The last time the Arizona Wildcats were in Omaha at this time of the year was 2004. They went 1-2, being eliminated early after losing the opener.
This time around, the Wildcats took the first game of the two-week long event with a 4-3 victory over Florida State.
The Wildcats took the 4-3 lead in the top of the 12th after almost losing the game in the previous few innings. Riley Moore threw out a runner trying to steal second in the tenth inning and Mathew Troupe picked off a runner at first with one out in the bottom of the 11th.
It was the top of the 12th when Arizona made its final push to secure the victory. Joey Rickard had a one-out double to start the rally for the Cats. Johnny Field immediately followed him with his only hit of the night, an RBI double to right field that scored Rickard.
The Seminoles didn’t roll over after that. Mathew Troupe hit Seth Miller with one out in the bottom of the frame. Miller advanced to second on a wild pitch, putting the pressure on the Wildcats to end the game. He advanced to third on a ground ball, putting the tying run on just 90 feet from home with two outs and the game on the line.
Troupe didn’t flinch, however, as he threw a 3-2 fastball right past Devon Travis and the Wildcats advanced with a chance to take prime positioning in the College World Series.
Arizona scored early when Moore led off the third inning with a single to left field. He was moved over to second base by a Trent Gilbert sac bunt and then scored the first of the game on a Joey Rickard single the next at bat.
The inning wasn’t over there. Mejia stepped to the plate with Rickard still at first and grounded a ball to the shortstop. Justin Gonzalez was unable to field the ball, allowing Mejia to reach on the error. The mistake extended the inning and let the next batter, Robert Refsnyder, plate Rickard from second with a hard hit ball to center field giving Arizona a 2-0 lead.
Florida State answered right back in the bottom of the third inning with a Sherman Johnson line drive home run to right field, cutting the lead to 2-1. It was Johnson’s 5th long ball of the season.
Arizona added to its lead in the top of the 5th when it chased Florida State’s starting pitcher, Brandon Leibrandt, from the game. Rickard was hit by a pitch to open the inning, but was sent back to the dugout on a Johnny Field fielder’s choice.
Field became the third Wildcat to cross home plate, making the score 3-1. He was moved to third on a seeing eye single by Alex Mejia. Field scored when Refsnyder nubbed a check swing single through the right side of the infield.
Arizona’s two-run lead wasn’t enough though. Florida State tied the game up at three in the bottom of the 6th. A throwing error by third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean allowed the leadoff man to reach first base and Heyer struck out the next two batters before giving up a 2-out walk. The next batter was John Holland, who laced a 0-2 pitch to the left field gap, plating two runs.
Heyer took the mound for Arizona in his first ever College World Series start. He pitched a wonderful game, going 8 and two-thirds, giving up three runs (one earned) on six hits. He walked three and struck out eight.
Troupe got the victory, pitching 2 and two-third innings. His record improves to 5-1 on the season and 1-0 for the postseason. He struck out three Seminole hitters, giving up a lone hit and hitting a man.
Arizona will face UCLA in the winner’s bracket game Sunday at 6 PM PST.