When Chase Silseth is on, he is really on. And thankfully for Arizona, that’s been the case in the majority of his starts this season.
The sophomore right-hander allowed two hits over seven innings, striking out eight and walking one in the Wildcats’ 11-1 win over Utah on Friday night at Hi Corbett Field. That outing comes on the heels of an eight-inning effort last week against USC and marked the sixth time in 11 starts this season in which he’s yielded two or fewer earned runs.
“Everything,” UA coach Jay Johnson said, when asked what he liked about Silseth’s peformance. “He set a really good tone early.”
It was the seventh straight win for Arizona (28-11, 13-6 Pac-12) since since a 21-2 loss at Washington State on April 16, the tail end of a 3-game skid. The UA entered the night in a four-way tie for first place but now sits behind Stanford (9-4) and Oregon (11-5) in conference win percentage.
For as good as Silseth (7-1) looked overall, it could have gone much worse if not for some good fortune early after Utah (10-24, 5-14) loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the second on a hit batter, a walk and a fielding error. Silseth got Shea Kramer to bounce one to third that Nik McClaughry threw home to force a runner out, then Kayler Yates popped one up in the infield.
UA shortstop Jacob Blas dropped the pop fly, but the infield fly rule was enacted and Yates was called out. Kramer, though, took off from first after seeing the ball hit the ground and was thrown out trying to get back to the bag to complete a very unique double play.
“It honestly felt like there wasn’t another baserunner the rest of the game,” Johnson said.
Silseth went the first four innings without allowing a hit, then after allowing a leadoff single in the fifth retired 12 of the final 13 batters he faced. He said he was told as soon as he entered the dugout after a 1-2-3 seventh that he was done, though he would have loved to go out for more.
“As long as we’re winning, I’m fine with it,” Silseth said.
Dawson Netz finished things out, allowing two hits and a run in the ninth that kept Arizona from posting its first shutout since the season-opening 4-0 win over Ball State. Silseth was also part of that effort, allowing three hits with seven strikeouts over 5.2 innings.
The four hits allowed were the fewest by Arizona pitchers this season, while it was the third time the Wildcats only yielded one walk.
“You want to make the other team earn it,” Silseth said. “Walks ignite things.”
Normally a slow-starting team at the plate, Arizona scored four times in the bottom of the first to more or less put the game away. The first two runs came home on a wild pitch and sacrifice fly before Kobe Kato drove in two with a 2-out single.
The four runs were the most for Arizona in the first since plating four against Dallas Baptist in a 15-8 win at the Frisco Classic in Texas on March 6.
“The two key at-bats in the first inning were the first two when Donta’ (Williams) drew a 3-2 walk, and then Branden (Boissiere) got the 3-2 double,” Johnson said. “I thought it was just in character, tough 2-strike at-bats early, smart hitting with runners in scoring position late and really just mature at-bats.”
The Wildcats added two more in the third, fifth and sixth and completed the scoring with an RBI triple by Daniel Susac in the seventh. Of the UA’s 13 hits, seven came with two outs to drive in six runs.
“Nothing changes no matter who we’re playing,” said right fielder Ryan Holgate, who was 3 for 4 with an RBI for his fifth 3-hit game of the season. “I feel like we just kind of try to stick to the same plan every single day.”
Utah starter Justin Kelly lasted 4.1 innings, allowing eight runs on eight hits with five walks to drop to 0-8.
Arizona improved to 26-5 in games when it has 10 or more hits, and during its 7-game win streak is averaging 10.7 runs and 15.2 hits. A win Saturday night would clinch its sixth consecutive Pac-12 series.