By Kim Hartman
Speed runs in Jared Oliva’s family.
The Arizona outfielder’s dad David played the same position as him in the Boston Red Sox organization from 1982 to 1986.
“My dad was fast,” Oliva said. “He was a speedster, from what I could tell. He was a great role model growing up who taught me a lot about the game. He still teaches me the game and gives me pointers. (Baseball) is definitely something that I grew up on, so it’s awesome having him as a dad.”
The junior-year righty was doing a lot of running in Arizona’s 12-3 victory over McNeese State, collecting two extra-base hits in the Feb. 25 faceoff.
The win keeps the Wildcats undefeated this season.
In Saturday’s contest, MNS threatened to score early, by getting runners on first and second, but didn’t push one across in the opening half. With runners in the same positions with two outs, Arizona also came up empty, as both sides posted zeros in the first.
In the second inning, Shane Selman came out swinging on the first pitch for the Cowboys, as he sent a towering first-pitch double into the left-center gap. This set the table for first baseman Mitchell Rogers, who drove him in on a two-out infield basehit.
Arizona went down in order in the bottom half.
After two, the Cowboys had a 1-0 lead.
After a scoreless top half of the third, Arizona advanced a player to third base, manufactured by two errors and a wild pitch. The Wildcats then tied the game at 1-1, on a RBI double to left by Oliva.
“Since there were two outs, I was looking off-speed,” Oliva said. “So I was kind of sitting back and waiting for it. Sure enough, he threw a changeup, and I was able to stay on it.”
MNS didn’t get a man home, during their turn in the fourth. But Arizona did.
Swinging at the first pitch he saw, Nick Quintana opened with a double. Cody Voss followed with a walk on four pitches. With men at first and second with nobody out, Cameron Cannon attempted to drop down a sacrifice bunt to move his teammates into scoring position, but a throwing error on the play allowed him to reach third and have Quintana and Voss cross the plate.
Capitalizing on the two-run error, Ryan Haug executed a sacrifice fly to left field to give the Wildcats a 4-1 lead.
Continuing the momentum in the fourth, Luis Boyd drew a base-on-balls on four consecutive pitches. On a hit-and-run, Mitchell Morimoto singled to left field to put runners at the corners for Arizona. Junior Cal Stevenson then singled to right to drive in another.
The RBI capped a four-run inning for the Wildcats, and put them up, 5-1, after four innings of play.
The Cowboys answered with a leadoff homerun by Rogers in the fifth inning, closing the game to three, 5-2.
Voss opened the bottom half by coaxing his second walk of the game, but Arizona went down quickly after that.
In the top of the sixth, the Cowboys put together two singles and were knocking on the door with one out. But back-to-back strikeouts by Arizona reliever Cody Deason extinguished their threat.
In the bottom of the sixth frame, a Morimoto single to left-center set Arizona’s bats into motion. Stevenson drove in the leadoff hitter with a hooking triple to right field for his second RBI of the game. Oliva matched his triple-bagger with one of his own, scoring Stevenson.
“This is one of the biggest parks in the nation,” Oliva said. “It has the power gaps, so that’s a big part of our offense.”
Matijevic followed with a sacrifice fly, pushing Arizona’s third run of the inning across the plate.
The Wildcats owned a 8-2 lead through six frames of work.
After both teams were shutout in the seventh inning, the Cowboys assembled a walk and two singles to gain a run back, 8-3.
In response, the Wildcats tacked on four more runs in the bottom of the eighth. Six hits – all singles – composed the offensive onslaught for Arizona.
A scoreless ninth inning for MNS closed the game for the Wildcats, who have won all seven of their games this season.
Despite the high-octane day at the plate, Arizona coach Jay Johnson said he was happiest about the solid fielding by his team.
“I was most pleased with the fact that we had no errors,” Johnson said. “We took care of the baseball, which is important, especially in a day game. With the wind blowing out, you want to minimize the free bases. We played really good defense today.”
Arizona continues its four-game set against the Cowboys on Sunday. Gametime is scheduled for 12 p.m. MST.