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NCAA regional game blog: Arizona slugs Louisville, 16-4

With a relentless hitting performance, Arizona pounds out 23 hits and beats Louisville 16-4 to advance to the championship game of an NCAA regional at Hi Corbett.

Arizona moves to play in Sunday’s 8 p.m. game, which will include the winner of the 4 p.m. elimination game between Louisville and Missouri.

The Wildcats have 43 hits — 14 for extra bases — in the two games in the NCAA regional.

Konner Wade (8-3) went eight-plus innings for Arizona, getting pulled after giving up two hits to start the bottom of the ninth. Tyler Crawford finished for the Cats, with a run scoring on a wild pitch.

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To lead off the top of the ninth, Alex Mejia slaps a single through the middle, making him 5 of 5.

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Revised attendance figure: 4,007.

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This is the first time Arizona has had back-to-back 20-hit games since May 4 and 5, 2007, against Liberty.

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Everybody hits. Arizona is making this a looong game (in a good way for the Cats) as four consecutive hits — including an RBI double by Johnny Field and a two-run double by Alex Mejia — makes the score 11-3 in the seventh inning.

Seth Mejias-Brean’s single makes it (yawn) 12-3.

Bobby Brown greets Louisville’s fourth pitcher with a single up the middle — Arizona’s 20th hit of the game.

And, then, Brandon Dixon, who came in for defense at first base earlier in the game, launched the first home run of the regional, a three-run shot to left. It’s 15-3 heading into the seventh-inning stretch.

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Louisville scores two runs on a strikeout … yes, a strikeout.

OK, here is how it went.

The Cardinals had runners on second and third with two outs, when Konner Wade struck out Kyle Gibson swinging, but the pitch got past catcher Riley Moore. He retrieved the ball behind the plate and tried to record the putout at first base, but the ball hit Gibson and eluded UA fielders while both runners came around to score.

That’s two unearned runs for Louisville, which closed to 8-3 after six innings.

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Arizona adds another run of comfort in the top of the sixth, pushing the lead to 8-1. Seth Mejia gets things started with a leadoff double, going to third on an error by the centerfielder. The next batter, Robert Refnsyder, knocks him in with a sac fly.

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More for the Cats in the fifth.

Bobby Brown leads off with a single, gets to second on a sacrifice and scores on Riley Moore’s hit. Moore eventually comes around on a double by Joey Rickard for a 7-1 lead. Arizona is blistering the ball all over Hi Corbett.

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Konner Wade needed 27 pitches to get through the first inning as the labored and escaped big-time trouble. Since then, Wade has been on cruise control, needing only 24 pitches to get through the next three innings.

Arizona up 5-1 after four innings.

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No dice for Arizona in the fourth, despite some serious threats. Trent Gilbert got thrown out at the plate as he tried to score from second on a single to left. Later, the Cats load the bases with two outs, and Seth Mejias-Brean launches a shot down the left-field line … but just foul of the 366-foot mark.

He then flies out to center for the final out.

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Tonight’s attendance: 3,728.

Last night: 5,086.

Tucson must like baseball better on a Friday night.

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How hot is Arizona? In the last two games of the regular season (against ASU) and the first game-plus of the NCAA regional, the Cats are hitting .414 (53 of 128).

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Arizona ties it up in the top of the third. Riley Moore reaches base on a hit-by-pitch to start the inning and advances to second on a sac bunt. Joey Rickard, after fouling off a couple of 2-2 pitches, lines a single to center. Moore is originally held up at third base, but he comes home when centerfielder Adam Engel bobbles the ball for an error.

And then the Cats take the lead when Johnny Field follows with a triple into the left-center field gap to drive in Rickard. Alex Mejia follows a hustle double when his hard-hit ball ball goes off the third baseman and into shallow center field.

Mejia slides head-first into second … and then he steals third base on the second pitch to Robert Refsnyder. Arizona continues to roll with a sharp single to right by Refsnyder to make it 4-1.

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Arizona makes it six hits in a row with Bobby Brown’s RBI single to left.

That’s all for starter Jared Ruxer. In comes Dace Kime for the Cardinals. He gets his first two batters to end the inning, but that is five runs for the Cats in the third.

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Konner Wade gets through the second, with Louisville’s Nick Ratajczak flying out to the warning track in right to end the inning.

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Arizona has hit some pitches right on the button, but they’ve been right at fielders (and Louisville is playing deeper than Missouri did against UA last night). Joseph Maggi ends the top of the second with a line out to shortstop.

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Konner Wade doesn’t have his command early and is fortunate to allow only one run in the first inning. As for that bases-loaded jam with one out, Wade gets the second out when his pitch gets by catcher Riley Moore, who recovers in time to throw back to Wade covering the plate. Wade tags out Ty Young trying to score from third.

After a walk to re-load the bases, Wade induces a foul out to third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean to end the inning. Wade threw 27 pitches in the inning.

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Arizona falls behind for the second consecutive night. Starter Konner Wade, who struggled late in the season, already throwing too many pitches in the first inning, giving up a one-out single, a walk and then an RBI bouncer up the middle to clean-up hitter Stewart Ijames (that is not a typo).

A hit batter walks the bases …

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As the designated visiting team at Hi Corbett, the Arizona Wildcats are wearing their red jerseys with gray pants.

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The big buzz at Hi Corbett is an appearance by Muhammad Ali, here to watch his hometown Louisville Cardinals. Just something to add to the long and great history of this stadium.

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The Louisville starting pitching is right-hander Jared Ruxer, the Big East Rookie of the Year who is 8-2 with a 2.88 ERA. He hasn’t been much of a strikeout pitcher, fanning only 32 in 75 innings … although his control is such that he has walked only 15.

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It’s the usual Arizona lineup:

1. CF Joey Rickard
2. LF Johnny Field
3. SS Alex Mejia
4. RF Robert Refsnyder
5. 3B Seth Mejias-Brean
6. DH Bobby Brown
7. 1B Joseph Maggi
8. C Riley Moore
9. 2B Trent Gilbert

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Back for the second day of NCAA baseball regional action at Hi Corbett. Arizona is the designated visiting team for tonight’s game against Louisville; the game will begin on time at a little after 8 p.m. after today’s opener between New Mexico State and Missouri finished in good time.

So far, things have been going in Arizona’s favor today.

1. North Carolina, the No. 6 overall seed in the NCAA tournament, lost to St. John’s today and will have to come through the losers’ bracket in its regional. The winner of the Tucson regional faces the winner of the Chapel Hill regional … so if the Tar Heels lose and the Cats win, next week’s Super Regional would be right back here in Hi Corbett.

2. Missouri eliminated New Mexico State in today’s losers’ bracket game. The Aggies were seeded second in this regional and went 2-0 against Arizona this season, to the Cats probably aren’t sad to see them leave town.

Check back for during the game for updates and analysis …

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