The Arizona Wildcats baseball team couldn’t be in a better position following last night’s victory over UCLA at the College World Series.
They will have three days of rest before their next game and, when they do play, it will be against a team they have already beaten.
Florida State and UCLA will meet tomorrow in the elimination bracket to see who gets another shot at Arizona. Florida was the Wildcats’ opponent in the opening round of the CWS; that game went 12 innings before Arizona pulled out a 4-3 win to be able to move on to play UCLA.
So the Bruins and Seminoles will have to put a little extra burden on their pitching staffs, while the Arizona throwers get to rest their arms.
The Cats really haven’t had to go to their bullpen very often so far in the post-season, as their starting pitchers have gone for at least seven innings in seven games in the post-season. And last night was no exception.
Konner Wade, the sophomore right-hander from Chaparral High School in Scottsdale, threw a complete game in beating UCLA, 4-0, to record his fifth complete game this season.
The shutout was the program’s first in CWS play since 1980, when Arizona won its second national championship. And the complete-game shutout – without a walk – was the first in CWS play since 1972.
Wade, who was drafted by the Diamondbacks in 2010, made extensive use of his sinking fastball to keep the Bruins’ hits on the ground, as they were limited to just five singles the entire way, scattered throughout the game. He threw 79 strikes out of 109 pitches, fanning five, and allowing no walks – which makes 25 1/3 consecutive innings without a walk.
Last year, Wade set a new school freshman record for lowest ERA (3.21) and earned a starting spot in the weekend rotation in late April. He has been a mainstay for the Devils ever since.
The entire UCLA game came down to half an inning, as Arizona piled up their four runs in the bottom of the fourth.
Johnny Field got a string of five consecutive hits started with a line drive down the right-field line. Alex Mejia and Robert Refsnyder followed with a single each to load the bases.
Seth Mejias-Brean, a junior from Cienega High School in Tucson, lined a shot to short center to bring in Field and Mejia, and Bobby Brown wrapped it up with a two-run double into the right-field corner.
Fields’ single extends his hitting streak to 13 games. He has also reached base in 26 consecutive games, while teammate Refnsyder now has a steak of 36 games reaching base.
UCLA, which shared the Pac-12 title with Arizona, is the No. 2 seed in the tournament and has been on a tear, going undefeated through the regionals and Super Regional. The loss to the Cats was the first in 11 games.
Arizona (45-17) will have to beat the winner of the Florida State-UCLA game on Thursday to punch their ticket to the final three-game series that will determine the 2012 national champion.
The 45 wins this season puts this squad at No. 5 on the school’s all-time list. But a much larger accomplishment is within reach right now, as the Cats seek to bring back the first national championship in 26 years, to go with the other three already in the books.
And now they have three days to focus on the next game, which has been their announced game plan all the way through the post-season… win one game at a time.
So far, it has worked very well.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)