TUCSON, Ariz. – It wasn’t pretty, but it was effective.
Senior James Farris finished off his ninth career complete game with his 100th strikeout of the season, while stranding the potential tying run in the ninth inning to secure a 4-3 victory for the University of Arizona baseball team in a non-conference game against Abilene Christian University on Friday night at Hi Corbett Field.
A right-hander making his 47th career start and 50th overall appearance for Arizona, Farris shook off some early struggles to dominate in the late innings. He allowed only one hit in the final four frames, and fanned four ACU hitters over the last two innings to reach the milestone mark of 100 strikeouts for the season.
The Gilbert, Ariz., native scattered nine hits and three walks in his second-straight complete-game win. He allowed three runs, but just two were earned, as he lowered his season earned run average to a career-low 3.40 in 113.2 innings. He moved into 10th place on the school’s all-time list with 320.1 career innings pitched.
Arizona (21-32) came out swinging with three runs on four hits in the first against Russell Crippen, making only his fourth appearance of the year. Zach Gibbons led off with a single and scored on Kevin Newman’s double to start the early rally. After Scott Kingery dropped down a bunt single, Trent Gilbert drove in Newman on a groundout, and Tyler Krause followed with a single to push home Kingery.
Abilene Christian (17-35) bounced back with an unearned run against Farris in the second inning, though the host Wildcats were quick to respond in the home half when Gibbons doubled and scored on Newman’s second run-scoring hit in as many innings.
Staked to the 4-1 lead, Farris battled through the middle innings while giving up single runs in the fourth and fifth frames. Gunnar Buhner plated a run when beat out a potential double play in the fourth, and Tyler Eager brought the visiting Wildcats within a run with an RBI single in the fifth.
That was all the closer ACU was able to get against Farris, who also benefitted from three groundball double plays in the contest. He worked around a two-out walk in the top of the ninth which presented a bit of late drama. However, Farris caught Aaron Draper looking on a perfectly located fastball over the inside corner to end the game.
Farris moved into sole possession of sixth-place in the school record books with his 47th career start, and cemented his place as one of the school’s best strike-throwers. With only 65 walks allowed in his 320.1 innings pitched, Farris boasts a 1.83 walks per innings ratio, which is second-lowest in program history behind Tad Heydenfeldt’s (1986-87) top mark of 1.77.
Arizona was out-hit, 9-8, in the ballgame, but received some punch from the top of the lineup. Gibbons led the way with a 3-for-4 night, including a pair of runs scored, while Newman collected two hits, two runs batted in and a run scored.
The second game of the series is scheduled for Saturday at 6 p.m. (MST) at Hi Corbett Field. Farris will be honored prior to the game in a Senior Day ceremony.