It is a best of three series to decide who takes home the title of national champion in college baseball. Just Coastal Carolina and Arizona remain, and the Wildcats got off to a great start towards that final and be all goal they have been so focused on during a season where little to no expectations were made for them.
Arizona needed to show that their pitching was still top notch after Dalbec’s strong start in the last game against Oklahoma State and the current uncertainty as to what the status is going to be for Bannister in the next game or the third should the series go the distance. Instead, JC Cloney was up to the challenge and proved that he was also worthy of a spot in the rotation with a strong complete game that in the early going was completely dominated by Cloney as he only gave up one hit in the first seven innings as he utilized all of the pitches in his arsenal.
The Chanticleers of Coastal Carolina were not able to pick up on the different speeds Cloney was throwing at them throughout the early going. While there were only six strikeouts, Carolina was caught swinging early or late into their form, just glancing the ball for the most part for either pop ups or quick ground outs. Cloney worked most of that early part of the game with just a one run lead and that gave his offense just enough time to pack in on in the seventh inning.
The first run was scored early as Ramer led off with a double and was brought in two batters later by Aguilar on a single to center field. After that the team had a bit of trouble trying to put the ball in play for base hits up until the seventh inning when Zack Hopeck gave up two hits off the two first batters and was sat down for reliever Cole Schaefer. Schaefer did his best to get out of the jam, but an early wild pitch allowed the runners to advance and give Zach Gibbons a chance to bring in the SAC RBI on a fly out to center field.
Aguilar then came up again and brought in his second run of the day, both of which were added by Ramer on the base paths. In total the team only collected six hits but took advantage of the four walks that the pitching staff of Carolina left out on the plate during a game where the strike zone was being called very tightly. Yet Coastal Carolina has been the Cinderella story throughout this entire College World Series, and they were not about to go out without a fight.
The seventh and eighth innings for the Chanticleers were their best innings of hitting as they finally got to the timing of Cloney’s pitches and started carrying them out to warning track shots. If not for some close plays by Gibbons in right field the game may have turned into a one-run affair as he saved a homerun right on the yellow line on the outfield wall. After those couple of scares however, Jay Johnson stuck with his starter going into the ninth inning. That decision looked like it could have been disastrous if not for a double play ball that took out runners at first and second but left a runner at third. Cloney made sure that the runner for Carolina was going to be just ninety feet short though as he finished the game with the last of his six strikeouts.
All it will take for coach Johnson and his boys to take home the 5th national title in Arizona baseball history is another solid performance like they had out in Omaha in their last game. The pitching will once again have to step up, as this may be the game that Johnson digs into the bullpen early and often as he may just be out of quality starting arms on his lineup. But if players like Ramer, Gibbons and Aguilar can continue to get on base and if Bobby Dalbec can find his power swing in the next game, it might just be the last for not just Arizona but all of college baseball.