OMAHA, Neb. - South Carolina is one game from elimination, just like it has been for much of the College World Series this year. Arizona, behind the right arm of sophomore Konner Wade, took the national championship series opener with a 5-1 victory at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
Freshman Evan Beal kept South Carolina in the game pitching 5.0 innings allowing two runs, but only one earned
Wade was dominant on the mound from start to finish as he allowed only one run on six hits in a complete game. The Gamecocks (49-19) stayed within shouting distance because of a stellar relief performance from freshman Evan Beal, but the offense, which managed just one two-out hit, was unable to get to Wade.
“We just couldn’t get in a situation to do anything offensively,” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “He kept making bit pitches when he needed to. We tried to make a run at him. We kept hanging around trying to stay out of too much trouble but we were never able to do too much offensively. You have to give Konner Wade credit for that - he was outstanding.”
Wade became the first pitcher to throw two complete games in the College World Series since Jason Windsor accomplished the feat in 2004 with one of those performances coming against the Gamecocks. He’s also the first player to throw three consecutive complete games in the NCAA Tournament since 2005.
“One again, Konner was outstanding,” Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said. “Marvelous, marvelous job. Obviously a good ball game for us and hopefully we can put another one together tomorrow.”
Arizona jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on an opposite field home run by junior Robert Refsnyder. The team leader entering the game with seven home runs, he drove a fastball into the South Carolina bullpen off of starter Forrest Koumas, who was making his first appearance since the SEC Tournament on May 25.
“When he touched that ball off, I knew it was hit hard but I thought it might one-hop the fence,” Tanner said. “That was impressive.”
The home run by Refsnyder was the first allowed by South Carolina since June 2, snapping a 77.0-inning homer-free streak for Gamecock pitchers. Arizona is 21-5 in 2012 when scoring in the first inning and 27-6 when scoring first.
“I wanted to put a good swing on it,” Refsnyder said. “I was fortunate enough to run into it. Sometimes you close your eyes and swing really hard, good things happen.”
Arizona's Robert Refsnyder was 2-for-3 with a home run and also had an outfield assist
The Wildcats added an unearned run in the third inning when Trent Gilbert, who reached on a fielding error by freshman Joey Pankake, came around to score on an RBI single to left field by junior Alex Mejia. The error was Pankake’s first since April 27, but it was costly.
After being asked to intentionally walk Refsnyder, pitching coach Jerry Meyers called upon Beal, which ended Koumas’ day. The sophomore allowed three runs, two of which were earned, on one walk and three strikeouts. He went 2.1 innings and threw 42 pitches dropping his record to 2-3 on the year.
Meanwhile, Wade was finding his groove. He set down nine straight and had thrown just 55 pitches through the first five innings of work. That’s when the Gamecocks got a little something going.
Greiner led off the sixth inning with a double to left center. Wade, who moved his record to 11-3, looked like he may be able to get out of the inning until junior Evan Marzilli bounced a 2-0 single back up the middle with two outs. Greiner came around to score to put the Gamecocks on the board.
Walker, who entered the game with a .524 on-base percentage, walked to put two on in the sixth. It was the first walk allowed by Wade in 30 innings, but the Gamecocks couldn’t capitalize with two on as junior LB Dantzler grounded out to end the inning.
“I’m not selling out our hitters tonight,” Tanner said. “I’m giving Konner Wade credit for the results.”
South Carolina ran its way out of a potential big inning in the top of the seventh inning. Senior Adam Matthews led off the inning with a single and then tried to make it to third on a ground ball through the right side by freshman Kyle Martin. Matthews was headed for third the entire way and Refsnyder’s throw from right field was right on the money.
Third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean applied the tag and third base umpire Danny Mascorro called Matthews out. A potential big inning ended in no runs for the Gamecocks and the Wildcats were able to avoid any trouble the rest of the way.
“It was a big play and there’s no question about that,” Tanner said. “Adam was aggressive trying to make a play. I wasn’t sure he’d throw the ball with the score. He had to make a perfect throw and he did. When you’re trailing, you probably should have held up there, but sometimes things happen in baseball. He had to make a big play and he did.”
Even though the Gamecocks were struggling to find their offense, the game was kept close by the performance of Beal, who pitched five innings and allowed two runs, only one of which was earned, on seven hits and four walks and three strikeouts. The five innings was a career high.
“Evan did a great job battling for us,” Tanner said. “The results were really good. I know he had three or four walks, but he competed for us. We were able to turn a couple double plays behind him. He gave us a chance to come back.”
South Carolina couldn’t mount the comeback though notching only one hit over the final two innings. Sunday night marked the third time this season that South Carolina has scored one run or fewer in a game.
Senior Michael Roth is set to get the ball in Game 2 on Monday night for South Carolina. While it wasn’t announced officially, Arizona ace Kurt Heyer is expected to get the ball for the Wildcats but Lopez told reporters after the game he was going to make the decision when he got back to the hotel. The game is on ESPN at 8 p.m. EDT.
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