TUCSON, Ariz. - The Columbia baseball team capitalized on a clutch five-run rally in the bottom of the seventh to pick up its first victory of the 2013 season, 8-4, over No. 16 Arizona Saturday night.
It was the first time in program history that the Lions faced a defending national championship team, and subsequently the first time to have ever defeated a team bearing that title.
Columbia (1-5) was hungry to bounce back and even the series after falling just short in the bottom of the ninth in their first-ever meeting with Arizona (12-5) Friday night.
"It was a great team effort," stated Columbia head coach Brett Boretti, currently in his eighth season with the Lions. "The guys kept grinding it out and playing one inning at a time."
The Lions and Wildcats were even with 10 hits and one error apiece, but the Lions made it count with timely hitting and strong pitching.
Mike Fischer, Alex Black and Aaron Silbar led the offense with two hits each, including a leadoff triple by Fischer to start the seventh-inning surge. Joey Donino picked up his first victory of the season as he held the Wildcats scoreless with one hit and one strikeout in two innings of work.
Columbia wasted no time in taking an early lead in the first, taking advantage of an Arizona third base throwing error that put Jordan Serena on base. Serena stole second to get into scoring position, and Nick Ferraresi finished it off with an RBI single to right field.
The Lions led through four as starter Tim Giel held the Wildcats scoreless. However Arizona broke through in the bottom of the fifth with a four-run inning to take control. Cody Ramer drew a walk and advanced to third as Zach Gibbons singled through the right side. A throwing error by Giel scored Ramer and put Gibbons on second. Kevin Newman then singled to center field and Brandon Dixon smacked a triple to send both runners home. The final damage came from a single by Trent Gilbert to score Dixon and put Arizona ahead, 4-1.
Columbia responded with a two-run sixth inning to make it a one-run ballgame, 4-3.
The magic happened in the seventh as Fischer cranked a leadoff triple and scored the tying run thanks to a sacrifice fly by Serena. Nick Crucet was hit by a pitch to get on base, and made it count by stealing second. Williams singled to left field to send Crucet home and put the Lions ahead, 5-4.
Tyler Crawford came in to relieve starter James Farris, who suffered his first loss of the season. The junior right-hander finished with six runs allowed (five earned) on six hits and four walks.
Crawford let up back-to-back singles to Ferraresi and Black, with the second hit driving in Williams. David Vandercook then finished things off with a two-run single into left field, pushing Columbia's lead to 8-4 for good.
The Lions will look to win the series in the deciding rubber match on Sunday at 3 p.m. EST at Hi Corbett Field.