The Arizona Wildcats won the best-of-three College World Series Final with a 4-1 win over the South Carolina Gamecocks in Game 2 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. Andy Lopez's club took the first two games of the finals to win the program's first CWS title since 1986.
U of A starter James Farris allowed one earned in 7.2 innings of work to keep the Wildcats in prime position for the win, while Michael Roth allowed one earned run in 6.2 strong innings for the Gamecocks.
Game 2 was one of the best pitching duels we have seen all season in college baseball prior to the final frame, but it was Arizona first baseman Brandon Dixon who stole the show. With one out and runners on first and second in the top of the ninth, Dixon ripped a double down the left-field line to bring home the go-ahead run.
That swing proved to be the deciding moment in the clincher for Arizona, a particularly significant CWS championship. Randy Rosetta and Scout.com have the details:
UA (48-17) claimed its first national crown since 1986 and joined a very elite group of programs with at least four championships: Southern California (12), LSU (6), Arizona State (5), Cal State Fullerton (4) and Miami (4).
With Monday’s clincher, UA coach Andy Lopez won a national title 20 years after he led Pepperdine to the top – the longest span between crowns for a coach in NCAA history. Lopez also joined Texas coach Augie Garrido as the only men who have guided two different teams to national championships.
Motivational words from Nike baseball:
Arizona harnessed the power of youth tonight:
This Wildcats fan couldn't contain his excitement:
#Beardown!!! ARIZONA WILDCATS BASEBALL LET'S GOOOO— Trevin Wade (@TwoStarWade) June 25, 2012
Andy Lopez's ballclub definitely deserved to hoist the trophy:
Well.... Arizona definitely outplayed USC. And it showed. Hats off to the Wildcats#CWS— Rich Hurson Jr. ⚾ (@TheRichHurson14) June 25, 2012
Grades for Key Arizona Players
James Farris: A-
Manager Andy Lopez got better pitching in this CWS Final than he could have ever hoped for. One night after Konner Wade hurled a nine-inning gem, Farris was nearly as good.
The sophomore was light years ahead of the Gamecocks in the title-clinching win. Everything he threw at the South Carolina hitters was pounded into the ground with the exception of a few hard-hit balls to outfield.
It was only a walk, a hit-and-run and an RBI groundout that led to his one earned run in the seventh inning.
Robert Refsynder: B
There wasn't much Refsnyder could do against Roth, as every hitter in the Arizona lineup was baffled by South Carolina's ace. He singled to center in the fourth and did well to move a runner over in the seventh frame, but the Wildcats bungled that opportunity.
Once Roth was out of the game, Refsnyder had better luck. He led off the ninth with a high chopper that found its way into left field to get the Wildcats started, and he would later come around to score the go-ahead run on Dixon's double.
He was named the tournament's Most Impressive Player.
Grades for Key South Carolina Players
Michael Roth: B+
Fortunately for Roth, U of A was able to muster up a run to get him off the hook for the loss. Unfortunately for Roth, his teammates couldn't get a hit when they needed to and Roth came away with the no-decision.
Pitching on three days rest, he gave up just one earned run on three hits in a valiant effort against one of the nation's scariest lineups. Roth now holds the record for most starts and innings pitched in a College World Series career.
L.B. Dantzler: C
Just like Refsnyder, there wasn't much Dantzler could do against the man on the mound. He managed to notch one of the three hits that the South Carolina lineup could muster.
He grounded out to third with a man on first in the opening frame, squandering one of the only opportunities that his team had all night. He then popped out to shortstop in the bottom of the seventh with none out and a man on first.
Deciding Factor: Arizona's Small Ball
So, you thought that the Wildcats needed the long ball to win games? Think again. Arizona scored their first run of the game in the top of the third inning. Joseph Maggi doubled to left, Riley Moore bunted him over to third and Trent Gilbert hit a slow grounder to bring Maggi in.
The Wildcats scored the go-ahead run in the ninth frame when Refsnyder was sacrificed to second and brought in by Dixon's two-bagger.
Game MVP: Brandon Dixon
Dixon came in as a defensive replacement for Joseph Maggi and it paid dividends for the Wildcats. With one out in the ninth, Dixon drove in Refsnyder for the go-ahead run.
Farris, Dixon, Refsnyder and the rest of the Wildcats go out for a night in Omaha filled with apple juice and club soda to celebrate their victory.
The Gamecocks fall short of their quest for a three-peat, but should head back to South Carolina with their heads held high after a great effort in this tournament.