TUCSON, Ariz. ?- Jordan Brown’s team leading sixth home run of the season helped build Arizona an early 5-0 lead and Jason Donald’s throw to Nick Hundley at home with two outs in the ninth ended the game, as the ninth-ranked Wildcats hung on for a 5-4 victory to salvage its series against UC Riverside in Tucson on Sunday.
The victory snapped a two-game losing streak and improved UA’s record to 11-3 for the year. UCR dropped even at 7-7 with the loss.
After a lackluster effort at the plate in Saturday’s 3-1 loss, the Wildcat offense came out with four straight hits to open the game and put all five of its runs on the scoreboard in the first two innings.
The Highlanders, who battled their way back into the game with two runs in the fourth and one apiece in the fifth and seventh, had an opportunity to tie the game with a two outs in the ninth, but came up just short on a play at the plate to end the game.
Leadoff hitter Brett Bigler started the UCR rally in the ninth with a one-out single through the left side of the Arizona infield. A fly ball off the bat of Anthony Claggett handed Arizona its second out in the inning and brought to the plate Nick Salotti, the No. 3 hitter in the UCR order.
Salotti, who hit his fourth home run of the season earlier in the game, bounced UA reliever Mark Melancon’s 1-2 offering just past shortstop Donald up the middle and into center field.
Bigler advanced around to third on the play and headed for home as the ball trickled into the outfield. Donald finally took possession of the slow roller, turned and threw to Hundley at the plate for the final out of the game.
The Wildcats had jumped out to an early lead when senior Jeff Van Houten plated Trevor Crowe from second with a RBI double in the first and Brown’s three-run blast one batter latter quickly gave UA a four-run advantage.
The Wildcats tacked on one more run in the second for a 5-0 lead after Brett Scyphers singled to open the inning and advanced to second on a wild pitch before coming around to score on successive ground outs by Trevor Crowe and Brad Boyer.
Scyphers, making his second start at second base, led all players with a 3 for 4-afternoon. He finished with a run scored and his second career double in the contest. Crowe (2 for 4, run) was the only other Wildcat to finish with multiple hits in the game.
Arizona starter Sean Rierson was perfect through the first three innings before giving up two runs on two hits in the fourth. Salotti’s two-run homer plated teammate Anthony Claggett in the inning and cut UA’s lead to 5-2. UCR tacked on a run in the fifth on a Bigler RBI single and made it a one-run game in the seventh on a Donald fielding error.
Rierson (2-0), who gave up three runs on four hits in 5 1/3 innings, picked up his second win of the year and his 25th overall victory in an Arizona uniform. Melancon, who worked a scoreless final 2 1/3 innings, picked up his second save of the year. He struck out three and walked none.
UCR’s Taylor Bills (2-2) tossed a complete game in the losing effort. After giving up five runs on six hits in the first two innings, he settled in to give up just four hits over his final six innings of work.
Arizona will take Monday off before resuming practice on Tuesday. The Wildcats will next host 2004 College World Series runner-up and top-ranked Texas next Friday-Sunday at Kindall Field. Game times are 7 p.m., 4 p.m. and 12 p.m MST.
Arizona’s victory on Sunday helped the Wildcats avoid their first series sweep since April 23-25, 2004 ... Senior Jeff Van Houten, who missed Saturday’s contest because of illness, extended his hitting streak to 20-straight games after going 1 for 4 on Sunday ... Junior Jordan Brown’s three-run home in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 14 consecutive games ... Arizona finished Sunday’s contest with 10 hits, marking the 12th time in 14 games this season it has posted double digit hits.