COLLEGE WORLD SERIES: ARIZONA 10, FLORIDA STATE 3
UA BASEBALL

Cats make it look easy

6 runs in 1st inning is all Arizona needs to advance to Finals
2012-06-22T00:00:00Z 2012-06-22T14:26:24Z Cats make it look easyRyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 22, 2012 12:00 am  • 

OMAHA, Neb. - Kurt Heyer was working fast, pumping strikes and sweating hard Thursday when Alex Mejia chirped from the shortstop position.

"Come on! Let's go! One-run game!" he said.

Except it wasn't. And there haven't been many close games lately.

The Arizona Wildcats scored six runs in the first inning, Robert Refsnyder and Bobby Brown ripped home runs during a four-run fourth, and the UA blasted Florida State 10-3 Thursday to advance to the College World Series Finals.

Arizona will play either Arkansas or South Carolina in a best-of-three series that begins Sunday at TD Ameritrade Park.

Thursday's win in front of 20,596 fans marked another dominant performance by college baseball's hottest team. The Wildcats (46-17) have won nine straight games, including eight in a row in the postseason. Six of their victories have come by three or more runs. They have scored double-digit runs four times during the playoffs and are outscoring their opponents by a combined score of 79-26.

The UA has made college baseball's toughest task - winning, and doing it on the biggest stage - look practically easy.

Florida State used a College World Series record eight pitchers Thursday in an attempt to stop the Wildcats' bats. The game went 3 hours 25 minutes "but felt like 4 1/2 hours" because of it, coach Andy Lopez said. The UA stopped stealing bases and taking extra bags once it went up 10-1 in the fourth inning. It had such a big edge, for so long, that Mejia and the Wildcats' defense tried to convince itself otherwise.

Heyer, who pitched 7 1/3 innings of two-run ball, said he tried not to let the big lead affect him.

"Yeah, it was nothing," he said. "I hear Chuy (Mejia) in the background saying, 'Hey, it's a one-run lead, a one-run lead.' The defense doesn't change its mentality; why should I?"

Thursday's game was decided by the time the first inning was over.

Arizona's Joey Rickard singled to lead off the bottom half, then advanced all the way to third when FSU starter Brandon Leibrandt mishandled Johnny Field's ground ball and threw the ball into center field. Mejia followed with an RBI single to right field, giving the UA a 1-0 lead. Refsnyder walked, and Seth Mejias-Brean ripped a sacrifice fly to center field, and the UA had a 2-0 lead.

Then, the bottom of Arizona's order - its biggest bright spot during the last week in Omaha - delivered. Brown worked a walk, and Joe Maggi dropped a single into left field, and two more runs scored. After Riley Moore struck out, Trent Gilbert delivered another two-run single.

Arizona's rally - and three first-inning errors by the Seminoles - chased Leibrandt, who surrendered six runs on three hits in one-third of an inning. He walked two batters and didn't register a strikeout.

Just two of Arizona's six first-inning runs were earned.

"They obviously helped us a little bit in that first inning, which was very uncharacteristic of a Florida State team," Lopez said. "It's just a reminder that it's a game played by young people, and we caught some breaks today."

FSU coach Mike Martin was more direct.

"Sometimes you're the dog," he said, "and sometimes you're the fire hydrant."

The Wildcats put FSU away with a four-run fourth punctuated by two home runs. Refsnyder's blast cleared the left field fence and one-hopped the wall behind the visitors bullpen. Brown pulled his home run, a two-run shot, to right field. 

The run support was more than enough for Heyer, who allowed two runs on nine hits before being lifted with one out in the eighth. He struck out three and walked three and threw 123 pitches. Tyler Crawford replaced Heyer and got the game's final five outs. 

Heyer (13-2) is expected to pitch once during the best-of-three championship series, though Lopez said late Thursday that he will wait before announcing when.

Arizona's advancement moves the program one step closer to its fourth national championship, and first since 1986. The Wildcats have played in the national title game - the one-game format was replaced with a best-of-three series in 2004 - six times in its history.

Lopez bristled at the idea that his team is fated to win it all but hailed it with his biggest compliment: "We're playing good baseball."

Brown said: "We've had the mentality coming in here: We're slowing things down, being real confident. I don't know if its necessarily easy, but we're a good team."

On StarNet: Follow all of the Arizona Wildcats sports teams through the summer at azstarnet.com/wildcats

CWS Finals

• What: Arizona vs. Arkansas or South Carolina

• Where: Omaha, Neb.

• Three-game series: Sunday, 5 p.m. on ESPN2 and 1290-AM; Monday, 5 p.m. on ESPN and 1290-AM; Tuesday, 5 p.m. on ESPN and 1290-AM (if necessary)

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