Arizona baseball in regional championship

A four-run Kent State seventh inning made it interesting, but the Arizona baseball team advanced to its first regional final in 11 years with a 7-4 win over the Golden Flashes in the winner's bracket of the South Bend Regional on Saturday.

With the victory, the Wildcats (32-24-1, 2-0 postseason) moved on to face the winner of tonight's Notre Dame-Kent State elimination game for the regional title on Sunday at 11 am Tucson time.

Tied 4-4 after six and half innings, freshman Jason Donald made the most of the redemptive qualities of baseball and junior Richard Mercado continued his torrid postseason hitting to help lead the Wildcats back from disaster and into the regional championship game.

At bat after KSU had rallied to tie the game, Mercado plated Donald from second with a single through the left side of the infield for the go-ahead run with two outs in the bottom of the seventh. The hit was the fourth of the postseason for Mercado and the RBI his team-leading fourth in the South Bend Regional.

After Jordan Brown and Moises Duran had been retired to lead off the bottom of the frame, Donald, who had let a potential inning-ending double play ball slide under his glove in the four-run top of the inning, set the table for Mercado's game-winning hit by lacing a single back up the middle and moving into scoring position at second on a failed pickoff attempt by reliever Ryan Davis.

The Wildcats tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth on a two-run sacrifice fly by Jeff Van Houten to advance to a regional final for the first time since 1993.

Having been held scoreless on just four hits over the first six innings, the Golden Flashes rallied to tie the game with four runs in the top of the seventh on three hits, a run-scoring wild pitch and the costly fielding error by Donald.

Arizona starter Kevin Guyette, who had cruised through the first six innings, struck out KSU's Adam Crowder lead off the seventh, but ran into trouble by issuing a walk to Eric Holick and surrendering a single to Joe Tucker to place runners on the corners with just one out.

After Andrew Davis drove in Holick from third for the first KSU run of the game with a single to right in the next at bat, first baseman Chad Kinyon followed with a tailor made double play ball to Donald just left of the second base bag that would have ended the inning.

The freshman shortstop got into fielding position but could only feint a throw to second baseman John Hardy as the ball rolled through his legs and into centerfield for his 21st error of the year. The miscue allowed a pair of runs to score to cut UA's lead to 4-3 and extended the inning for the Golden Flashes.

Kent State took advantage to tie the game on a wild pitch by Mark Melancon who had come on in relief of Guyette after the error.

The Wildcats, aided by a season-high six Kent State errors, jumped out to a 4-0 lead with a pair of runs in both the fourth and fifth innings. Nick Hundley put the Wildcats on the scoreboard with a two-run single to score Donald and Mercado in the fourth. Senior Moises Duran added a run-scoring double and Donald chipped in with a sacrifice fly in the two-run fifth.

Melancon (5-4) picked up the win with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Guyette, who has come on to pitch well in his last three starts, did not earn a decision despite giving up just two earned runs on six hits in 6 1/3 innings. KSU's Ryan Davis (0-2) was charged with the loss after giving up the go-ahead run in the seventh.

Arizona's regional championship game can be heard live on the radio on KNST 790 AM.

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