The Arizona Wildcats can attribute their College World Series upset to playing outstanding defense.
It was a two-game sweep of the two-time defending champion South Caroline Gamecocks, and the Wildcats were the obvious underdogs.
But, Arizona was rolling with confidence leading into the series, and as it was against South Carolina, defense is what really got the Wildcats in position to win their first title since 1986.
First Three Rounds
Prior to making the finals of the 2012 College World Series, the Arizona Wildcats had played three games and won each time.
Twice did the Wildcats best the Florida State Seminoles, and the combined score between both games favored Arizona 14-6. Obviously the Wildcats' offense played a major role in defeating the Seminoles, but holding Florida State to just six runs in two games was impressive.
On the year, the 'Noles averaged almost seven runs per game, so it's clear the Arizona defense was proving itself. And sandwiched between FSU was UCLA, who the Wildcats beat 4-0. Talk about suffocating defense. The scary part was that Arizona only got better in the finals.
It only took two games for Arizona to take the title, and it did so by a combined score of 9-2. South Carolina had entered the finals having scored 17 runs in four games, therefore, slowing that down was going to be a challenge.
Fortunately for the Wildcats, the Gamecocks' offense had trouble with consistency. In Round 1, South Carolina put up seven runs and only 10 between the other three.
Well, the Arizona defense greatly assisted the lengthy pitching during the finals, because only nine strikeouts of the Gamecocks occurred between both games. Now, that doesn't mean the pitching was down, but it does force the fielders to make more plays, which they did at a high rate of consistency.
Only nine combined hits were totaled by South Carolina in the finals, and Arizona forced the Gamecocks to leave 12 runners on base as well. In short, continuing to get outs despite tough situations is where the Wildcats gained a major advantage.
Pitching may be its own type of defense, but nonetheless, it is defense. And for Arizona in the finals, the starting pitchers gave quality outings.
In Game 1, sophomore Konner Wade was on the mound for a full nine innings of work and allowed just six hits and one run. Moving to Game 2, sophomore James Farris gave 7.2 innings with one run and two hits.
Then, freshman relief pitcher Matthew Troupe came in and allowed only one hit to two strikeouts in 1.1 innings. The bats came alive in the ninth for Arizona, but the reliable pitching held off any rally from South Carolina to force a Game 3.