Play was stopped briefly in the second inning of yesterday’s College World Series game between University of Arizona and Oklahoma State when the Arizona coaches asked the umpire for the ball that Zach Gibbons used to single home teammate Louis Boyd and give the Wildcats a 3-0 lead.
That was the only interruption the Wildcats encountered the rest of the way as they used the elimination game for batting practice, scattering 14 hits throughout nine innings and setting up a noon re-match with the Cowboys today.
Gibbons finished the day with three hits. The second one was his 100th career hit, earning him a spot in the school record books. He’s just the eighth player in program history to reach that plateau – and his coaches wanted that ball to commemorate the accomplishment.
Today will mark the third time in six days that these two teams will meet. OSU was the team that knocked the Cats into the elimination bracket last Monday when Arizona dropped a 1-0 decision to the Cowboys after managing just three hits.
Arizona has been flawless so far in elimination games during the post-season, winning all five it has played.
But the Cats were ready for OSU this time around. They jumped on the Cowboys’ starting pitcher Elliott Jensen by scoring first when JJ Matijevic singled with two outs to bring home a run, then added two more in the second inning, another in the fourth, two more in the eighth, and the final three in a wild ninth inning.
Matijevic doubled to open the ninth, Justin Behnke singled on a bunt, Jared Oliva brought Matijevic home and Behnke scored on an throwing error at first. Cory Ramer‘s sacrifice fly brought home the final run.
Matijevic joined Gibbons in racking up three hits, while catcher Caesar Salazar added two hits and crossed the plate three times.
Things were also going smoothly on the mound – for 2 2/3 innings at least. Nathan Bannister started the game for the Cats and retired eight of the first nine batters he faced, dispatching five of them with strikeouts. But in the third inning, after walking the ninth batter in the order, head coach Jay Johnson felt the senior right-hander wasn’t being as effective and, when he noticed his pitcher rubbing his elbow, he pulled him as a cautionary measure.
Kevin Ginkel finished the inning and pitched the fourth, giving up two runs before turning it over to Cameron Ming to close out the game. The Cowboys’ only other run came in the bottom of the ninth when they staged a rally that fell far short.
Ming, a sophomore lefty from Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix, has now pitched in eight of the Wildcats’ 11 post-season games and compiled a 1.10 ERA.
This time around, Arizona should have a good idea of what kind of pitching they will be facing. They got a good look yesterday at most of the team’s pitching staff. OSU went through six pitchers in trying to stop the bleeding.
Junior right-hander Tyler Buffett got the win for OSU in the first game, but the Cowboys report they will be starting their top pitcher this time in sophomore righty Thomas Hatch.
A couple of sidebars to today’s story line:
If the Wildcats pull this one off, not only do they advance to the CWS finals, but they will have matched the 48 wins of the 2012 team. That team won the school’s last national title.
And one more win will move them ahead of Oklahoma State in the NCAA record books. Right now the two teams each have 41 CWS victories, which is sixth-most on the all-time list.
The chance to move ahead of OSU in the record books would be nice, but a chance to play for a fifth national title is what this trip to Omaha is all about.
(Photo: Arizona Athletics)