Utah scored three runs in the seventh and two unearned runs following a bizarre play in the eighth inning to overcome a 5-2 deficit and prevail with a 7-6 win over Arizona.
April 6, 2012
Utah 7, Arizona 6 (Box Score)
SALT LAKE CITY - Fourth-ranked Arizona saw its six-game conference winning streak snapped in a wild back-and-fourth game that was won by host Utah, 7-6, on Friday night at Spring Mobile Ballpark.
Arizona (22-9, 8-3 Pac-12) appeared well on its way to a seventh-straight Pac-12 victory, as it took leads of 1-0, 5-2 and 6-5 throughout the game, but a bizarre turn of events in the bottom of the eighth inning doomed the Wildcats.
Trailing by a run in the eighth, Utah (8-21, 4-7 Pac-12) had its back against the wall with two down and no runners on against reliever Stephen Manthei until Gavin Green drew a walk. Then Manthei struck out Bliss Larsen swinging to presumably end the inning, except that Manthei's pitch bounced in the dirt and rolled away from catcher Riley Moore.
Moore raced to pick up the ball, but his throw to first base was low and skipped into right field. That allowed Green to race over to third base, and Larsen thought about going to second. However, Larsen was caught between first and second base on right fielder Robert Refsnyder's throw back to the infield.
Larsen found himself in a run-down, but slid in safely at second. Meanwhile, Green was caught off the bag at third. A throw to third forced him to try to score, where third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean's throw to Moore at home was in time to retire Green, except Moore dropped the throw, which allowed the tying run to score.
Tyler Relf immediately followed and roped a double down the left field line to drive in Larsen with the go-ahead run.
The Wildcats, stunned by the turn of events, put the tying and potential go-ahead runs on base with two down in the top of the ninth against reliever Tyler Wagner. But Wagner got Mejias-Brean to ground out to end the game and preserve a 7-6 win for Utah. It was Wagner's first save of the season.
The Utes mounted a rally in the bottom of the seventh against UA starter Konner Wade to overcome a three-run deficit. Wade gave up a walk and a single to open the inning. Relf then drove in a run with a run-scoring groundout, and with two down in the inning, James Brooks hit a two-run homer to right field that tied the game 5-5.
The Wildcats quickly grabbed the lead again in the eighth. Bobby Brown reached on a one-out single and moved to second on a groundout. Then with two strikes and two outs, Moore singled to center to drive in Brown that gave UA a 6-5 lead, before the wild turn of events in the home half of the inning.
Arizona opened the game by scoring in the first inning for the second straight game. Joey Rickard led off the game with a double to the right field corner. He was advanced to third on Johnny Field's fly out to right, and then scored on Alex Mejia's sacrifice fly to centerfield to plate the game's first run.
Wade retired the Utes in order over the first three innings, before Brooks led off the bottom of the fourth with a single up the middle. Conner Eppard followed with a double to left field to place a pair of runners in scoring position. Parker Morin then singled to left to drive in both runners to give the Utes a 2-1 lead.
The Wildcats answered right back in the top of the fifth. Trent Gilbert singled to lead off, moved to second on Moore's sacrifice bunt and to third on Joseph Maggi's line drive single to center. Rickard then drove in Gilbert on a sacrifice fly to right
Arizona regained its lead with three runs on four hits in the top half of the sixth. With two outs, Brown singled to center to plate a pair of runners, before Trent Gilbert doubled home Brown to give UA a 5-2 edge.
That marked the end of the day for starter Brock Duke, who was charged for the five earned runs in 5.2 innings. The right-hander allowed eight hits, a walk and struck out five in a no-decision.
Wade did not factor into the decision either after tossing 6.2 innings. He gave up seven hits, walked one and struck out six.
Mitch Watrous (2-0) earned the win in relief for the Utes after pitching 2.1 innings. He gave up one run on three hits.
Manthei (5-3) suffered the loss after being charged with two unearned runs in the eighth. Manthei worked 1.1 innings, allowed one hit, walked one and struck out two.
The teams will play the rubber match of the three-game set on Saturday. First pitch is scheduled for noon (MDT) at Spring Mobile Ballpark.