Consistent coaching styles help Arizona outfielder excel, Wildcats win rubber match against Oregon

By Kim Hartman

Cal Stevenson understands the value of consistency. Similar coaching styles have been a part of his baseball career for the last seven years, after all.

The Arizona outfielder started out his Varsity days under his father Jim at John F. Kennedy High School, where he was a four-year letterman, in Fremont, Calif. He considers his dad a player’s coach, just as he views Jay Johnson.

“Coach Johnson and my dad are very similar,” Stevenson said. “They both expect a lot out of me. My dad is really laid back, but when he needs you to be locked into the game and really serious, he’s good with that authority. Just like Coach Johnson. That’s why I think I adapted well to this program. They are pretty much the same guys.”

The junior left-hander played under Johnson last season at the University of Nevada, where he gathered a team-high 26 multi-hit games and batted a .359 clip in 2015.

“He’s the same exact coach (as he was at Nevada),” Stevenson said. “The only difference is that it’s at a different school. He loves being at the field and loves being competitive. He really gets the guys to buy into what he wants to do, and I think that’s why he’s been so successful. He’s awesome.”

The 20-year-old also said that having Johnson as his coach again was a big reason for coming to college at Arizona.

“The transition was fairly easy, because Coach Johnson knew what to expect from me,” Stevenson said. “He’s a great guy to play for. And off the field, he’s really easy to talk to and he’s there for you.”

So far this season, Stevenson is hitting .272 with 18 RBIs and a team-high 26 walks.

On Saturday, he led the charge in Arizona’s 18-4 victory over the University of Oregon. It was the rubber match of a three-game series between the two teams.

After a scoreless top half, the Wildcats opened the bottom of the first inning with five consecutive singles. Stevenson led off Arizona’s turn by legging out an infield basehit. Alfonso Rivas singled to left-centerfield, and Jared Oliva followed with a basehit to shortstop. With the bases loaded, J.J. Matijevic drove in the first run for the Wildcats with a single to centerfield, just out of Jake Bennett’s diving grasp.

Still with no one out, Mitchell Morimoto singled to right to put Arizona up, 2-0.

After Nick Quintana fouled out for the first out, Cesar Salazar dumped a two-run RBI single into centerfield to increase Arizona’s lead to 4-0. A groundout and flyout ended the early offensive display.

With two away in the top of the second inning, Oregon’s bats came alive. Catcher Tim Susnara doubled into the right field corner, and Daniel Patzlaff drove him home with a left-field single.

By the middle of the second, Arizona had a 4-1 lead.

In the bottom half, Oregon’s Taylor Travess made a diving catch in left field to take away a basehit from Stevenson. Rivas followed with a double to deep left field and advanced to third on an error. Oliva smoked a fast-sinking ball down the left field line, but Travess laid out again to rob him of a hit. He would still get the RBI, however, on the sacrifice fly.

This increased Arizona’s winning margin to 5-1.

Still in the second inning with two outs, Matijevic singled up the middle and stole second. The first baseman scored on Morimoto’s RBI double to right-centerfield.

With a five-run lead over the Ducks, Quintana widened the gap with a two-run homerun to left field to make it a 8-1 ballgame.

After a scoreless third by both teams, the Ducks got a runner on first, but a double play  – a strikeout and an out stealing – ended Oregon’s turn.

In the bottom of the fourth, a Matijevic double and Quintana single tacked on another run for the home team.

After four innings of play, the Wildcats were up, 9-1.

Matijevic drove in his second run of the day in the fifth inning, giving Arizona a 10-1 lead.

In the bottom of the sixth, the Wildcats pushed across two more. Both Stevenson and Rivas had RBI singles, increasing Arizona’s cushion to 12-1.

In the top of the seventh, Susnara brought the Ducks two closer with a towering two-run homerun to right field, making the score 12-3. The Oregon catcher went 2-for-4 on Saturday with a double and homerun.

Keeping the momentum going, pinch hitter Ryne Nelson singled and Kyle Kasser drove him in on a RBI double down the first base line.

At the seventh inning stretch, the score was 12-4.

In the bottom of the seventh, Morimoto opened with a single through the left side. On a payoff pitch, Salazar shot a ball through the middle, to put runners at the corners. Cameron Cannon dribbled a basehit up the middle, for his first hit and first RBI of the game.

With two outs and the sacks packed, Rivas singled to right for his fifth hit and second RBI of the day. The Wildcats designated hitter went 5-for-5 in Saturday’s contest.

“I stuck with the same approach in every at-bat,” Rivas said. “I was just trying to see the ball as well as I could. And if there was something that I could hit hard, I swung.”

After a passed ball scored another for Arizona, Oliva looped a two-run RBI double into left field, giving the Wildcats a 17-4 lead. To keep the ball rolling, Cory Voss singled to left to drive in another.

The six-run inning was extinguished by a Matt Fraizer groundout.

Arizona carried a 18-4 lead into the eighth inning, in which neither club pushed across a run.

In what was Oregon’s final chance in the ninth, they went down in order to end the rubber game.

“I think staying confident as a team (helped generate offense today),” Rivas said. “We stayed aggressive. I think when we get in trouble, we tend to back off, and we really stayed after them today.”

The win moves Arizona to 26-9 on the season. Wildcats starter Rio Gomez went 6 ⅔ innings on 4 runs, 9 hits, a walk and 3 strikeouts. Seven Arizona hitters had a multi-hit game, and Oliva and Quintana each had 3 RBIs.

“The readiness of the team was what I was most proud of today,” Johnson said. “Rio (Gomez) did a great job at setting the tone of the game. On offense, we were relentless with the quality at-bats. On defense, we put up a zero in the errors column, which I love to see. So I’m just really proud of our team.”

Arizona’s next series is scheduled to begin on Thursday, starting a three-game set against the University of Utah at Hi-Corbett Field. First pitch is anticipated at 6 p.m. MST.

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