Ugly wins count the same as clean ones, but there’s no extra credit for nearly predicting the scenario in your sleep.
The Arizona Wildcats played one of their worst games of the season yet still managed to come out on top, scoring twice in the bottom of the eighth in a 4-3 win over Utah on Saturday night at Hi Corbett Field.
“I legitimately had a dream last night that I was miserable for 3 ½ hours of this game tonight, that we scored two in the bottom of the eighth and won 5-4,” UA coach Jay Johnson said afterward. “I was one run off. It was really eerie.”
Mac Bingham scored the winning run on a grounder to second by Daniel Susac, one that should have resulted in an inning-ending double play, but Utah shortstop Matt Richardson failed to step on the bag as he came across to throw to 1st. Ryan Holgate tied the game at 3 on batter earlier on a single to left, scoring Branden Boissiere, who led off the eighth with a single that was followed by a single from Bingham.
“We got just enough good at-bats in a row right there, and that was the separator,” Johnson said. “There’s no bad wins in Division I baseball. The hallmark of good teams is you find a way to win even when you don’t play your best.”
Vince Vannelle retired the side in order in the ninth for his seventh save, striking out the first two batters and getting Utah’s Trey Clarkson to pop out behind third base to end it. Riley Cooper (2-0) picked up the win by getting the final out of the eighth after Chandler Murphy threw 4.1 scoreless innings in relief of starter Garrett Irvin.
Arizona (29-11, 14-6 Pac-12) won its eighth consecutive game and clinched a sixth straight conference series despite failing to record an extra-base hit for just the third time this season. The Wildcats lost the previous two instances, and their eight hits were the fewest since managing six in the 21-2 loss at Washington State that preceded the win streak.
Utah (10-25, 5-15) used three left-handed pitchers to thwart and Arizona offense that came in hitting .362 against lefties. Bingham and Holgate were the only Wildcats with multiple hits, with Holgate driving in two of the four runs.
“I think we did a really good job of staying into the game as things went on,” said Boissiere, who scored two of Arizona’s four runs. “We just stuck with our plan, stuck with our guys, and it came out in our favor.”
The UA committed three errors in the first two innings, two by shortstop Jacob Blas in the second. The second boot, in which he made a great play to track down a ball in the hole only to airmail Boissiere at first, set the stage for the Utes to score twice that inning and take a 3-0 lead.
That made a long evening even longer for Irvin, who tied a season-high with six strikeouts but left after 3.1 innings and 81 pitches. Murphy inherited a 1st-and-2nd, 1-out situation but immediately induced a 4-6-3 double play, with the freshman allowing three hits with four strikeouts.
“I think it was really important for me to go as long as I could,” Murphy said. “For me to go that long, it was very helpful for our team.”
Arizona, which trails only Stanford (10-4) in the Pac-12 standings when it comes to conference win percentage, can complete a second consecutive sweep at 11 a.m. PT Sunday at Hi Corbett. The Wildcats haven’t announced a starter, but the smart money is on righty Austin Smith after he’s started the last two Sundays and threw 3.1 hitless innings last week against USC.