By Matt Tresaugue
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Off the mound, Ryan Frace is the Arizona baseball team's comedian. Frace can recite lines from "Vacation" and "Caddyshack" and is quick with the one-liners.
On the mound yesterday, the comic provided much-needed relief for the struggling team.
Frace pitched the Wildcats past UCLA 4-2, giving them their first series win this season. Steve Arffa and Tod Brown combined to beat the Bruins 6-1 on Friday night before UCLA took game two, 10-6.
For Arizona (9-32, 5-14 in the Six-Pac), the winning experience couldn't have come soon enough.
"You can't help but smile," said outfielder Menno Wickey, who went 3 for 4 and scored the game-tying run in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Frace (1-4) pitched a complete game, scattering eight hits, striking out three and walking none. It was only his second start since returning from a six-week banishment to the bullpen.
Frace, who had control problems earlier this season, had complete command of the strike zone. He threw 114 pitches, 77 strikes, and consistently jammed hitters with inside fastballs.
"I didn't think CG (complete game) was going to happen today," Frace said, "but I guess that's when it happens."
Although Frace credited the win to a combination of good defense, Bazooka Joe bubble gum and his steak dinner at Coco's late Saturday night, Coach Jerry Kindall said it was the right-hander's ability to stay ahead of hitters in the count.
"You saw terrific pitching (yesterday)," Kindall said. "Ryan was really in control. What Arffa did Friday and what Frace did (yesterday) picks up our defense."
Frace, who threw 10 or fewer pitches in five innings, was in trouble only once. With the Bruins up 2-0 in the seventh, Frace had runners at first and third with one out and speedster David Roberts at the plate.
With the infielders in on the grass, Roberts grounded to shortstop Tony Bouie, who flipped the ball to Scott Kidd covering second. Kidd sidestepped a sliding Brett Schafer and threw out Roberts at first.
"I really didn't expect a double play in that situation," Frace said, "because getting a double play on Roberts is as likely as turning a triple play."
Despite the problems in the seventh, Kindall said he wasn't taking Frace out of the game. Before the Roberts at-bat, three Wildcats visited the mound, a move usually made to allow the bullpen pitchers time to warm up.
"I had three guys visit me at the mound, and what could they have to say to me?" Frace said. "Then (catcher Anthony) Marnell told me the bullpen is not going to heat up and I'm it."
A confident Frace cruised for the final eight outs.
UCLA starter Dan Kramer was not so fortunate. After pitching 7 1/3 strong innings in which he kept the Wildcats off-balance with his slider and changeup and did not allow a UA runner past second, he became tired and was removed for Jeff Howatt.
Wickey greeted Howatt with a bunt single, which moved Kidd to second.
Chris Cooper then grounded up the middle to shortstop Gar Vallone, who threw the ball past first baseman Mike Mitchell into the right-field foul territory. Kidd and Wickey scored on the error to tie the game 2-2.
Jeff Gjerde, who had struggled all game against Kramer, followed with a single to center, scoring Cooper for the game-winner. Read Next Article