Day one at the NCAA Regional in Tucson saw a 3-2 pitchers’ duel in game one between two-seed New Mexico State and three-seed Louisville and a one-sided 15-3 slugfest in game two between top seed and host Arizona and four-seed Missouri.
The Aggies and Cardinals kicked things off and the two potent offenses were held in check by a pair of strong pitching performances from NM State starter Ryan Beck and Louisville starter Justin Amlung. Each pitcher lasted six innings in the desert heat and both pitchers were responsible for all the runs. Beck was strong through the first three innings but the Cardinals put a run on the board in the fourth and two in the fifth to erase a 2-0 deficit that the Aggies had built off of Amlung after scoring single runs in the first and third innings.
Both teams made their fair share of great defensive plays but it was a couple of errors by each team that led to the decisive runs. The Aggies scored their second run of the game when Aggie catcher Zac Fisher stepped to the plate with a runners on first and third and hit a ground ball that missed the wickets of Louisville second baseman Nick Ratajczak. That would give the Aggies a 2-0 lead in the game but two innings later Aggie center fielder Kyle Phillips would field a Kyle Gibson single and his throw back in missed the cutoff man allowing Gibson to advance to second base. That play would prove loom large as a ground ball out would allow Louisville to score the tying run and then two batters later a double from Ratajczak would score Gibson from second giving Louisville the 3-2 lead which they would hang on to the remainder of the game.
The Aggies would threaten in the bottom of the fifth putting runners on first and second with nobody out but a pop up and a ground ball double play would end the threat and the Aggies would not threaten again offensively.
In the nightcap at HI Corbett Field the home-standing Wildcats would fall behind 2-0 to hot-hitting Missouri after the Tigers started the game with a single, a triple and a ground out to go up 2-0. However, Arizona would answer in the bottom of the first with a leadoff single. After a pop out the runner would advance to second on a balk. The Wildcats would string together five consecutive singles to tie the game at 2-2 but had runners thrown out at third for the second out and at home plate on a controversial call for the final out of the inning.
Missouri would continue to hit well getting a leadoff single followed by a fielder’s choice bunt putting runners on first and third as the Wildcats would throw the ball away. A sacrifice fly would score the runner from third giving the Tigers a 3-2 lead but they would be unable to do any more damage despite a two-out double that put runners on second and third.
Arizona would go scoreless in the second and third but exploded for seven runs on six hits in the bottom of the fourth to take a commanding 9-3 lead in front of the crazed home crowd of over 5,000.
Arizona added three in the seventh and three more in the eighth to go up 15-3 and after the somewhat shaky start from starter Kurt Heyer he would settle in and go the distance holding the Tigers hitless after giving up the three runs and four hits through the first two innings.
The teams take the field again today as Missouri and New Mexico State face off in the regional’s first elimination game. The Wildcats and Cardinals will square off in the nightcap with the winner advancing to the championship game on Sunday night.
New Mexico State hopes to improve their offensive output while maintaining the level of pitching and defense they played in the first game. Missouri will be looking to bounce back from getting no-hit and shut out over the final seven innings of their 15-3 defeat.
In the nightcap it’ll be Arizona hoping to continue their offensive momentum against the Cardinals who, despite scoring just three runs against New Mexico State, have a potent offense that they hope can match Arizona run-for-run.
Both games will be televised on ESPNU with game one starting at 4:00 p.m. (MST) and game two starting at 8:00 p.m. (MST)