*Courtesy of Arizona Athletics
OMAHA, Neb. – A magical run through the postseason ended in heartbreaking fashion for the Arizona baseball team, which showed the fight of Wildcats all the way down to the final out of head coach Jay Johnson’s first season.
Coastal Carolina (55-18) scored four unearned runs in the top of the sixth inning, then held off Arizona’s ninth inning rally to win, 4-3, to capture the school’s first national championship.
The Wildcats trailed 4-2 entering the bottom of the ninth, but put the tying run to third and potential winning run on second with two outs. Coastal Carolina’s Alex Cunningham, typically a starter working today out of the bullpen, ended the comeback bid with his only strikeout as he retired Ryan Haug, who replaced injured starting catcher Caesar Salazar in the seventh inning.
Starter Bobby Dalbec was strong early for the Wildcats, facing the minimum through four innings and shutting out the Chanticleers over the first five frames. However, the righty faced his first significant threat in what became a decisive sixth inning.
David Parrett worked a leadoff walk before being bunted into scoring position. After Michael Paez drew a walk, Dalbec came back to strike out Connor Owings, but a wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third for cleanup hitter Zach Remillard.
With a 2-2 count, Remillard bounced a ball over the mound where second baseman Cody Ramer scooped up the ball near the bag. However, Ramer was unable to get a clean handle on the ball, allowing Parrett to score as a Remillard reached on an error. A subsequent throw to third base to try and retire Paez was errant, sending home a second run.
G.K. Young followed by hitting a two-run homer deep to right field, extending the Chanticleers’ lead to 4-0.
Arizona (49-24) did its best to answer right back, scoring two of its own in the home half of the sixth against starter Andrew Beckwith, who issued a one-out walk to Salazar. One out later, Kyle Lewis reached on an error and Alfonso Rivas drew a walk to load the bases.
Jared Oliva, who had four two-out RBI earlier in the College World Series, drove in a pair of runs with a single to left field to cut the deficit to 4-2.
The Wildcats ninth-inning rally began when Louis Boyd worked a one-out walk. Ramer, who was 3-for-4, followed with a single to place runners at the corners. Zach Gibbons drove in Boyd with a sacrifice fly, leaving the potential tying run at first base with two down.
Ryan Aguilar, who was 2-for-4, laced a double down the left field while Ramer raced into third base. Johnson, the third-base coach, had to hold Ramer because the ball perfectly caromed off the wall and deadened on the warning track for left fielder Anthony Marks, who relayed a strong throw to Paez, the shortstop, as Ramer was reaching third.
Haug, who took over after Salazar was hit in the head on the backswing during Paez’s seventh-inning strikeout, was ahead in the count 2-0, then forced a full count before he went down swinging.
Cunningham earned his first save of the season as he stranded the tying and winning runs in scoring position. He tossed three complete innings, allowing only the run in the ninth.
Arizona had chances earlier in the game, including in the third when it appeared Ramer scored the game’s first run. He was on third after a single to right was misplayed and allowed him to take two extra bases on Owings’ error. Gibbons then chopped a ball to the third base side of the mound, where Bethwick fielded and threw to the first base side of the plate. Parrett, the catcher, swiped a tag and home plate umpire Joe Burleson called Ramer out.
Beckwith, named the Most Outstanding Player of the College World Series, earned the victory, improving to 15-1 over 5 2/3 innings. He allowed two runs – neither earned – on six hits, three walks and a pair of strikeouts.
Dalbec took the loss despite not allowed an an earned run. The four runs he was charged with came on four hits and three walks over 5 2/3 innings. He added eight strikeouts.
The bullpen duo of Cameron Ming and Cody Deason tossed 3 1/3 innings of scoreless relief. They surrendered only two base runners, providing time for Arizona’s late rallies.
Coastal Carolina’s Bobby Holmes faced only one batter in relief, but he struck out Boyd after replacing Beckwith with two on and two out in the sixth.
Ultimately, the timely hit eluded the Wildcats over the final two games of the College World Series finals. After going 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position in Tuesday’s 5-4 loss, UA was 1-for-9 in today’s elimination loss.
It was Arizona’s first loss in an elimination game after previously staving off elimination three times at the Lafayette Regional and three times earlier in the College World Series to reach the championship series.
The Wildcats finish the season with 49 wins, tied for the third-most in school history. The club earned the program its 17th College World Series appearance and finishes national runner-up for the fourth time to join four previous national championships.
Aguilar, Ramer, Gibbons, Oliva and pitcher JC Cloney were named to the College World Series All-Tournament Team.