Arizona strung together a few more base hits in the eighth to give it the decisive 6-0 advantage. UA reliever Bryce Bandilla entered the game and finished things off, as he went two innings, gave up one hit, and zero runs.

Bryce Ortega and Cole Frenzel led the way offensively for Arizona, combing to go 4 for 7 at the plate, knocking in three runs with a run scored. The Wildcats eliminated their second team in two days and moved on to play host Texas A&M Sunday evening in yet another elimination game.

Things didn't start off well for UA starting pitcher Tyler Hale in game two, as Texas A&M's Tyler Naquin led off the night with a rocket down the left field line that went for extra bases. Two batters later, the Aggies got their first run after an errant throw from Arizona third basemen Seth Mejias-Brean pulled first basemen Cole Frenzel off the bag.

After the first, the Aggies led by one and 4,000 plus fans were creating a frenzy, until the bottom of the 2nd inning when Josh Garcia launched the first pitch he saw over the centerfield wall to tie things up and quiet things down.

Thing proceeded to get even crazier in the third after Naquin muscled his second lead off double of the game off Tyler Hale. The next batter, Krey Bratsen, scorched a single that nailed Hale right on his throwing elbow, putting runners at the corners with nobody out, as well as knocking Hale out of the ball game.

Hale left the game and sparingly used Nick Cunningham (0-0, 5.51 ERA) would come in and quickly become the story of the night. Cunningham went to work quickly, forcing the first hitter he faced into a double play, which got Arizona out of a jam and limited the Aggies to just one run in the frame.

The Wildcat sophomore went on to have nothing short of a heroic performance, as he pitched his longest and undoubtedly his best game of the year, going 5.1 innings, of two hit, shutout baseball in relief.

This gave the Arizona bats all the time they needed to get a rally of their own going in the sixth. Robert Refsnyder began things with a double to left field, followed by two consecutive hits by Bobby Brown and Jett Bandy to score Refsnyder and tie things up at two.

Arizona would score two more on an Alex Mejia ground out followed by a Mejias-Brean single up the middle, eventually knocking Aggie starting freshman pitcher Derrick Hadley out of the contest.

The bullpen would be no better for the Aggies, as Arizona extended its 4-2 lead to 7-2 in the seventh after three of the first four Wildcat hitters reached base, and Bobby Rinard came through with a clutch two out double to left center.

Wildcat closer Matt Chaffee made it a little interesting in the ninth, as four balks aided two Aggies to cross the plate in the ninth to make it 7-4. But in the end it was no harm and no foul, for Chaffee and the Cats, as Arizona hung on to force a winner take all game Monday night against Texas A&M again.

Arizona will try to avoid elimination for the fourth time in a row this postseason, as sophomore Vincent Littleman is expected to get the nod Monday night on what will be the Wildcats' biggest game of the year.

The UA is currently riding its longest win streak away from home this year. It'll need to hope it can extend that streak one more game Monday evening.

First pitch is set for 4:35 p.m. PT from College Station.


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