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Defense, pitching lead the way for Wildcats

Arizona is one win away from winning the national title. Read on for Jay Johnson's reaction to the win and more.

Arizona got a masterful performance from JC Cloney on Monday night, as he pitched a complete game and only allowed four hits while striking out six.

“Coach Lawn and all of these coaches have a good plan of what they want to do, and our job is just to go out and execute it,” Cloney said.

“They watched a ton of film to see what these guys do. I think it was just establishing the fastball in the inner half and outer half and then mixing some changeups in here and there and throwing other off-speed stuff.”

Cloney reached 122 pitches and ran into some trouble, but says that it never had anything to do with fatigue. 

“I'm not really tired there,” he said. “The adrenaline is still going there. I'm still trying to figure out what just happened. 

“Tomorrow morning I'm sure I'll be a little sore, a little tired, but we'll figure that out tomorrow.”

Beyond simple adrenaline, Jay Johnson credits Cloney’s mental makeup for his success.

“There's two things I think that come to mind when you talk about what makes him him,” Johnson said.

“Number one is his mental disposition, his ability to block out everything else that's going around him and just focus on getting a good visual of the target and attacking the mitt. He can do that with three or four pitches and that shows up.

“Secondly, he's an impressive-looking guy. I mean, his lower half looks like he should be playing defensive tackle for Coach Rodriguez, and that matters and it allows him to hold his stuff throughout the game and he doesn't drop off very much.

“Probably the last thing, I think he wanted to kill me last Saturday against Santa Barbara when he hadn't given up any runs. I went up to talk to him in the eighth, give him reinforcement on something, and he was like: Get away from me.”

Arizona only has one error in six games and that has consistently been a major reason for the Wildcats’ success.

“Couple of things in play with that,” Johnson said. “Number one, we set our defense for our pitchers making pitches and our pitchers are making pitches that are helping us get them to hit the ball where we want them to.

“Secondly is our coaching staff. Coach Wanaka in the outfield and Coach Brown in the infield do an excellent job of reports and setting this thing up so we give ourselves a chance to hopefully be where they're going to hit it. We've been very fortunate to this point in the tournament that that's happened a lot.

“The other thing is in terms of the infield defense, our guys are playing really aggressively, playing with a lot of confidence. They're getting the right hop all the time. This is the most beautiful ballpark in America, and the grounds crew does a great job. That matters. That helps a lot.”

There’s no hiding the fact that Arizona is one win away from being the national champion, but that doesn’t mean the Wildcats’ focus will change.

“We've got to call it like it is,” Johnson said. “They all know where we're at and what we're doing, but we've been playing games like that for the better part of this year. 

“More than anything else, for us, it's always about the play. It's always about what's in front of us and what's in front of us is tomorrow.

“We need to prepare well tonight, coaching staff and players alike, and get ready to attack the opportunity. If they're regurgitating that, it makes me very happy.”

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