Nathan Bannister and Cameron Ming provided proof at yesterday’s baseball regional finals in Louisiana that it pays to recruit in your own backyard.
The Arizona Wildcats were faced with winning back-to-back games yesterday against top-seeded Louisiana-Lafeyette in order to advance to a Super Regional. Thanks in large part to Bannister and Ming, the Cats won both games and will now begin packing for a trip to Starkville, Miss., to take on Mississippi State in a best-of-three series that will determine who moves on to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb.
Bannister, from Liberty High School in Peoria, started in the early game yesterday and pitched the Cats to a 6-3 win. The senior right-hander recorded his 11th win of the season by starting and staying on the mound for seven-plus innings, striking out five while allowing three runs on five hits.
It was Bannister, one of the top pitchers in the Pac-12 who was just named a 2nd team All-American, that got the ball rolling in the Lafayette Regional, pitching seven shut-out innings to win the opener.
Ming, from Sandra Day O’Connor High School in northwest Phoenix, put the lid on the final game. The sophomore lefty pitched the final 3 1/3 innings to earn his first career save as the Wildcats jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning, added another run in the second, and then held the lead the rest of the way to a 3-1 victory.
The pair are two of 11 players recruited from in-state on the 32-man Arizona roster.
Junior Kevin Ginkel, a junior-college transfer from California, got the nod to start the biggest game of the season. He went 5 2/3 innings before turning it over to Ming, giving up the Ragin’ Cajuns’ only run while allowing four hits and striking out three.
Ginkel had a different role in the first game, when he picked up the save.
But the pitching staff got plenty of support at the plate. In the early game, the Cats were able to build a 3-0 lead in the first when Cody Ramer led off with a single and came home when Ryan Aguilar doubled to score Ramer and Zach Gibbons, who got on base when he was hit by a pitch. A sacrifice bunt by Bobby Dalbec scored the third run.
In the nightcap, the Devils just repeated the winning formula, jumping on the Cajuns for two runs in the first inning and another in the second. Gibbons started things off with a single, followed shortly by an Aguilar double as both runners eventually scored. In the second inning, Louis Boyd punched a one-out double and came home when Ramer singled.
This will be Arizona’s first Super Regional appearance since 2012. That could be a really good omen.
That was the year the Wildcats won their last national title.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)