College World Series championship
CWS CHAMPS

Arizona 4, South Carolina 1: Three-run ninth caps perfect run

Cats jumping for joy
2012-06-26T00:00:00Z 2012-06-26T15:57:28Z Arizona 4, South Carolina 1: Three-run ninth caps perfect runRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 26, 2012 12:00 am  • 

OMAHA, Neb. - Their so-called defensive substitution delivered the biggest hit of his life. Their No. 9 hitter battled like a cleanup guy.

The College World Series' hottest team found life when things seemed to be falling apart, and because of it, the Arizona Wildcats are national champions.

Brandon Dixon ripped a one-out RBI double to left field in the ninth inning and Trent Gilbert followed with a two-run single, giving the UA a 4-1 College World Series Finals win over South Carolina in front of 23,872 at TD Ameritrade Park.

The UA's fourth baseball title, and first since 1986, included two unlikely heroes. But Arizona's formula for success Monday remained the same as it was in its first four victories in Omaha: Pitch, play good defense and force the opponent to make a mistake. When South Carolina flinched, the Wildcats capped their charmed run through college baseball's most brutal gauntlet.

Arizona went 10-0 in the postseason, and played five consecutive CWS games without trailing once. The club led 1-0 Monday night until the seventh inning, when South Carolina - the two-time defending national champions with an ace, Michael Roth, on the mound - pulled even. 

Just as quickly, the Wildcats (48-17) pulled away. And then they partied.

"This is the biggest adrenaline rush of my life," said CWS MVP Robert Refsnyder, who singled and scored the go-ahead run and also caught the final out.

Said Dixon: "It's what you dream of."

Dixon's and Gilbert's hits came as part of a technically perfect ninth inning. Refsnyder led off with a single to left field and advanced to second when Seth Mejias-Brean laid down a bunt with two strikes.

Bobby Brown was intentionally walked. That brought up Dixon, who ripped reliever Matt Price's slider down the third-base line and into the left-field corner; Refsnyder scored, giving the Wildcats a one-run lead. Dixon, a defensive substitution who entered in the sixth inning, called it "by far" the biggest hit of his life.

"That was the greatest thing I've ever experienced. That was awesome," he said. "I saw a slider, it got down the line just enough, and it was great."

Riley Moore struck out, but with two away, Gilbert shot a single through the right side and two runs scored, extending the UA's lead to 4-1.

"I was just trying to get a hit," Gilbert said with a smile. "Simple as that."  

The ninth-inning dramatics broke a hard-earned tie. 

South Carolina's Kyle Martin drove home a run with a groundout in the seventh, pulling the Gamecocks and Wildcats even at 1-1.

The seventh-inning run helped mar a stellar start by UA pitcher James Farris, who allowed one run on two hits before leaving with two outs in the eighth. Reliever Mat Troupe struck out Joey Pankake to end the inning, then - following the Wildcats' rally - got the final three outs.

As usual, Troupe made it exciting.

"Man," coach Andy Lopez said, "that son of a gun can load the bases as quick as any human being I've ever coached."

South Carolina's Christian Walker led off with a single, and the Gamecocks took advantage of two walks to load the bases with one out. Tanner English lined out to Gilbert for the second out. Then Troupe got Grayson Greiner to fly out to right field. 

Refsnyder made the catch, then bolted toward the pitcher's mound for an all-team dog pile. Fireworks crackled overhead and confetti shot into the air, then sprinkled down onto college baseball's new champions.

The game marked the likely college finale for the team's steady core: shortstop Alex Mejia, Mejias-Brean, Refsnyder, outfielder Joey Rickard and ace Kurt Heyer are all expected to sign with pro teams in a matter of weeks. Senior Brown has played his final game.

"Our best players are our best human beings in the program," Lopez said, "and that a real deadly combination when you suit up as a team."

Lopez, the team's long-suffering coach, found some redemption. Twenty years after winning a national title with Pepperdine, Lopez has his second crown. The Wildcats have a new home stadium, Hi Corbett Field, and a newfound home-field advantage.

Now, they have a championship banner to hang.

"I feel," Heyer said, "like I can walk on air right now."

If you go

• What: Championship celebration

• Where: McKale Center

• When: Today at noon, team will arrive at 1 p.m.

• Admission: Free

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