The improbable happened in Starksville, Mississippi on Saturday night and the Arizona Wildcats scored four runs from the eighth inning on to sweep the sixth ranked Mississippi State Bulldogs and advance to the College World Series for the first time since 2012 when they won it all.
True freshman Cesar Salazar singled through the right side of the infield in the bottom of the 11th inning to score Kyle Lewis from third and walk off with the 6-5 win over the host favorites. The catcher came to the plate with two outs and the game tied after junior sensation Bobby Dalbec was walked to load the bases.
Lewis singled with one out to start the rally and Ryan Aguilar bumped him over to second after taking a base on balls. Justin Behnke struck out swinging before Dalbec was issued his free pass.
The win seemed unlikely late into the game. Arizona hit the ball well, but was only able to plate one run through seven innings, while the opponent surged for five runs. Heading into the bottom of the eighth, the Wildcats were facing a 5-1 deficit and it looked like they would be playing a rubber match game three on Sunday. Senior outfielder Zach Gibbons and freshman Alfonso Rivas III opened the inning with back-to-back singles before Aguilar launched a deep homerun to bring the Wildcats within one.
With no outs in the inning, Arizona got back-to-back singles from J.J. Matijevic and Dalbec, but Salazar and Jared Oliva struck out before Luis Boyd grounded out to end the inning.
First year Jay Johnson sent out Rio Gomez to shut down the ninth and that was exactly what he did as he got a strikeout, ground out and fly out and set up the bottom of the ninth.
Cody Ramer, who had been hitless all night led off the inning with a double. Gibbons struck out swinging, but Rivas was there to pick him up and scored Ramer from second with an RBI single. Aguilar followed up with a single of his own and Behnke walked to load the bases with one out for Dalbec. The junior struck out and Salazar grounded out to send the game to extra innings.
Left-handed sophomore Cameron Ming was sent out to hold the score even and he did just that in the 10th and 11th innings, walking just one batter across two innings of standout work. Ming took home the win after facing just seven batters in the game.
Mississippi State jumped out to an early lead in the second inning when Gavin Collins opened the frame with a double off of Arizona ace Nathan Bannister. Two batters later and the Bulldogs had their first run of the Super Regional on a Brent Rooker single.
Dalbec, who picked up the win on the mound on Friday with eight and two-thirds innings of shut out baseball, tied things up in the bottom of the second.
The Bulldogs immediately took the lead back in the third and added runs in the 4th and 7th that were both credited to Bannister.
Even though their ace pitcher was not his best on the night, the Wildcats were able to pull out the come from behind victory and hand Mississippi State its first loss of the season when leading after eight innings. The Bulldogs were previously 40-0 with the lead heading to the final inning.
Arizona's reward? The Wildcats get to play at least two more games on the season in the College World Series. Arizona is headed to Omaha.