The season and championship hopes will be on the line for the Arizona Wildcats and UC Santa Barbara Gauchos when they take the field on Wednesday at the 2016 College World Series.
The elimination game will command the spotlight as the sole contest of the tournament on Wednesday, and the winner will advance to face Oklahoma State on Thursday. An updated bracket for the entire College World Series is available on NCAA.com.
With the pressure of a win-or-go-home atmosphere looming over the proceedings, here is a look at the schedule and a prediction for Wednesday’s showdown.
UC Santa Barbara vs. Arizona
Date: Wednesday, June 22
Time: 7 p.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Breakdown and Prediction
Both teams can commiserate about Oklahoma State's pitching before they play each other.
Arizona and UC Santa Barbara are facing elimination in the double-elimination College World Series because they each lost to the Cowboys in 1-0 contests. Thomas Hatch pitched a complete game against the Gauchos and allowed a mere five hits and a walk during the shutout victory, while Tyler Buffett pitched eight innings and gave up only three hits against Arizona.
The Wildcats and Gauchos are following parallel paths, as each team beat Miami in their other matchup outside of Oklahoma State.
UC Santa Barbara handled the Hurricanes 5-3 behind a strong outing from starting pitcher Noah Davis (six innings, one earned run and two hits), and Arizona beat Miami 5-1 when starter Nathan Bannister allowed one run in seven innings.
The win was the first in UC Santa Barbara’s College World Series history. The Big West underdog is not a team accustomed to playing on this type of stage, but it has plenty of momentum on its side after shocking the Hurricanes and the Louisville Cardinals in the Super Regionals.
Gauchos coach Andrew Checketts discussed the run his team is on, per Mitch Sherman of ESPN.com: “It’s baseball and it’s crazy, and you just don’t know what to expect. All the teams that are here are here for a reason, because they’re good. It’s timing. If we were playing [Miami] a month ago, we’d get swept.”
UC Santa Barbara picked an ideal time to start playing well, and Aaron Fitt of D1Baseball.com said it “has become a very good, well-rounded team, and nobody should be stunned by its success anymore.”
However, Arizona is also very good and was riding a six-game winning streak before Oklahoma State snapped it with a narrow 1-0 victory. It marked the Cowboys' seventh straight postseason win, so the one-run loss was nothing to be ashamed of for the Wildcats.
This is a Pac-12 team that has consistently faced better competition throughout the season than UC Santa Barbara and was rolling until it ran into the buzz saw that was Buffett.
The top of the Arizona lineup will prove to be the difference against the Gauchos and help the Pac-12 representative start a new winning streak. Cody Ramer, Zach Gibbons and Ryan Aguilar have set the table for the Wildcats all year, and that formula will not change on Wednesday.
They combined for four of the team’s seven hits in the victory over Miami, and Gibbons drove two runs in and scored another with a 2-for-3 performance.
Ramer (.346), Gibbons (.382) and Aguilar (.308) are all hitting above .300, and it is nearly impossible to pitch around them because they occupy the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 spots in the batting order. There is no natural break for opposing pitchers when facing that threesome, and the Arizona stars will do just enough damage to end UC Santa Barbara’s magical run.
Prediction: Arizona 4, UC Santa Barbara 2