June 24, 2012
OMAHA, NE - The Arizona Wildcats topped the South Carolina Gamecocks, 5-1 Sunday night in the first game of the best-of-3 College World Series Championship Series at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.
Arizona (47-17) broke out in front with a pair of runs in the bottom of the first inning off Carolina starter Forrest Koumas. Johnny Field stroked a one-out single to left and scored on Robert Refsnyder's two-run homer into the right field bullpen, his eighth round tripper of the season.
The Wildcats added to their lead in the third, scoring on an unearned run. Trent Gilbert reached on an error by Joey Pankake at short, moved to second on a single by Joey Rickard and scored on a single by Alex Mejia to make it 3-0 in favor of the Cats. Evan Beal replaced Koumas on the mound and forced Seth Mejias-Brean into an inning-ending double play with the bases loaded, preventing any further damage in the frame.
Beal was able to work out of another Arizona scoring threat in the fourth when he induced Gilbert to roll into a double play with runners at the corners and one out.
However, Arizona extended its lead to 4-0 in the fifth with another unearned run. Field walked with one out, went to second on a wild pitch and continued on to third when Grayson Greiner's throw sailed wide of the base and into centerfield. He scored on a two-out single from Mejias-Brean.
Carolina (49-19) finally got on the board in the sixth when Greiner led off with a double into the left-centerfield alley and scored on Evan Marzilli's two-out RBI single to center.
The Gamecocks had an opportunity to inch a little closer in the seventh when Adam Matthews and Kyle Martin opened the frame with back-to-back singles, but Matthews was gunned down trying to advance to third on Martin's hit to right to stymie the rally.
Arizona added an insurance run in the bottom of the seventh. Refsnyder reached base safely for the fourth time in the game with a one-out single, moved to second on a ground out and scored on Bobby Brown's RBI single to right.
Koumas (2-3), who was making his first start and just his second appearance since May 18, was saddled with the loss after allowing four hits and three runs, two earned, with one walk and three strikeouts over 2.1 innings.
Evan Beal turned in a solid performance in relief, keeping the Gamecocks in the contest. He worked 5.0 innings, allowing seven hits and two runs, one earned, with four walks and three strikeouts. Nolan Belcher finished up, working out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the eighth by retiring the final two batters he faced.
Konner Wade (11-3) started and went the distance for the Wildcats, scattering six hits. He walked one and fanned three in turning in his second route-going performance at the 2012 CWS.
"I thought a big key to that game was what Konner Wade was able to do for Arizona on the mound," said South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner. "He was outstanding. We just couldn't get in a situation to do anything offensively. He kept making big pitches when he needed to and they played solid defense out there. We tried to make a run at them. Our pitching staff did a pretty good job. We kept hanging around, turned a couple of double plays to stay out of too much trouble, but we were never able to do anything offensively and you (have) to give Konner Wade credit for that."
The Gamecocks were outhit 12-6 in the contest. Arizona left 11 runners on base while Carolina stranded five.
Game two of the best-of-3 championship series will be played Monday night at 8 p.m. ET. ESPN will televise the contest live. South Carolina will be the home team. The Gamecocks will be facing their fourth elimination game of the tournament and need a win to force a deciding game 3 on Tuesday night.
"The only thing I really want to happen now is what (our players) talked about, that is get over (the loss)," added Tanner. "Let's go back and regroup and if somebody would have said two months ago, `Hey you're going to be in the championship series but you're going to be down by a game, will you sign for it?' Absolutely, I mean it's not where we would want to be today but you know, we're still playing. You win tomorrow, you even it up and get a little momentum going into the third game. Is it going to be easy? Absolutely not. They're really good but this is no time (for) would have, could have, should have. Let's get back on the horse and try to get a win tomorrow."
General CWS Finals Notes
*-This is the third meeting between a team from the Pac-12 and a team from the SEC in the championship game/series. The SEC has taken both previous matchups, as LSU defeated Stanford in 2000 and South Carolina downed UCLA in 2010.
