Arizona a step closer to final scene
Posted: Tuesday, June 26, 2012 6:05 am
By ERIC OLSON
AP Sports Writer
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Arizona followed its script to perfection in Game 1 of the College World Series finals.
Konner Wade did his part, pitching his third straight complete game. Robert Refsnyder did his, leading the Wildcats’ potent offense with a home run for the second straight game.
The Wildcats led all the way Sunday night in a 5-1 victory over two-time defending national champion South Carolina and now stand a victory away from their first title since 1986 and fourth overall.
“Tonight’s over. It’s done with. You’ve got to come out tomorrow and play good baseball,” Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. “We understand where we’re at. These guys understand who they’re playing. They understand it’s not a tournament somewhere in South Dakota.”
The Gamecocks (49-19) swept UCLA and Florida in the best-of-three finals the past two years, but need to beat Arizona twice to become the first team since Southern California in the early 1970s to win three championships in a row.
“Tomorrow’s a new day,” South Carolina center fielder Evan Marzilli said. “So we have to come out tomorrow and pretend like nothing ever happened and go out and hopefully get a win.”
The Wildcats have relied on the same template during a run that has seen them win 10 straight games and 17 of 19.
With an inexperienced and inconsistent bullpen, Lopez wants his starters to go as deep into games as possible.
Wade (11-3) threw an efficient 110 pitches in his sixth complete game of the season and limited the Gamecocks to six hits.
Wade has won four straight starts in the postseason. He worked eight innings against Louisville in regionals, nine in the super regional-winning victory over St. John’s, and threw a complete-game shutout against UCLA last Sunday.
The sophomore’s back-to-back complete games were the first at the CWS since Cal State Fullerton’s Jason Windsor did it in 2004.
Wade is 4-0 with a 1.29 in four NCAA tournament starts (35 innings, five earned runs). He struck out three. His walk to Christian Walker in the sixth was the first he issued in 31 innings.
“My past two starts I had the same mentality — throw strikes and try to get ground balls,” he said. “I’m not going to have a lot of strikeouts, obviously. I just tried to work ahead of guys. I knew that they were a pretty aggressive team and they were going to try to take the extra base. So I tried to work ahead and get in counts that were favorable to me.”
The Arizona bullpen was inactive until Walker singled leading off the ninth. Wade got a fly out, groundout and foul out to end the game.
“We just couldn’t get in a situation to do anything offensively,” Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. “He kept making big pitches when he needed to. And they played solid defense out there.”
The Wildcats, whose .330 average ranks fourth in the nation, had 12 hits against three pitchers.
Refsnyder, batting .444 (8 of 18) in the CWS, went 2-for-3 and was intentionally walked twice. He hit a two-run homer off Forrest Koumas (2-3) in the first to give Arizona the lead.