Arizona baseball: 'We needed this': Cats escape jam in 9th for sweep over Utes

2013-03-31T00:00:00Z Arizona baseball: 'We needed this': Cats escape jam in 9th for sweep over UtesDaniel Berk Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 31, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Leading by one run with two outs and the bases loaded in the top of the ninth on Saturday, all Arizona closer Mat Troupe wanted was a ground ball.

His wish came true, but not without some drama.

Utah's Trey Nielsen hit a sharp ground ball deep into the hole between shortstop and third base, and all Troupe saw was the back of Arizona shortstop Kevin Newman's jersey.

"Newman kept running and running and I was like, 'Oh, no,' " Troupe said.

But the freshman Newman backhanded the grounder and quickly fired to third for the 27th out.

It secured a 2-1 win for the Wildcats over the Utes in the finale of a three-game set at Hi Corbett Field and gave the UA a weekend sweep.

"That was a great play," coach Andy Lopez said. "We talk about that a lot -not having to make the long throw and just letting the momentum of the ball take you to the last out. Very good job on his part, very good job on (third baseman) Brandon Dixon's part.

"A lot of third basemen would have been a spectator."

The win was an important one for the Wildcats.

After being swept in back-to-back series against the Oregon schools to start conference play, the Wildcats are now 3-6 in the Pac-12 and 18-11 overall.

"We needed this to get back on track and get back in the race," UA center fielder Johnny Field said. "We still have a lot of work to do, but this was a great step.

"We started to put it all together this weekend."

Field delivered one of two big hits on the day for the Wildcats.

Scoreless through 6 1/2 innings, Joe Maggi singled in the bottom of the seventh with two outs. Field came up and got behind in the count 1-2, but he hammered a double to right-center field to score Maggi and give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.

An inning later with the score still 1-0, UA second baseman Trent Gilbert came through with the team's other significant hit.

Dixon started the inning with his third infield hit of the day and advanced to second on a stolen base. Gilbert singled through the right side to score Dixon and give the Cats a 2-0 lead.

"That was a monster run," Lopez said.

Troupe, who came on in the eighth and got a 1-2-3 inning, ran into a little trouble in the ninth.

He surrendered a two-out RBI single to Utah's Braden Anderson and loaded the bases when he committed a throwing error on the next play.

But Troupe got the Nielsen groundout to end it.

"Troupe made it interesting, but that's what he does," Lopez said.

"Whether it's here or Omaha, he's going to make it interesting, but he gets them out."

Overshadowed in the Wildcats' win was a gem from starting pitcher Tyler Crawford.

The sophomore left-hander, making his first weekend start of the season, threw 6 1/3 scoreless innings, giving up five hits and three walks while striking out five.

Crawford missed out on a decision because he was lifted for Augey Bill in the seventh, with the game still scoreless.

But even with the no-decision, the Glendale native raised some eyebrows with his start and will get another weekend start in the upcoming series against Cal.

"Crawford pitched marvelously," Lopez said. "He really picked up the slack for us today."

Added Crawford: "Being a weekend starter has been a goal of mine for a while. If we weren't struggling, I don't know if I would have been put in this situation, but I'm glad it worked out and it was a big sweep for us."

Field, Dixon and Maggi combined to go 7 for 9 in the win with both runs scored and an RBI. Dixon also added his team-leading 22nd stolen base of the season.

Kody Davis and Wyler Smith both had multiple hit games for Utah (12-13, 2-7) in the loss.

The sweep certainly didn't fix all of the Wildcats' flaws, but it will go a long way in getting some of their confidence back. Arizona still left eight men on base in Saturday's victory.

"We left some guys on base again, which is something we're battling," Lopez said. "But we played well when we had to the last three innings."

Up next

• Who: California at Arizona

• When: 6 p.m. Friday

• Where: Hi Corbett Field

• Radio: 1290-AM

Contact reporter Daniel Berk at dberk@azstarnet.com or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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