A season-high 4,644 fans were in attendance at Hi Corbett Field Tuesday night to watch Arizona rout Arizona State 11-2 in a non-conference affair to wrap up a 5-0 home stand. The 'Cats improved to 21-7 overall, and continue to be perfect at their home stadium improving to 17-0 overall at Hi Corbett.
"This place was amazing," UA coach Jay Johnson said of the crowd. "Our fans continue to outdo themselves. Going around the country and playing in two hostile environments last year in the regionals we got to see the best of real college fan bases, and nobody touches this west of the Mississippi River. This is unbelievable."
The 'Cats came into the game already leading the conference in batting average, slugging percentage, on-base percentage and runs scored and continued their offensive tear against the Sun Devils.
JJ Matijevic was 3 for 4 with two home runs, a double and 5 RBI. A two-run double in first gave Arizona a 2-1 lead then a solo home run in the third and a two run homer un in the fifth helped build a 7-1 lead.
Matijevic is hitting .401 this season and leads the conference in slugging percentage, hits and is second in doubles only behind his own teammate Jared Oliva.
The momentum swayed in the 'Cats favor in the third inning. Down 4-1, Arizona State had runners on the corners, But Tylor Megill held his composure and was able to strike Taylor Lane out.
Then, Tyler Williams hit a pop up in foul territory that seemed unplayable, until second baseman Kyle Lewis made an incredible diving play between Matijevic and Stevenson. Lewis then got back on his feet quickly, and threw a dart home to throw out Andrew Shaps attempting to tag from third to end the inning. In a game where the 'Cats committed four errors, Johnson was excited about the huge play.
"That was awesome, that was the magic moment of the game," Johnson said. "I'm proud of him for his play the last two days. He's been what he needs to be for our team to be as good as it can be. The hustle, bounce up, the awareness, that's him at his best."
Matijevic followed with his solo home run in the bottom half of the inning, then the 'Cats exploded for six runs in the fifth.
Also joining the offensive explosion Tuesday night was outfielder Cal Stevenson whose grand slam opened the game up. It was his first home run at Arizona after transferring from Chabot College.
"I was looking for that pitch, and I finally got something I could hit hard," Stevenson said. "I'd never hit a grand slam before in my life so I was pretty excited about that, and it was against ASU so it was 10 times better."
Arizona has had their bullpen struggles this season, but Johnson thinks they are starting to come together. Megill, who was 0-2 with a 10.61 in 9.1 innings pitched going into the game, threw four scoreless innings against Arizona State, striking out four and only giving up two hits.
"He's doing great," Johnson said. It's like Cody Deason, Faulkner and Romo; A lot of guys are starting to settle in and get comfortable. I think none of them have a had a ton of experience here because they came in with good predictability, a good track record behind them. Sometimes they just needed some experience and I think that's what we're seeing with all of them; Tylor especially."
Now, Arizona returns to conference play and heads to Washington State for a three-game series. Arizona is in fourth in the Pac-12 with a 5-4 record, the Cougars are at the bottom of the conference at 1-5. Regardless of wins and losses, winning on the road isn’t easy in Johnson’s mind.
"We got our work cut out for us," he said. "I'm sure it will be raining like it always does in the northwest, so we'll be ready for that.”