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College World Series: Arizona 4, UCLA 0: Quiet Wade silences UCLA

Shutdown pitching, 4-run fourth have UA closing in on finals
2012-06-18T00:01:00Z 2014-10-10T11:25:56Z College World Series: Arizona 4, UCLA 0: Quiet Wade silences UCLARyan Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
June 18, 2012 12:01 am  • 

OMAHA, Neb. - Eight times in eight innings Sunday night, Konner Wade skulked off the mound and trudged, head down and eyes fixed, to his spot in the home dugout.

He spoke only when spoken to, and - even then - mostly in grunts. Occasionally, Wade glanced at a Bible passage written on the underside of his navy blue, block-A cap: "For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline."

"I don't like talking to people in between innings," he said. "I'll give a guy knuckles every once in a while, but that's about it."

Wade guessed that he spoke 30 words in the Arizona Wildcats' 4-0, College World Series win over UCLA Sunday night at TD Ameritrade Park.

His performance, however, screamed it. The Arizona Wildcats are national title contenders.

Wade threw a complete game shutout, allowing five hits and striking out four, in a rematch between Pac-12 Conference co-champions. The win in front of 19,198 fans moved the Wildcats further through the winners' bracket, putting them roughly halfway to a championship.

The Wildcats won't play again until Thursday at 2 p.m., when they'll take on the winner of Tuesday's elimination game between UCLA and Florida State. The Seminoles defeated Stony Brook earlier Sunday.

Arizona (45-17) can secure its fourth national title by winning just three more games over the next nine days. With ace Kurt Heyer and Wade riding hot streaks, coach Andy Lopez likes his chances.

"They like to play. They like to compete," Lopez said. "They don't - well, they're not in awe of too many things. It's an easy group to be around."

Especially when they're hitting.

Arizona scored all four of its runs, and raked five of its six hits, during a frantic bottom of the fourth. Johnny Field, Alex Mejia and Robert Refsnyder ripped singles off UCLA starter Nick Vander Tuig with one out. Seth Mejias-Brean followed with a two-run single to right-center field, and Bobby Brown lined a two-run double down the right field line to make it 4-0. The UA managed just one hit after that, a seventh-inning single by Riley Moore.

"(Vander Tuig) left some balls out there that one inning and we took advantage of it, put some good swings on the ball," Brown said. "But I tip my cap to their starting pitcher; he shut us down except for that inning."

Wade, however, was better. Of the five hits, all singles, the sophomore from Scottsdale surrendered, only three left the infield.

UCLA loaded the bases with three consecutive two-out singles in the fifth inning, but Wade - using his changeup - got Kevin Williams to fly out to left field. Bruins pinch hitter Chris Keck singled with one out in the eighth, but was erased when Wade got Beau Amaral to hit into an inning-ending double play. 

Wade didn't hit or walk any Bruins. He threw 109 pitches, all but five of them either fastballs or changeups.

"He pitched as well as anybody we've seen all year," UCLA coach John Savage said. "We weren't ourselves, but it had a lot to do with him. We were uncharacteristically impatient. And that's what good pitchers do."

Given where Wade stood five months ago, Sunday's performance seems almost impossible. The sophomore arrived at practice in January unable to throw a strike, and was so wild - and subsequently rattled - that he was sent to a team psychologist. Inconsistency plagued him for most of the regular season: Wade walked four and hit two batters in a March loss to New Mexico State.

With every positive outing since, Wade's confidence in himself - and in his stuff - has grown. In three postseason starts, he's 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA. The right-hander has struck out 11 and walked just three.

Sunday's complete-game shutout was Arizona's first in the College World Series since June 2, 1980, when Craig Lefferts shut down Michigan 8-0. Those Wildcats went on to win the national championship.

Thanks to Wade, Arizona's getting closer to another one.

"Man, it's just fun to watch these guys grow up," coach Andy Lopez said. "Is he going to pitch in pro ball? Shoot, I don't know. Heck, I've got no clue. I think he'll get a chance obviously. …

"But I know this: He's going to be able to share this experience with his children's children's children. One of these days, somebody his age is going to have a challenge and he's going to be able to show them what to do."

Up next

• Who: Arizona vs. UCLA/Florida State winner

• Where: Omaha, Neb.

• When: 2 p.m. Thursday

• TV: ESPN2

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