College baseball can be a strange game, and Arizona left-handed pitcher Tyler Crawford knows all about it.
The sophomore hurled a gem last month at traditional power Long Beach State, picking up a win over 5 2/3 strong innings. Six days later, Crawford couldn't get out of the third against Utah Valley.
The unpredictable trend continued Tuesday night in front of 2,131 fans at Hi Corbett Field. Crawford pitched a career-high eight innings and struck out a career-best five in the Wildcats' 6-2 win over Texas Tech.
"He pitched the way he's supposed to pitch," said assistant coach Shaun Cole, filling in postgame for coach Andy Lopez, who is battling a cold. "You can say it's been weird with him, but I just say his concentration level hasn't always been dialed into where it's supposed to be."
It was Tuesday night.
The Peoria Sunrise Mountain High School product threw 99 pitches - 65 for strikes - and gave up just a single run in the fourth and eighth innings.
He improved to 2-1 on the season and boasts a 1.62 ERA in 16 2/3 innings pitched.
His only blemish this season was the Utah Valley start, where he was pulled after 2 1/3 innings and four hits.
"I came out with a chip on my shoulder because I didn't last very long in my last start," Crawford said. "I was mixing speeds real well and taking advantage of their aggressiveness and keeping the ball down in the zone."
Leading 2-1 and locked in a tight game, the Wildcats (11-3) gave Crawford some breathing room in the sixth inning when they scored four runs.
Freshman designated hitter Zach Gibbons started the inning with a double and was moved over to third on a bunt base hit by catcher Riley Moore. Johnny Field scored Gibbons, reaching on an error, and Brandon Dixon brought home Moore and Field with a two-run double.
Trent Gilbert capped the inning with a sacrifice fly.
Gibbons finished 2 for 4 with a run scored out of the leadoff spot. Fellow freshman Scott Kingery delivered an RBI hit earlier in the game and finished with two hits. Kevin Newman, also a freshman, was 1 for 3 with a run scored and a stolen base.
"We're always talking about how those guys need to get old fast," Cole said of the freshmen.
Field finished with three hits to break out of a mini 1-for-10 slump, and closer Matt Troupe pitched a scoreless ninth.
The rest of the bullpen got a rest courtesy of Crawford after the Wildcats used nine pitchers in Sunday's 9-2 loss to San Francisco.
"It didn't help on Sunday when we had to go to the bullpen early," Cole said. "We needed the extra day for our pen to be strong going into tomorrow and the weekend."
The Red Raiders (7-6) were led by leadoff hitter Devon Conley, who finished 2 for 4 with an RBI.
The two teams will finish their two-game series today at 1 p.m. Freshman Tyger Talley will start for the Wildcats.
• What: Texas Tech at Arizona
• Where: Hi Corbett Field
• When: 1 p.m.
Contact reporter Daniel Berk at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4330. On Twitter @DSBerk.