By Kim Hartman
Out of the 13 Wildcats pitchers who made appearances this past series, only one had a scoreless full inning of work: Robby Medel. And he did it in all six frames that he pitched.
The Arizona reliever posted zeros in both of his outings in the three-game set against Utah, who swept the Wildcats this weekend.
Throwing a total of 98 pitches in the series, Medel went two innings on Thursday and four innings on Saturday. The junior right-hander gave up a combined seven hits and struck out four. He was the final pitcher used on both nights.
“Good intent and good conviction on my pitches brought me success against Utah,” Medel said. “I was able to execute what was called. I was mixing my pitches, throwing a lot of strikes, keeping (hitters) off-balance and keeping them guessing.”
He said it’s important to him to always put resolve behind his pitches.
“I’m old, man,” Medel said. “I’m 22. So every time I touch the mound, I cherish it, because I don’t know how many more times I’m going to get to do that going forward. I don’t want to look back when I’m 34 and say, ‘If I had just thrown that one pitch with a little more conviction or a little more intent, maybe I’d still be playing baseball.’ I don’t want to do that.”
The Texas native owns a 1.23 ERA in 14 2/3 innings pitched, over the course of nine appearances.
“Robby was spectacular,” Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said. “Just off the charts. He’s going to be in the game a lot. He pitches with a lot of conviction.”
Despite his strong performance, Arizona lost all three of their games against the Utes this passed weekend. Utah completed their sweep on Saturday, defeating the Wildcats, 4-2.
“I’d like to give credit to the opponent,” Johnson said. “It’s really due. Their pitching staff was really good. Winning baseball games starts and ends there, and they had that. They played extremely good defense. And offensively, you can’t ignore that. From one through nine (holes), there weren’t a lot of outs.”
In Saturday night’s contest, the Utes wasted no time getting on the board.
DaShawn Keirsey Jr. led off the first with a single. After a walk, Dallas Carroll drove Keirsey in on an opposite-field double into the right field corner. Hunter Simmons shot a laser line drive through the middle for a two-run RBI.
Arizona starter Rio Gomez last only 1/3 of an inning, as he was relieved by Michael Flynn with one out in the first.
Following the pitching change, Zack Moeller roped a single to right. Trying to score from second, Simmons was thrown out at home for the second out. Josh Rose sent a deep ball into right-center, but Alfonso Rivas made the grab to end the side.
At the middle of the first, Utah enjoyed an early 3-0 lead.
After a scoreless turn by the Wildcats, Utah tacked on another run in the second, compliments of a Oliver Dunn RBI single.
In the next two innings, neither team pushed a run across, and the score remained 4-0.
In the fifth, Rivas opened Arizona’s turn at the plate with single to right. He stole second, successfully moving into scoring position. But Rivas would get no closer, as a strikeout, flyout and groundout finished the inning.
In the top of the sixth, Medel entered the game and shut down the Utes in order.
The Wildcats scored their first run in the bottom of the sixth. Back-to-back singles by Mitchell Morimoto and Jared Oliva set up a RBI sacrifice fly to left field by J.J. Matijevic.
After six innings, Utah was up, 4-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, Rivas led off the inning with a first-pitch double to right field. But three consecutive outs would leave him stranded again.
By the middle of the ninth, Medel had tossed four scoreless innings.
Still down by three in the bottom of the ninth, Nick Quintana drew a one-out walk. With two away, Cory Voss drove him home on a double to left-centerfield, cutting the game to a 4-2 match.
But Arizona couldn’t generate any more offense, as the game ended on a popout and Utah completed the three-game sweep.
“Some guys got outside of their process of what makes them good,” Johnson said. “It got completely away from a clear mind, away from seeing the ball, away from being on time, away from swinging at the right pitch. We were just totally out of character.”
Arizona had a series batting average of .220, and they hit .194 on Saturday. In contrast, the Utes batted .346 in the series and scored 23 runs on 37 hits, averaging more than 12 a game.
“Utah takes good at-bats,” Medel said. “They don’t swing at very many balls, and they battle with two strikes. They really get into your pitch count, so it makes it tough. They don’t chase – they’re very disciplined.”
The Wildcats look to recover on Tuesday against New Mexico State. Gametime is scheduled for 6 p.m. MST at Hi-Corbett Field.
“The most disappointing thing is that we did not improve throughout the weekend,” Johnson said. “We’re going to go back to work on that and make some adjustments. We swung at more bad pitches tonight than we have in a month and a half. I have some thoughts on where that came from, and we’ll address that.”