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Pac-12 Tournament: Arizona Tops Stanford 6-3 Behind Seven Strong Innings From Candiotti

 Leif Skodnick  |    May 24th, 2024 10:17pm EDT

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Behind seven strong innings from starter Clark Candiotti, the top-seeded Arizona Wildcats beat the eighth-seeded Stanford Cardinal 6-3 to advance to the championship game at the final Pac-12 Baseball Tournament.

Though Candiotti cruised through the final six innings he threw, he had to work out of a jam early.

In the top of the first, Stanford’s Jimmy Nati hit a two-out single to center, and then Malcolm Moore followed with a double to the right field corner that put runners on second and third. After a walk to Charlie Saum loaded the bases, Candiotti escaped the jam by getting Ethan Hott to fly out to left.

But Candiotti didn’t change his game plan, and he said he kept on “just trusting my stuff and just going right after hitters. I mean nothing huge changes. Just kind of knowing the game plan and just like I said going right after them.”

With a three pitch arsenal, Candiotti had all his weapons working Friday night.

First inning, he was a little bit tight, I think,” said Wildcats head coach Chip Hale. “After that, he really got it going. And the breaking ball, he has a two. I think that’s what messes guys up. He’s got a good slider, and then he gets a big curveball going. And then tonight, he had good velocity up in the zone.”

Tommy Splaine’s high fly ball down the right field line eluded Stanford first baseman Jimmy Nati, right fielder Jake Sapien, and second baseman Owen Cobb, dropping to the turf and allowing Splaine to scurry to third with a triple. Brandon Rogers reached on a throwing error by Stanford shortstop Trevor Haskins, and Brendan Summerhill cleared the bases with a three-run homer off the right field foul pole.

Arizona added another in the fourth when Blake McDonald’s ground out allowed Maddox Mihalakis to scoot home and make it 4-0.

Stanford starter Matt Scott left the game after four innings, having allowed four runs on three hits and notching two strikeouts.

In the sixth, Maddox Mihalakis doubled down the left field line to score Mason White, who lead off  with a single. Andrew Cain then singled and Mihalakis went to third, and later scored when Blake McDonald grounded out back to the mound.

Stanford finally got a run across in the top of the seventh. Malcolm Moore was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning and advanced to third when the next batter, Charlie Saum, singled to right field, giving Stanford runners at the corners with no outs. Ethan Hott grounded to third and reached when the double play relay throw was late to first and Moore scored to make it 6-1. Temo Becerra followed with a single up the middle, but Candiotti again got out of a jam, striking out Brett Larson looking and Jake Sapien swinging to end the inning. He left the game after throwing seven full innings, allowing one run on one hit and striking out 11. Casey Hintz came on in relief.

The Cardinal pecked out another run in the eighth when, following Owen Cobb’s infield single, Cort MacDonald singled to right field advanced Cobb to third. Jimmy Nati then grounded into a fielder’s choice at short that scored Cobb to make it 6-2

With two outs in the top of the ninth, Jake Sapien battled through a seven-pitch at-bat to single to left and keep Stanford alive, and then Cobb singled to right to score Larson, bringing the tying run to the plate in Cort MacDonald. Macdonald grounded into a fielder’s choice at short, where Arizona shortstop mason White flipped it to second baseman Garen Caulfield for the final out. After a video review, the call on the field was confirmed.

Stanford finished the season 22-32 overall and 11-19 in the Pac-12, making this only the third losing season for Stanford since 1964.

“I told them today, we’re in the playoffs now. Can’t take any days off, can’t take any pitches off, can’t take any outs off. So we want to win and being the last Pac-12 championship as of right now,” Hale said of tommorrow night’s matchup against Southern California at 10 p.m. EDT. “Who knows what’s going to happen in four, five, six years. But it’s important. We want to win it.”

For Candiotti, Hale, Brendan Summerhill, and the rest of the Wildcats, neither the mindset nor the approach will change.

It doesn’t. I think we’ve put on the Pac-12 champs gear. We’ve won the regular season, and that’s something we want. Like, that’s ours. We got to go be the undisputed champs. And I think there’s no let off the gas tomorrow,” Summerhill said.

“I don’t care if we’re in the tournament, not in the tournament, we want to win tomorrow.”

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Leif Skodnick