OMAHA, Neb. - Mat Troupe had just thrown the biggest pitch of his life, giving the Arizona Wildcats a College World Series win, when he spun and faced TD Ameritrade Park's right field video board.
The UA's bearded, bespectacled reliever wanted to see what kind of pitch he had just thrown.
A slow-motion replay helped things, but only a little. Call it a cut fastball with sink, punctuated with a grunt.
"I put everything I had into it," he said. "I was hoping it'd be a strike. If he took it, it might've been ball four."
The Arizona Wildcats face UCLA in the winners bracket tonight at 6 with one fewer concern. Thank the right-handed Troupe, whose 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Friday's 4-3, 12-inning win over Florida State restored some confidence in a maligned bullpen.
Troupe and left-hander Tyler Crawford combined to pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings in Arizona's College World Series opener, buying its offense enough time to take a late lead. Crawford negated a Seminoles rally in the 10th inning by striking out James Ramsey with one on and no outs. Troupe then entered the game and struck out three of the eight batters he faced.
The freshman from Northridge, Calif., earned his fifth win of the season by enduring a tense 12th inning - and throwing one filthy pitch.
Arizona was leading by a run when, with one out, Troupe hit Seth Miller with a pitch and then threw a wild pitch to the screen. The tying run was standing on third when Troupe worked a full count to FSU's Devon Travis. With the game on the line, Troupe, 19, threw a pitch unlike any he'd uncorked all year.
Troupe said he "cut" it, giving the ball some natural sink as it ran down and away from Travis, a right-handed hitter.
"But I don't really try to do that," he said.
Catcher Riley Moore called it "almost a sinker."
"That one was different," he said. "That one started in and sunk down and low and in. Man, a good pitch."
Travis waved at it and missed, and Arizona advanced.
"Monster strikeout at the end," coach Andy Lopez said. "Just a lot of movement. Right now, he's a young guy. He throws and hopes its moving. Some of them don't move and get squared up, and that's called being a freshman. …
"We don't win that game without Crawford and Troupe."
And there's no way the Wildcats will be able to advance further without more help from the bullpen. Closer Stephen Manthei warmed up Friday but did not get a chance to pitch. Arizona (44-17) could also turn to lefties Augey Bill and Vincent Littleman and righty Tyler Hale should starter Konner Wade struggle today against the Bruins.
The UA knows UCLA (48-14) well, the result of competing and recruiting against the Bruins. UCLA took two of three from the Wildcats in a mid-April series at Hi Corbett Field.
The clubs shared a charter flight to Omaha on Tuesday. The teams' plane left Burbank, Calif., around noon with the Bruins sitting in the back. The Wildcats took the front seats when they boarded around 2 p.m.
Lopez and his wife, Linda, both attended UCLA, and the coach remains tight with Bruins athletic director Dan Guerrero. UA outfielder Robert Refsnyder is best friends with Bruins infielder Matt Giovinazzo, and many of the UA's California-bred ballplayers have common threads with the Bruins.
"It's takes it right back to the Pac," Moore said. "It's another Pac weekend - except it's one game. I know we have a vendetta against them. We dropped a series to them, and that's not going to fly again. We're going to come out hard."
This time, the Wildcats have relief should they need it.
"The longer we go," Lopez said, "the more moments there'll be."
On StarNet: Find a a transcript of Ryan Finley's chat about the Wildcats in the College World Series.
• Game 6: Arizona vs. UCLA
• Where: Omaha, Neb.
• When: 6 p.m.
• TV; radio: ESPN2; 1290-AM