The Arizona Wildcats haven’t been to a College World Series since 2004.
It is time that they returned.
Arizona punched their ticket to Omaha with a 7-4 win over St. John’s in front of a home crowd of 3,907 at Hi Corbett field.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before St. John’s even had a chance to bat. Joey Rickard led off the game with a walk and was sacrificed over to second by Johnny Field. With two outs, Robert Refsnyder hit a chopper to second base that seemed to be the third out before Home Plate Umpire David Savage allowed him to reach base, calling catcher’s interference on Danny Bethea.
The Wildcats then got three consecutive singles from Seth Mejias-Brean, Bobby Brown, and Joseph Maggi for a three run lead.
Mejias-Brean was 3-for-5 on the day with a double and an RBI. He also scored twice and was instrumental in the victory for the Wildcats. Mejias-Brean is a junior and Tucson-native who agreed to play for Arizona just a day before classes started three years ago. After the game, he spoke about what this win meant to him.
“It means a lot to me," Mejias-Brean said. "I’m just glad that I got a chance to come here. This is going to be great for this junior class. I’m really close with this junior class. We deserve it. We’ve worked hard all three years. It’s going to be fun in Omaha.”
Arizona added another run in the second. Rickard walked for the second time. Field singled, moving Rickard to third. Alex Mejia punched one through the right side of the infield and made the score 4-0 in favor of the Wildcats.
St. John’s tried to rally in the bottom of the 5th, but could only muster one run. Sean O’Hare reached first on an error by Trent Gilbert. O’Hare scored on a single by Bethea.
The Red Storm also threatened again in the bottom of the 6th, but again could only push one across the plate. Kyle Richardson reached on an error by Gilbert and advanced to third on a passed ball by Moore. Matt Wessinger grounded out to Mejia and scored the second unearned run of the day for the Johnnies.
The Wildcats responded immediately and grabbed two runs back. Mejias-Brean and Brown hit back-to-back doubles to lead off the inning. Brown advanced to third on a ground ball and scored on a Moore single up the middle.
Sophomore Konner Wade took the mound for the Wildcats in game 2 and was phenomenal. He pitched a complete game, only giving up 4 runs (2 earned). Wade scattered just 6 hits over innings 4 through 9. He sat down the first 9 batters he faced.
Wade tried to attack the Red Storm the same way that he attacked Louisville the week prior. He went out knowing that it was a big game, but tried to pitch as if it was the middle of the season.
“I just tried to go out there and pound the strike zone,” Wade said. “They’re a lot like the Stanford offense that we saw earlier this year. I knew that if I was able to keep the ball down and throw strikes that I’d be able to get outs with my defense behind me.”
Arizona faced St. John’s ace and usual Friday starter, Sean Hagan. Hagan struggled early on, but was able to calm down after allowing runs in the first and second innings. He surpassed the mark for most innings pitched against Arizona in the NCAA tournament with 6 innings. He gave up 5 runs (4 earned) on 6 hits and 7 walks.
Right-hander James Lomangino pitched for the second day in a row for the Johnnies. He provided some relief, but was roughed up a bit. He pitched an inning and two-thirds, giving up a run on 4 hits.
He was pulled in favor of Kevin Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick also pitched for the second time in as many games. He tried to finish the game for St. John’s, but came up an out short, pitching 1 full inning, giving up a run on a hit, a walk, and a hit batsman.
Eddie Medina came on to get the final out, but instead gave up a hit. He got out of the jam because Gilbert was thrown out at home trying to score an eighth Arizona run.
The Wildcats improved their record to 43-17 on the season. More importantly, they improved to 5-0 in the postseason.
Arizona is the first team to advance to the College World Series. The double elimination bracket will start on Friday, but the other teams have yet to be determined.
Andy Lopez doesn’t know the field for the College World Series, but likes his team’s chances going up against the best in the nation next weekend.
“I like (our chances)," Lopez said. "I’ve been there at both ends. I was there as a seven seed and won a national championship and I’ve been there as the number one seed in the nation in 1998 and didn’t’ win the national championship.
“I like (our chances) for two real intangible reasons. Number one, they like to compete, meaning that the guys I suit up with like to go out there and play. Two, is that they like to compete. These guys love to compete and as a coach you can’t ask for more than that.”