OMAHA, Neb. – Another postseason game, another stellar performance from starting pitcher Konner Wade for Arizona baseball, which with its 5-1 win over South Carolina in Game 1 of the College World Series final, is now just one more win in from Arizona’s first national title since 1986.
Wade, for the third time this postseason and the second time in Omaha pitched a complete game, the first time since 2004 any pitcher has had two in the CWS. He allowed six hits, but held the Gamecocks to one run.
“We just couldn’t get in a situation to do anything offensively,” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “He kept making big pitches when he needed to and they played solid defense out there.”
Offensively, Arizona’s Robert Refsnyder settled his team down with an opposite field two-run home run in the bottom of the first inning, putting the Wildcats up 2-0 after Wade struck out first baseman Christian Walker to end the inning.
“I knew if we got on the team on the board right there, it would kind of settle the team down so we could just go out and play good baseball,” Refsnyder said. “Sometimes you close your eyes and swing really hard, good things happen.”
The Gamecocks’ Joey Pankake led off the first with a single through third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean’s legs, but the next batter, Evan Marzilli grounded into a double play started by a diving Alex Mejia to quell any momentum as the inning continued.
In the third, the Wildcats extended their lead on the virtue of an RBI single from Mejia, which scored second baseman Trent Gilbert, who reached first base on an error from Pankake.
South Carolina’s starting pitcher, Forrest Koumas, was replaced in the third by Evan Beal after giving up the Mejia RBI and walking Refsnyder. Koumas pitched just 2 1/3 innings against the Wildcats, giving up four hits and three runs, two of which were earned.
“I thought he was throwing the ball pretty well,” Tanner said. “Forrest battled when he was out there, we just didn’t make enough tings happen on the offensive side.”
Through three, Wade had only thrown 37 pitches, 28 of which went for strikes. He had also allowed just one hit, a single to left fielder Tanner English, who was stranded when Wade forced Pankake to pop out. In the first three frames, Wade had allowed the English single, and not much else, retiring eight of the 10 batters he faced to that point.
Arizona capitalized again in the fifth on South Carolina’s second error of the game, this time on a wild pitch that moved Johnny Field into scoring position on second base.
Refsnyder was intentionally walked for the second time in the game before Seth Mejias-Brean, who grounded into two inning-ending double plays before the fifth frame, came up with an RBI single to centerfield that scored Field, improving the lead to 4-0.
If Wade showed any signs of weakness at any point in the game, they reared their head in the sixth, when uncharacteristically Wade walked a batter, his first in 31 innings. It was also his longest outing of the game, as he gave up his first extra base hit in two World Series appearances, a double to catcher Grayson Greiner.
After an RBI single from Evan Marzilli cut the Arizona lead to 4-1, scoring Greiner, Wade forced LB Dantzler to hit a one-hopper to a waiting Joe Maggi at first base, who easily recorded the out, ending the Gamecock threat.
“We got runners out there, but Wade was able to make a big pitch when he needed to,” Greiner said. “You have to give him credit for that.”
In the seventh, Mejias-Brean again grounded out to Pankake, but was able to advance Refsnyder into scoring position from first. Arizona senior designated hitter Bobby Brown stepped to the plate and smacked a ball between the first and second baseman, scoring Refsnyder from second, pushing the Arizona lead to 5-1, a lead they did not vanquish.
“They did a great job tonight,” South Carolina center fielder Evan Marzilli said. “ Tomorrow’s a new day. We have to come out and pretend like nothing ever happened.”
Arizona will attempt to close out its quest for a national championship Monday night at 7 p.m. CDT when a Gamecock team that has won their last six elimination games will try to bounce back.
“We’re not dumb, we don’t want to treat it like any other game, because it is the national title series,” Mejia said. “We understand what’s at stake.”