March 30, 2012
Arizona 8, Stanford 7 (Box Score)
TUCSON, Ariz. - Arizona's largest home crowd in four seasons witnessed one of the most improbable comebacks in school history as the Wildcats scored four ninth-inning runs to rally and defeat second-ranked Stanford, 8-7, on Friday night at Hi Corbett Field.
Eighth-ranked Arizona (19-7, 5-2 Pac-12) trailed 7-4 and was down to its final three outs and facing one of the nation's top pitching prospects in Stanford's Mark Appel in the final inning. But the Wildcats and a season-high crowd of 4,191 had a furious rally in store.
Joey Rickard was hit by Appel's first pitch of the ninth, and Johnny Field followed with a walk. That signaled the end of the night for Appel who rebounded from a rough start to throw eight-plus innings with five strikeouts.
Reliever David Schmidt (2-1) entered and immediately walked Alex Mejia, to bring the winning run to the plate. Schmidt settled down to strike out Robert Refsnyder on a 3-2 pitch that temporarily deflated the raucous crowd.
Seth Mejias-Brean re-energized the Wildcat faithful with his fourth hit of the game, a single to right field that drove in Rickard. That set up a wild final play of the game.
Bobby Brown bounced a sharp single up the middle that knocked home Field and Mejia to tie the game, but Jake Stewart overran the ball in the centerfield. As Stewart raced to get the ball, Mejias-Brean sprinted home to score the game-winning run all the way from first base.
Brown, who was 3-for-5 in the game and credited with two RBI on the walk-off play, drove in three runs in the game. Mejias-Brean also drove in three and he tied a career high with four hits, to go with two runs scored.
The late-inning heroics overshadowed a dismal defensive day by both clubs, which took the luster of a highly anticipated pitching dual between Appel and UA's Kurt Heyer. Neither ace factored into the decision.
Appel gave up four runs on six hits in the first three innings, before finding a rhythm that kept the Wildcats scoreless until the decisive ninth inning. Heyer, meanwhile, struck out 11, scattered 10 hits and gave up seven runs in eight-plus innings, but just two earned runs as he was victim to some uncharacteristic miscues behind him.
The hard-throwing right-hander for Stanford finished with six earned runs allowed on six strikeouts and two walks. He allowed a season-high 12 base hits to the Wildcats, who entered the series leading the Pac-12 in batting.
Stephen Manthei, who took over for Heyer with a runner on and no outs in the top of the ninth, earned the victory in relief. He retired all three batters he faced and improved to 5-2.
Stanford (16-4, 2-2 Pac-12) struck first with a pair of runs in the second inning, but the Wildcats answered with two runs of their own to perk up an anxious crowd in the bottom half of the frame. Mejias-Brean delivered a one-out double, Brown tripled and Trent Gilber laced another two-bagger to tie the game 2-2.
The Cardinal reclaimed a one-run advantage in the third, before the Wildcats came back to grab their first lead. Rickard and Field opened the bottom of the third with singles, and one out later, both scored on Mejias-Brean's second double in as many innings.
Heyer retired eight straight batters before he gave up three consecutive hits in the top of the sixth. The third hit, a tapper back to Heyer with runners on second and third, deflected off his glove. Heyer gathered the ball as it trickled away from him, but his back-handed flip to first was errant and allowed the tying run to score.
Three unearned runs in the seventh seemingly gave the Cardinal a comfortable lead. In the inning, Stanford scored three runs on just one hit after UA's middle infield combined for three errors. The damage could have been worse, though, if not for Heyer escaping the inning and stranding two runners.
UA committed a season-high five errors and left nine runners on base in the game. But Stanford's costly error in the ninth - one of three in the game - proved to be the difference.
The crowd of 4,191 was Arizona's largest home crowd since March 14, 2008, when Arizona defeated Cal State Fullerton, 8-3. The attendance that day at Jerry Kindall Field at Frank Sancet Stadium was announced as 4,250.
The Wildcats and Cardinal continue the three-game series on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for 6 p.m. (MST) at Hi Corbett Field.