*-The 2012 Championship Finals marks just the third time since 2002 that the two teams in the championship game/series have each previously won a national title. The only other times were in 2004, when Cal State Fullerton (won fourth title) defeated Texas (five titles), and in 2009, when LSU (won sixth title) also triumphed over Texas (six titles).
*-South Carolina and Arizona were meeting for the first time on the baseball diamond. The last time the two teams in the Championship Finals had never met before was in 2008 (Fresno State and Georgia).
*-Arizona has 16 complete games this season, including eight over its past 19 contests. South Carolina, meanwhile, has had just one, by Michael Roth against Kent State on June 20.
*-In the 2012 MCWS, the team that scores first is 11-3. However, the three comeback victories all belong to South Carolina.
*-Since the Championship Finals (best-of-three) were installed in 2003, the team to win game one is 7-2. Oregon State (2006) and Fresno State (2008) are the only two teams to come back from an 0-1 deficit.
*-Through the first 14 games of the MCWS this year, the winning team's starting pitcher has averaged 6.88 innings pitched, while the losing team's starter has averaged 3.17 innings. The losing team's starter has now gone 2.1 innings or less six times in the 2012 MCWS.
South Carolina Game Notes (49-19):
*-South Carolina is the first team to play in the championship game/series in three straight years since Texas from 1983-85. The Longhorns won the title in 1983 and then finished runner-up in '84 (to Cal State Fullerton) and '85 (to Miami).
*-South Carolina's 30-3 (.909) record over the past three seasons in the NCAA Tournament is the second best three-year postseason record in NCAA history (must make tournament all three years to qualify). The best mark belongs to Miami (FL), which went 22-2 (.917) from 1999-01.
*-Entering the 2012 Championship Finals, South Carolina had allowed four runs or fewer in 19 consecutive MCWS games dating back to 2004, the second-longest streak in MCWS history. The only team to put together a longer streak was Arizona State, which yielded four runs or less in 22 straight MCWS games from June 12, 1965-June 11, 1973.
*-South Carolina's batters have notched 14 walks with just 11 strikeouts over the past three games. Gamecock pitchers, meanwhile, have punched out 33 and walked just nine over the past four contests.
*-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 hurlers.
*-Ray Tanner is attempting to become the seventh coach in Division I baseball history to win three national titles and the second to win in three straight years (Rod Dedeaux of Southern California won five straight from 1970-74, the only time a team has won the title three or more years in a row).
*-Starter Forrest Koumas made his first appearance in the NCAA Tournament this year. The last pitcher to appear in no NCAA Tournament games before the Championship Finals and then start a game in the Championship Finals was Florida's Stephen Locke in 2005. Locke made his only appearance of the NCAA Tournament in game one of the Championship Finals against Texas and took the loss (4.0 IP, 4 ER).
*-Koumas entered the game having made just three starts and worked only 25.2 innings this season. Since the best-of-three format began in 2003, only one pitcher has entered a Championship Finals start with fewer starts on the year: current South Carolina hurler Michael Roth, whose start in the 2010 Championship Finals opener (against UCLA) was just his second of the season.
*-Koumas' 25.2 innings entering the start were also the second-fewest among any pitcher entering a Championship Finals start, as Fresno State's Sean Bonesteele, who came into his start in the 2008 Championship Finals opener (versus Georgia) with only 22.2 innings on the year, is the only to have worked fewer innings prior to a starting nod in the finals. Bonesteele also only had three starts prior to that game.
*-Christian Walker notched his 27th career MCWS hit in the game, second all-time to Dustin Ackley of North Carolina (28). Walker's 71 at bats trail only Garrett Gore and Chad Flack of North Carolina (both with 73).
*-Evan Beal made his 28th appearance of the season, but his first since June 11 against Oklahoma. His 5.0-inning outing set a new career-high. His previous long was 4.0 innings, which he had done three times this season. Beal allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits and four walks.
*-Beal's relief outing was the second longest in Championship Finals history. The only player with a longer relief outing during the Championship Finals (which began in 2003) was Oregon State's Kevin Gunderson, who went 5.1 innings on June 25, 2006, in the deciding game against North Carolina.
*-Evan Marzilli (1-for-4 in the game) now has 67 career at bats at the MCWS, seventh most all time.
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