OMAHA, Neb. – Arizona followed its script to perfection in Game 1 of the College World Series finals.
Konner Wade did his part, pitching his third straight complete game. Robert Refsnyder did his, leading the Wildcats’ potent offense with a home run for the second straight game.
The Wildcats led all the way Sunday in a 5-1 victory over two-time defending national champion South Carolina and now stand one victory from their first title since 1986 and fourth overall.
“Tonight’s over. It’s done with. You’ve got to come out tomorrow and play good baseball,” Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. “We understand where we’re at. These guys understand who they’re playing. They understand it’s not a tournament somewhere in South Dakota.”
The Gamecocks (49-19) swept UCLA and Florida in the best-of-3 finals the past two years, but need to beat Arizona twice to become the first team since Southern California in the early 1970s to win three championships in a row.
“Tomorrow’s a new day,” South Carolina center fielder Evan Marzilli said. “So we have to come out tomorrow and pretend like nothing ever happened.”
The Wildcats have relied on the same template during a run in which they have won 10 straight games and 17 of 19.
With an inexperienced and inconsistent bullpen, Lopez wants his starters to go as deep into games as possible.
Wade (11-3) threw a six-hitter on 110 pitches in his sixth complete game of the season. The sophomore has won four straight starts in the postseason. He pitched eight innings against Louisville in the regional, nine in the super regional-clinching victory over St. John’s, and threw a complete-game shutout against UCLA last Sunday.
The sophomore’s back-to-back complete games were the first since Cal State Fullerton’s Jason Windsor did it in 2004.
Wade is 4-0 with a 1.29 ERA in four NCAA Tournament starts (35 innings, five earned runs). He struck out three. His walk to Christian Walker in the sixth was the first he issued in 31 innings.
There was no activity in the Arizona bullpen until Walker singled leading off the ninth. Wade got a fly out, groundout and foul out to end the game.
Refsnyder, batting .444 (8 of 18) in the CWS, went 2-for-3 and was intentionally walked twice. He hit a two-run homer off Forrest Koumas (2-3) in the first to give Arizona the lead, and scored in the fifth on Bobby Brown’s single to make it a four-run game.
Bishop Gorman High products Joey Rickard and Johnny Field each went 2-for-4 for the Wildcats.