Joey Rickard hit a three-run home run, collected four RBI and made several sensational defensive plays as Kurt Heyer and Matt Chaffee took care of business on the mound.
April 15, 2011
Arizona 5, UCLA 4 (Box Score)
LOS ANGELES - Joey Rickard had four RBI, including a three-run home run in the fifth inning, to go with several sensational defensive plays as the No. 23 Arizona baseball team rode the pitching arms of Kurt Heyer and Matt Chaffee to defeat No. 20 UCLA, 5-4, on Friday evening at Jackie Robinson Stadium.
Trailing 3-2 in the top of the fifth, Arizona (23-11, 5-5 Pac-10) emphatically took the lead for good. Alex Mejia and Bryce Ortega reached on one-out singles, to bring Rickard to the plate. Already with one RBI on the day, Rickard launched a three-run home run to left field to give the Wildcats a 5-3 lead.
The five runs turned out to be enough run support for Arizona's pitching. Heyer, despite giving up three runs on five hits in the third inning, was strong most of the night. He turned in 7.1 innings on the mound with six strikeouts. He surrendered six hits, but allowed just one after the third inning.
However, Heyer, who improved to 6-1 on the season, uncharacteristically walked three batters, including one to pinch-hitter Brenton Allen to lead off the bottom of the eighth inning. After a sacrifice bunt moved pinch-runner Adrian Williams to third base, the Wildcats called on Chaffee out of the bullpen.
Chaffee promptly entered and picked up a pair of strikeouts to end the inning. Then in the ninth, despite giving up an infield single and a stolen base, Chaffee tallied two more strikeouts en route to his fourth save of the year. His final punch-out of the evening was a called third strike to pinch-hitter Tyler Heineman with a runner on second base to end the game
Earlier in the game, the Wildcats struck first with two runs off Bruins' starter Gerrit Cole in the top of the third inning. Seth Mejias-Brean led off the frame with a single to center field, before advancing to third on a one-out ground rule double to left field by Ortega. Mejias-Brean scored on an RBI groundout by Rickard, and Ortega touched home with the second run on a two-out, run-scoring double by Cole Frenzel.
UCLA (17-12, 7-3 Pac-10) wasted no time answering with three runs to take the lead in the home half of the third, but the damage could have been worse if not for two terrific relay throws from Rickard to gun down runners trying to score.
To open the bottom of the third, Trevor Brown reached on a soft line drive single to left field and Steve Rodriguez worked a walk after a full count. The runners moved to third on Pat Valaika's sacrifice bunt, before Jeff Gelalich tied the game with a two-run double to left field.
UCLA looked to take the lead as Beau Amaral singled to center, but Rickard threw out Gelalich at the plate. Amaral moved to second on the throw and eventually scored the go-ahead run on Dean Espy's single.
Then, Rickard delivered his second defensive gem of the inning. Cody Regis doubled to right center, but the ball was cut off as Rickard made a diving snag to prevent the ball from rolling to the wall. Rickard quickly jumped to his feet and delivered a strike to the second baseman Ortega, who relayed another strike to catcher Jett Bandy waiting at the plate to tag out Espy to end the inning.
ULCA grabbed one of the runs back in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Gelalich pulled a solo home run to right field to cut the deficit in half at 5-4, which ultimately became the final score.
In the second inning, Rickard made a diving catch in right centerfield to steal a potential leadoff single away from Cody Regis. It was the beginning of a highlight night for the sophomore centerfielder, whose second home run of the season was also the 10th of his career.
Cole, who allowed five runs on nine hits, struck out 11 in the game but dropped to 4-3 on the season.
Offensively, Arizona did most of its damage at the top and bottom of the order. The No. 7-2 hitters in the lineup went 8-for-20 in the game with all five runs and all five RBI.
The second game of the three-game series is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. (PDT). The game will be broadcast live on 1290 AM in Tucson with Brian Jeffries describing the play-by-play action.
RADIO NOTE: The series finale on Sunday, April 17, will be broadcast nationally on Sirius XM College SportsNation. The Arizona Radio Network broadcast featuring play-by-play description by Brian Jeffries will be aired on SIRIUS 122 and XM 143.