Wildcats win big

Arizona won the first game of the regional on Friday night. Read on for how it went down and the thoughts from the Wildcats.

The Arizona Wildcats started their 2012 playoff run with a 15-3 victory over the Missouri Tigers. In front of a crowd of 5,086, Arizona hosted a regional for the first time since 1992. The Tucson faithful showed up in big numbers, propelling their team to a lop-sided win in the opener for the weekend.

Head Coach Andy Lopez credited the experience of his team for the victory. The Wildcats only have two seniors, but have 11 juniors. The three years worth of experience is something that Lopez says gave Arizona the edge.

"The juniors have two hundred at-bats a year and we've been to the post season three years in a row," Lopez said. "That's six hundred at-bats for Joey Rickard when he gets up to bat.

"They're an older team. I think they understand what they're doing at this time of the season and I think they have a real good hitting plan and are able to execute."

Arizona's big inning came in the bottom of the fourth when it plated seven runs and pushed the game out of reach. The first big blow came on a Joey Rickard two-RBI triple off the left field wall. That gave Arizona its first lead of the night at 5-3. The second big blow of the inning came when Bobby Brown rocketed a two-out two-RBI double to right field, which extended the lead to 9-3.

Arizona extended the lead to 11-3 in the bottom of the 7th when Rickard, Johnny Field, and Alex Mejia each contributed huge two-out extra base hits in succession. Rickard plated Brandon Dixon with a double. Field then hit a triple and Mejia followed with a triple of his own before being stranded at 3rd.

Missouri took the lead early, putting up two runs before Arizona even had a chance to bat. Blake Brown tripled to deep right field and plated Eric Garcia, who led off the game with a single up the middle. Brown then scored on a ground out by Ben Turner.

The Wildcats answered immediately, scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the first. Rickard led off the inning with a single and later scored on a Robert Refsnyder single. Arizona also got a run from Mejia, who scored on a Seth Mejias-Brean base hit.

The Tigers took the lead again in the second inning, scoring an unearned run after Wildcat second baseman Trent Gilbert threw a sure out into center field on a sac bunt try. Missouri threatened with runners on second and third, but could only get one in the inning.

Arizona ace Kurt Heyer pitched a complete game for the Wildcats. Heyer pitched a gem, allowing just 3 runs on 4 hits. He walked 2 and struck out 7. It was his 7th complete game of the season and the win boosted his record to 12-2 on the season and 1-0 for the postseason.

Heyer struggled early, but was able to turn it around and pitch the entire game for his team.

"In the beginning I made one poor pitch and after that, after going through the lineup once, we made a pitching plan throwing curveballs and then just jamming hitters," Heyer said. "It worked out pretty well for the most part. I'm just happy that our offense was able to back me up the entire game."

Rickard, who finished the game 3-for-5 with 4 runs batted in and 3 runs scored, propelled Arizona's offense. The Wildcat offense was held in check for a few innings, but Missouri pitchers began to make mistakes and Arizona made them pay.

"I thought the pitchers started off really well and made some big pitches in big situations," Rickard said. "It could have been a lot worse.

"They started to miss up a little bit. We just didn't miss our pitch."

Blake Holovach got the call for the Tigers. He pitched 3 and a third innings. He left the game early in the 4th after allowing 3 singles and a triple in the inning. He gave up 6 runs on 10 hits and struck out a lone batter on the evening. Holovach took the loss, dropping his record to 7-5 overall and 0-1 in the tournament.

Holovach was replaced by Ryan Yuengel. He only got through a third of an inning, giving up 3 runs on 2 hits and 2 walks.

Tigers' reliever John Miles did a good job of holding off the Wildcat batters after the damage had been done. The righty pitched 3 solid innings, but struggled towards the end of his outing giving up 3 runs on 5 hits. He struck out 2.

Right-hander Brett Graves also worked for Missouri. He pitched one and a third innings giving up 3 runs on 3 hits.

The Wildcats will play Louisville, Saturday at Hi Corbett Field in Tucson, AZ. First pitch is scheduled for 8 PM PST.

The Cardinal (40-19) beat New Mexico State in the early game in Tucson 3-2. Konner Wade (7-3) will make the start for Arizona. Louisville's starter was not announced. The winner will be the only team left in the Tucson regional without a loss.

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