Trent Gilbert snagged a slow rolling ball off the infield, flipped it to first base, and with that the celebration was on. Arizona rode a quick start en route to a 7-4 defeat of St. John's, its fifth straight postseason win and the ticket puncher for College World Series appearance No. 16 for the Wildcats.
UA benefited from a two-out, first inning interference call on St. John's catcher Danny Bethea, on what would have been the third out.
The Wildcats made good on the mulligan. Seth Meijas-Brean singled home a run to get the ball rolling, and UA plated two more to set the tone against Red Storm ace Sean Hagan. The Wildcats forced the 6-foot-8 Southpaw to work all afternoon.
UA's collective plate discipline resulted in eight walks, including Joey Rickard's three. The Wildcats' lead-off hitter scored the first run of the afternoon after getting on base from balls.
An elevated pitch count, and elevated midday temperatures seemed to wear on Hagan early, allowing the Wildcats to scratch out four runs in the first two innings. The quick start proved vital, because Hagan kept UA scoreless up to the seventh. Hagan's performance was reminiscent of Kurt Heyer's for UA on Friday, a point the ESPN broadcasting crew touched on.
However, Mejias-Brean delivered a lead-off ground rule double to end Hagan's day, and Bobby Brown drove him in with a double off St. John's reliever James Lomangino.
A Riley Moore scoring single extended the lead back to four, and gave the Wildcats sufficient breathing room. UA starting pitcher Konner Wade held the Johnnies at bay, never letting the visitors to cut any more than two runs into the lead.
Backed by some outstanding defense, Wade worked with efficiency. He went the distance and threw less than 100 pitches, surrendering just six hits and two earned runs.
Wade's performance was indicative of UA's entire postseason run. The Wildcats played the bear minimum amount of games, sweeping the Regional 3-0 and Super Regional 2-0. Hi Corbett Field proved a perfect launching pad for UA's first CWS berth since 2004.
Lopez thanked athletic director Greg Byrne for the team's move to Hi Corbett in his post-game interview with ESPN.
Sancet Field's constraints prevented past Wildcat teams from hosting postseason events, a point Lopez made. UA made good on its opportunity, both on the field and off it. The Bat 'Cats exploited Hi Corbett's nuances throughout the postseason, scoring a combined 61 runs over its five games.
Meanwhile, the UA faithful turned out in force. Saturday's attendance exceeded 4,000, per the ESPN broadcast. Lopez referred to it as "a big league facility," and his team reciprocated with big league-quality efforts.
UA is the first of eight teams headed to Omaha. The CWS begins Friday.