The Arizona Wildcats are the only thing standing in the way of a South Carolina College World Series three-peat.
If they want to stop the Gamecocks from going back-to-back-to-back, they'll need to be on top of their game.
The Wildcats certainly have the talent to take home the trophy, but will need to get off to a great start tonight at 8 p.m. EST in Game 1 on ESPN2.
If they don't, they'll be staring at a 1-0 deficit heading into Monday's Game 2 at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN. Game 3 will be played on Tuesday at 8 p.m. EST on ESPN, if necessary.
Here are three keys to the Wildcats taking the opening game of the series.
Keep the Bats Hot
After scoring 61 runs during the regional and super regional stages, the Wildcats' bats faltered a bit in their first two games at the College World Series. Andy Lopez's side scored just eight runs in their first pair of games before seeing their bats come alive in their last game against the Florida State Seminoles.
The Wildcats scored 10 runs in that game. All they needed was six in the first and four in the fourth to put the Seminoles away.
The Arizona hitters need to forget about those two low-scoring games and remember that they are top-five in runs scored and batting average for a reason.
Seven of the nine hitters who started for Arizona against Florida State are currently batting over .300. One of the sub-.300 hitters, Riley Moore, is hitting .297.
USA Today's Jack Carey quoted South Carolina coach Ray Tanner in a recent article:
"There are no easy outs in that lineup. I started going through the [lineup], and didn't get much sleep after that."
That's obviously a frightening statistic for the Gamecocks to see.
Konner Wade (10-3) will reportedly start tonight's Game 1, according to the Arizona Daily Star. Wade has compiled a mediocre 4.17 ERA this season, but is second on the team with 102 strikeouts.
He pitched much better than his ERA his last time out, mowing down the UCLA Bruins on June 17. He went the distance in that one, allowing just five hits while striking out four.
That gem was his fifth complete game of the season and it came at a crucial time for the Wildcats.
Wade seems to have the "clutch gene" in him, if you will. He's not as good as Wildcats' ace Kurt Heyer, but he's a reliable option to take the bump tonight in Omaha.
The sophomore didn't walk a batter against UCLA. He'll need to do the same to keep the selective Gamecocks off the board tonight.
Score Five Runs
It sounds simple, but it's all the Wildcats will need to do to win Game 1. Dating back to the regional stage of the tournament, the Gamecocks have scored more than five runs just two times.
As bad as that statistic sounds, it has gotten worse for Tanner's hitters at the 2012 College World Series. The lineup has driven in just 10 runs in their last four games, a total that won't result in much success for South Carolina in this three-game set.
If the Wildcats can score five runs in Game 1, they'll have no problem getting out to an early series lead tonight against the light-hitting Gamecocks.
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