One big inning is all the Cats needed

FULLERTON, Calif. – The Wildcats knew that they'd have to face incredible pitching in the NCAA Tournament, they just didn't know it would start in their first game. The Cats used a four one fourth to get by Max Scherzer and the Missouri Tigers.

Scherzer was 9-3 this season and had a 1.52 ERA. For most of Saturday's game he pitched as well as those numbers indicated. He threw 2 2/3 perfect innings. Just when it seemed as if the big righty was going to cruise, the fourth inning happened.

Despite throwing 96 mph fastballs, the Cats came up big their second time through the order. The first four batters of the fourth inning had base hits and eight men came to the plate. Nick Hundley's double plated two runs and after being sacrificed to third, he scored on a passed ball.

Other than that the Wildcats were stymied. Scherzer gave up just three more hits, surrendering one more run, but the five runs was enough for the Wildcats.

"That young man is going to be a wealthy young man in the future," noted Wildcat head coach Andy Lopez. "He's as good as we've seen all year."

Te Cats' strategy worked. They wanted to make the sophomore to make a lot of pitches, while also slowing him down. Scherzer is a real high-energy pitcher and the Cats made him work hard, while also getting him out of a rhythm by calling timeouts and stepping out of the batters' box. John Meloan worked out of a few jams, including loading the bases in the second. He got out of that pickle without a run and pitched 6.2 innings, striking out 10 and surrendering two runs. Mark Melancon got the save, pitching the last 2 1/3, giving one.

Meloan was rocky early, but did enough to survive the early innings before settling into a groove.

"Early on I didn't have good location," the junior pitcher admitted. "I just had to battle with what I had."

That run came in the ninth and almost sparked a rally. Trent Williams singled and was bunted to second by Trevor Helms. Derek Chambers' bloop hit plated Williams and James Boone came up as the tying run. Boone, a .356 hitter grounded out to end the rally and the game.

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