The Arizona baseball team didn't technically get swept in its weekend series with UC-Irvine, but based on the reaction of the coach and players, that was of little consolation.
The Wildcats and Anteaters ended the final game of their series in a 8-8 deadlock Sunday afternoon at Kindall Field after the game was called before the start of the 11th inning due to Irvine's travel plans. The tie saved the Wildcats (5-3-1) from an 0-3 weekend, but head coach Andy Lopez was still less than pleased.
"Maybe my expectations are a little too high," Lopez said. "But I think we can play better. We're not getting timely hitting. We're not making a quality pitch when you need to make a quality pitch. We made a lot of bad decisions and a lot of bad mistakes. We're not playing well."
The Wildcats certainly had their chances to earn the win. With one out in the bottom of the 10th, Jason Donald singled sharply to left center but was gunned down when he tried to stretch it into a double. Pat Reilly followed with a double of his own to left center, but was stranded when Jordan Brown popped to short to end the game.
"Knowing that that would be the last inning, I was trying to get in scoring position," Donald said of his attempt at extra bases. "After Pat got that base hit I was definitely a little bit more (angry), but that's just how baseball goes. Hindsight is always 20-20."
Getting thrown out was the only thing that went wrong for Donald offensively. He tied a school record with six hits, including his fifth home run of the season.
"I just felt good at the plate," Donald said. "I felt nice and relaxed."
Arizona didn't look relaxed in the early going. The UA fell behind 3-0 after four and a half, prompted Lopez to meet with his hitters before the bottom of the fifth. The Wildcats responded with two runs in that inning and three more in the sixth to take a 5-3 lead.
The seventh inning turned out to be pivotal. Lopez lifted starter Luis Cortez with one out and a man on first and turned to his bullpen which, once again, let him down. Irvine's next five hitters reached base, and five runs later the visitors had an 8-5 lead.
Arizona answered back in the bottom of the inning with RBI singles from Derek Decatur, Richard Mercado and Mo Duran to produce the 8-8 final.
Sunday's game was the first tie for the Wildcats since February 26th, 1995 when Arizona and Texas A&M played to a 3-3 stalemate in College Station.
The Wildcats will next be in action on Tuesday night as they travel to Tempe to take on ASU in a 7:00 game at Packard Stadium. The Sun Devils are 8-2 on the season after their 3-1 win over defending national champion Rice on Sunday afternoon in Houston.
Irvine wins pitcher's duel in series opener
Brett Smith treated the fans at Kindall Field to a show on Friday afternoon.
The UC-Irvine junior right-hander threw eight strong innings as the Anteaters handed the Wildcats a 3-1 loss.
"We had an unbelievable pitch plan against them," Smith said. "I like pitching here."
Smith surrendered just six hits in his time on the mound and posted seven strikeouts and no walks. The only run he allowed came on an infield single by Jeff Van Houten in the 3rd inning, but the damage could've been much worse. Arizona loaded the bases with nobody out, but Smith struck out Jason Donald for the first out before allowing Van Houten's RBI hit. He then induced an infield pop-up from Derek Decatur and struck out Mo Duran to hold the Wildcats to just a single run.
"That was probably the inning that determined the game," said UA coach Andy Lopez. "You have to give credit to Smith. He made good pitches against the middle part of our lineup. He did a great job."
Arizona got some good pitching of its own from junior Koley Kolberg, but to no avail. Kolberg threw a complete game 10-hitter with seven strikeouts and just one walk, but allowed single runs in the first, sixth and ninth innings in taking his first loss of the season.
"(This) was probably the first game that I felt like myself out there," Kolberg said. "Everything was working for me, but it just turned out that we were on the losing side. There's nothing you can do about it."
Irvine got the scoring started with a run in the top of the first. Dalton reached on an infield single and scored on a one out double by Matt Anderson. It was the sixth time in seven games the Wildcat opponent has scored first.
After Van Houten's hit tied it at 1 in the third, Irvine answered in the sixth. Center fielder Erik Johnson reached with a one out single, stole second and went to third on a wild pitch. Pat Reilly's error on a ground ball off the bat of Danny McCarthy allowed Johnson to score and gave Irvine a 2-1 lead.
Dalton went 3-5 to pace the Anteaters offensively while Van Houten and John Hardy posted multiple hit days for the Wildcats. Van Houten was 2-4 while Hardy went 2-3.