*Courtesy of Arizona Athletics
OMAHA, Neb. – JC Cloney, with critical help from his defense late, tossed a four-hit shutout, and Ryan Aguilar drove in two runs to lead Arizona in a 3-0 victory over Coastal Carolina on Monday evening in the first game of the College World Series finals at TD Ameritrade Park. The best two-out-of-three series continues here Tuesdayat 7 p.m. (CDT).
Cloney became the first pitcher in finals history to throw a shutout, and did so when Arizona’s thin pitching needed him most. In improving to 8-4, the lefty struck out six and scattered three walks as he handed the Chanticleers only their second shutout in 71 games this season.
Arizona (49-22) again jumped out to an early lead, scoring a run in the top of the first. Cody Ramer, who was 2-for-3 with two runs scored, opened the game with a double and later scored on Aguilar’s single.
The Wildcats again threatened in the third inning as they loaded the bases with two down. But Coastal Carolina starter Zack Hopeck settled in induce an inning-ending ground out.
Cloney cruised through first seven innings, allowing only one hit. He retired 11 of the first 15 hitters he faced with groundouts, then struck out all three he faced in the sixth. He followed that with a clean seventh inning, before his offense gave him some breathing room.
Cesar Salazar led off the seventh with single and Louis Boyd bunted him to second, prompting the Chanticleers to go to the bullpen.
Reliever Cole Schaefer’s wild pitch advanced Salazar to third, then Ramer walked to leave runners at the corners. Gibbons drove in Salzar with a sacrifice fly to center, and Ramer aggressively took second on the play as well. Aguilar followed with his second run-scoring hit of the game, lining a single to left to extend the lead to 3-0.
Coastal Carolina (53-18) finally began to threaten in the eighth inning. Tyler Chadwick singled but remained at first base with two down as the lineup turned over to leadoff hitter Michael Paez.
Cloney fell behind 2-0 and Paez responded by driving a ball to deep right field. Gibbons raced to the warning track and made a catch up against the wall to take away extra bases.
The Chanticleers again threatened in the bottom of the ninth with Cloney still on the mound. Consecutive base hits brought Connor Owings to the plate representing the tying run, but he grounded into a double play swiftly turned by Ramer and Boyd up the middle. Then Cloney struck out G.K. Young to end the game.
Arizona had additional opportunities to score early against Hopeck, but righty was steady with runners in scoring position. The Wildcats struggled to a 2-for-8 clip in those situations, but Cloney countered by only giving Coastal Carolina two at bats with runners in scoring position. The Chanticleers were hitless in those opportunities.
Hopeck, despite pitching a career-best 6.1 innings with a career-high tying five strikeouts, took the loss and fell to 3-4 for the season. He allowed two runs on five hits and three walks.
Tuesday’s game will be broadcast on ESPN. An Arizona victory would secure the program its fifth national championship, while a Coastal Carolina line would force a third game Wednesday evening.
· Arizona improved to 43-27 all-time at the College World Series, fifth-most in history.
· The Wildcats have won four previous national titles: 1976, 1980, 1986 and 2012. The program has three runner-up finishes (1956, 1959 and 1963).
· UA earned its 49th win of the season, tying the 1956 and 1986 teams for third-most in school history.
· JC Cloney has thrown 16 innings in CWS without allowing run; only one pitcher in CWS history has more innings without allowing an earned run in single CWS (USC's John Stewart, 16 1/3 IP in 1966)
· Cloney became the first pitcher to throw complete game shutout in CWS Finals.
· Arizona notched its eighth shutout in College World Series (only two schools have more). UA is the 3rd team to throw shutout in CWS Finals.
· Arizona is the fifth team to allow four or fewer hits in CWS Finals game
· Arizona has allowed six runs in six games at this year's College World Series
· Arizona registered its third straight game with run in 1st inning; Wildcats have seven runs in 1st inning at CWS (rest of field has two runs)
· Arizona is now 10-0 when scoring first in CWS games at TD Ameritrade Park (2012 & 2016).
· Ryan Aguilar went 2-4 with two RBI. He had the Wildcats’ only two hits with runners in scoring position.
· UA handed Coastal Carolina its first loss this season when allowing three or fewer runs (was 29-0 entering game).
· Coastal Carolina was shut out for second time this season (March 8 vs. Wake Forest).
· Dating to 2012, UA has scored a first inning run in seven of 11 all-time games played at TD Ameritrade Park. The Wildcats own a 15-0 advantage in the first inning for all 11 contests.
· Cody Ramer went 2-for-3 with two runs scored. It was his 31st multi-hit game of the season, tying Tommy Hinzo (1986) and Robbie Moen (1993) for sixth-most in a season at Arizona.
· Ramer opened the game by doubling and eventually scoring for the second straight contest. He has reached base in his first plate appearance four times in six contests at the CWS, scoring three times.
· JC Cloney pitched at least seven complete innings for the second time this CWS. He is the 10th Arizona starter in 11 all-time contests to toss at least seven innings in a start at TD Ameritrade Park.
· Zach Gibbons was 1-for-3 in the game, recording his 104th hit of the season. The NCAA Division I leader in hits, he is now tied with Terry Francona (1979) and Todd Trafton (1985) for the fourth-most hits in a single season at Arizona.
· Louis Boyd turned in his 14th sacrifice bunt of the season, now third in single-season school history. The Wildcats have a school record 80 on the season, five more than 2012 national championship team which previously held the top tally.
· Ryan Aguilar’s two RBI give him 55 for the season, the most for any Wildcat since 2012 (three players).
· Cloney picked off a runner on the only stolen base attempt of the game. The Wildcats have not allowed a stolen base in the CWS.
· Arizona turned in its fifth error-free game in six tries at the CWS.