Wildcats open season with win

Arizona defeated North Dakota State in the season opener on Friday night. Read on for a closer look at how the first game at Hi Corbett went down.

Arizona opened a new era of baseball Friday night at the newly renovated Hi Corbett Field, as the Wildcats cruised to a 3-1 win over the North Dakota State Bison.

Wildcat pitcher Kurt Heyer struggled with nerves in the first inning, giving up two hits then walking a batter to load the bases. After a visit from UA coach Andy Lopez, Heyer found his form and got out of the inning without surrendering a run.

"Twenty minutes before I started warming up I actually threw up because I couldn't control my excitement very well," said Heyer.

In the bottom of the first, the Wildcats came out firing as Robert Refsynder got the scoring underway with a single to right field that scored Joey Rickard. Arizona managed to scratch across two more runs in the inning, highlighted by a run scoring triple by Johnny Field, who finished the night with four hits including three extra base hits.

The game then turned into a pitchers' duel as both teams struggled to put runs on the board. Heyer regained his composure and showed why he is the true ace of the pitching staff, giving up five hits and one run over seven innings pitched.

One of the biggest question marks of the season was how the bullpen would handle closing games out. That question may have been answered Friday night as right-hander Stephen Manthei earned his first save of the season while giving up only one hit in his two innings pitched.

"We put some good things together in the first inning offensively and that was nice," Lopez said. "I thought we hit the ball well, but we have to get used to playing in this park. I told my players that if it's hit long and strong it's going to get knocked down. We need to focus on hitting groundballs and line drives in the gap."

The atmosphere was electric as close to 100 alumni, including Jerry Kindall and Hank Rowe, the grandson Frank Sancet, were honored during the pregame festivities. The buildup for Opening night at Hi Corbett had been in the works for months and the excitement was being felt all over the city.

"To be very candid with you the last few weeks it felt like I was back coaching in Gainesville again," Lopez said. "People at the barber shop and the market talking to me about how they couldn't wait for opening night."

The 4,000 people in attendance were treated to a postgame fireworks show that capped off a celebratory first night at Hi Corbett.

Game 2 of the series starts at 4 pm Saturday with Konner Wade toeing the rubber for the Wildcats.

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