Arizona wins first College World Series title since 1986

6:08 AM, Jun 26, 2012   |    comments
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OMAHA, NE - Arizona averaged almost 10 runs a game during its first eight games of theNCAA baseball tournament. Then with the national title on the line in the championship series of the College World Series, the Wildcats turned things over to their pitching staff. As a result, Arizona has its first national championship since 1986.

Sophomore James Farris, pitching for the first time in 22 days, held two-time defending champion South Carolinato one run and two hits in 7? innings Monday night, and Arizona came through with three runs in the top of the ninth to beat the Gamecocks 4-1 and sweep the best-of-three series in two games.

The Wildcats (48-17) went 10-0 in the tournament and finished the season on an 11-game winning streak. South Carolina was trying to become the first team to win three consecutive NCAA titles since Southern Californiawon five in a row from 1970-74.

"It probably means a heck of a lot more to me personally because of what (South Carolina) has done," Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. "I'm really blessed to have coached this team. They're really easy to work with.

"It was a great college baseball game We were fortunate enough to win against a great team."

It marks the second national title for Lopez, who got his first one 20 years ago when he was coaching Pepperdine. Arizona has won four crowns.

The Gamecocks scored only 12 runs in their last six games, and their solid pitching couldn't quite pull them through. "We just didn't do enough on the offensive side," South Carolina coach Ray Tanner said. "Eventually, that's going to get you. They pitched really well against us and played defense."

Arizona had won the first game of the series 5-1 Sunday behind Konner Wade, who threw a complete-game six-hitter. The Wildcats swept the series without even using mound ace Kurt Heyer (13-2), who led the nation in victories.

"Our pitching was really special against a very high level of competition," said Lopez. "We thought we could have a plan against South Carolina. (Farris) was spectacular. It was exactly what this program needed and he did exactly what I hoped he would do."

Wildcats right fielder Robert Refsnyder was named CWS most valuable player.

"It's an unbelievable feeling," Refsnyder said. "Coach Lopez gave myself and the junior class this year the tools to be successful. I can't imagine learning anything more from a person over three years."

Refsnyder was one of five Arizona juniors to be drafted in the first nine rounds early this month.

"We battled as hard as we could, but they played a little bit better," Tanner said. "They came up with a couple of key hits and some clutch pitching. We're disappointed tonight, but not disappointed in our players and their effort."

The Wildcats' winning rally, off South Carolina relief ace Matt Price (5-5), began when Refsnyder led off the ninth with a single to left. He was sacrificed to second and Bobby Brown was intentionally walked. But Brandon Dixon crossed up the strategy by doubling down the left-field line, scoring Refsnyder and sending Brown to third.

"It was amazing to be able to help the team out," said Dixon.

Price was then pulled by Tanner and replaced by Tyler Webb, who struck out Riley Moore. However, Trent Gilbert, the No. 9 hitter, then laced a two-run single to right to make it 4-1.

South Carolina (49-20) threatened in its half of the ninth, loading the bases against reliever Mathew Troupe (6-1) on Christian Walker's single and two walks. But Tanner English lined out to second and Grayson Greiner flied out to right to end it.

"I knew they wouldn't go quietly," Lopez said. ... "(Troupe), that son of a gun can load the bases as quickly as anyone I've ever coached," he said with a laugh.

The Gamecocks had a chance to break the 1-1 tie when Greiner, the eighth hitter in the lineup, led off the eighth inning by being hit by a pitch. Greiner was erased when Chase Vergason hit into a fielder's choice, but Vergason stole second and continued to third on a throwing error by Moore, the Arizona catcher.

Lopez then replaced Farris with Troupe and he got out of it by getting Joey Pankake to look at a called third strike.

With South Carolina trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the seventh, USC's Christian Walker led off with a 12-pitch at-bat that ended in a walk. And two batters later, on a hit and run,Adam Matthews bounced a single through the right side, sending Walker to third. That turned out to be a key because Walker was able to score the tying run when Kyle Martin bounced out

Only four baserunners, two for each team, reached base through the first six innings of the taught pitchers duel.

South Carolina turned to ace left-hander Michael Roth to make his record eighth career CWS start in a contest the Gamecocks had to win. Roth had thrown a 2-hitter in his last start against Kent State last Thursday and set down the last 22 batters in the game.

He retired the first six Wildcats Monday before Joseph Maggi led off the third inning with a double down the left-field line. Maggi was sacrificed to third by Moore and scored when Gilbert grounded out to second.

Meanwhile, Farris did not allow a hit until LB Dantzler singled up the middle with two outs in the fourth.

Tanner decided to pull Roth with two outs in the seventh as the Wildcats had runners at first and third. Price got the call in relief. It was a record-tying 13th career CWS appearance for Price, who got out of the jam by inducing Dixon to foul out. USC then tied the game in the next inning.

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