The Arizona Wildcats had never hosted a Super Regional before this weekend. They made game one of the series against St. John’s memorable with a 7-6 victory. The Wildcats won their third game in walk off fashion in as many weeks with a Trent Gilbert RBI single in the bottom of the tenth inning.
True freshman Trent Gilbert came up to bat in the bottom of the 10th after St John’s walked fellow freshman Riley Moore to load the bases. The youngster punched a 2-2 fastball into right field scoring 5th year senior Bobby Brown. Earlier in the inning, Brown singled to right field tying the game at 6.
Gilbert went 2-for-4 in the game with 2 runs-batted-in, 2 runs scored, and a walk. He was the player of the day for the Wildcats, delivering when Arizona needed it most.
“I got up there with two strikes and bases loaded, so I was trying to make contact,” Gilbert said. “With bases loaded I was just wanting to get the ball in the air so we would have two shots at it. I just stayed back trying to get the ball in play and make something happen.
“I want to bat in those situations, to have a chance to win the game for us.”
St. John’s had a huge inning in the 4th that gave them a big lead, but it wasn’t enough to stay on top and put the Wildcats away. Kurt Heyer gave up 5 consecutive singles, en route to giving up 7 hits in the inning. By the time that Bret Dennis was caught in a run down between second and third to end the inning, St. John’s had already struck taking a 5-0 lead.
The Red Storm took the lead again in the top of the 10th. Heyer allowed consecutive singles in the 10th inning, which ended his gutsy performance. Mathew Troupe, who came on and got the win, despite throwing only 3 pitches, relieved him.
The Wildcats tied it up at 5 in the bottom of the 6th. Arizona chipped away and got a few breaks, but the experienced team took advantage of a huge error to tie the game. Joseph Maggi started the rally with a 1-out double. He scored on Trent Gilbert’s 2-out triple and the floodgates opened. Joey Rickard had an RBI single and then stole second. He scored to tie the game when St. John’s center fielder Kyle Richardson dropped an easy pop fly.
Arizona started climbing back into the game in the bottom of the 4th and 5th. In the 4th inning, a walk and two straight singles gave the Wildcats a run, but a double play ended the threat. In the 5th, Tucson native Seth Mejias-Brean came to the plate with the bases loaded and 2 outs. He hit a hard line drive to the deep left field, but it was caught and the side was retired.
Heyer got out of a jam early. In the top of the third, he gave up a 1-out single and then hit a batter before getting a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning. Heyer had 3 double plays rolled up on the day.
Heyer started the day for Arizona and, despite having a rough 4th inning, pitched nine and a third innings. He gave up 6 runs on 17 hits, but didn’t walk any Red Storm players and struck out 4. After the 4th inning, Heyer calmed himself down and didn’t seem to have any problems until the 10th.
After the game, Heyer’s performance wasn’t just applauded by his own team, but also by St. John’s Head Coach Ed Blankmeyer.
“I think that kid could’ve pitched forever," Blankmeyer said. "He was kind of a gutty kid. You have to give that kid credit. It’s nothing fancy, he just competes.”
Heyer was unaware of his pitch count in the later innings, but knew that he wanted to go as long as his body would let him. He finished with 129 pitches.
“I was fine,” Heyer said after the game. “At this point in the season, you can’t get tired. Coach Lopez knew that I wanted to go out in the tenth because once he gives me the ball, I don’t ever want to give it up.”
The win went to Troupe, who improved his overall record to 4-1 on the season and 1-0 in the postseason. He threw only 3 pitches, but got big outs that kept the game close for the Wildcats. Troupe gave up a hit to his first batter faced, but had Sean O’Hare thrown out at home plate by left fielder Johnny Field. He retired the next batter and added a win to his resume.
Kyle Hansen took the ball for St. John’s. He pitched a great game, going 5 and two-third innings and giving up 5 runs (4 earned) on 7 hits. He also walked 4 batters and struck out just one batter. His outing was the longest a pitcher has gone against the Wildcats in this postseason, barely edging Louisville’s Jeff Thompson, who got through just 5.
Stephen Rivera came on in relief for the Johnnies. He had a stellar performance from the pen, throwing three and two-thirds, but giving up the tying run in the 10th. He only gave up 2 hits but walked a batter.
After Rivera left, Kevin Kilpatrick came to the mound and faced three batters. He gave up 2 hits and walked Moore, without getting any outs, before the Johnnies switched pitchers for the final time.
James Lomangino only faced only Trent Gilbert and gave up the game-winning hit.
Arizona and St. John’s will meet again Saturday at noon for game 2 of the best-of-3 series. Should the Wildcats win, they will be the first team to punch their ticket to Omaha, Nebraska for the College World Series. Should the Red Storm win, both teams will meet for a decisive game 3 on Sunday afternoon at 1 PM.