In the 11th inning and the bases loaded, freshman Cesar Salazar stepped to the plate with a College World Series bid on the line.
And he came through, knocking a single through the right side, sending Arizona back to Omaha for the first time since 2012 with a 6-5 win over the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Arizona’s rally began in the 8th. Down 5-1 at the time, the first five hitters of the frame reached base, including a 3-run home run by Ryan Aguilar to draw the Wildcats within one.
But the Cats would strand two, keeping it a 5-4 game heading to the ninth.
After a 1-2-3 inning from Rio Gomez in the top of the ninth, the top of the Wildcats order was up in the home half. Cody Ramer led it off with a double.
Two batters later, Alfonso Rivas came up and brought Ramer home to tie the game up with just one out.
A bloop single by Aguilar put runners on the corners.
Justin Behnke, who was in the game after pinch-running for JJ Matijevic in the 8th drew a walk to load the bases, and would be the final batter that MSU closer Reid Humphreys would face. Humphreys ended up throwing 52 pitches to record four outs.
Blake Smith took over, struck out Bobby Dalbec and forced a groundout from Salazar to send the game to extras and leave the bases loaded.
Nothing happened in the 10th, and Ming shutdown MSU in the 11th to setup the walk-off.
The Bulldogs put a run on the scoreboard for the first time all weekend in the second inning. After a leadoff double was moved to third on a grounder to second, Brent Rooker hit a single to left to give MSU the one-run lead.
Friday’s player of the game Bobby Dalbec answered right back in the bottom of the second. In his first at-bat of the series, he pounded an Austin Sexton offering over the left field lounge, tying the game at one.
It didn’t stay that way for long though. MSU loaded the bases with one out in the third thanks in part to errors by Dalbec and Zach Gibbons. A sac fly by Gavin Collins brought in the unearned run, making the score 2-1 Bulldogs.
They extended their lead to two in the fourth inning with a Rooker solo shot that led the inning off.
After the home run, Nathan Bannister retired nine of the final 11 batters he faced in the game. A leadoff double in the 7th chased him off the mound, as Arizona went with Tyler Crawford, the lone remaining member of the 2012 National Championship team.
He started his outing by allowing a sac bunt, allowing the runner to move to third. That brought Jake Mangum up to the plate. The freshman All-American hadn’t recorded a hit on the weekend to that point.
But after turning around to bat from the right side to face Crawford, Mangum lined a double to right-center, driving in MSU’s fourth run of the game.
Crawford eventually loaded the bases with a couple of walks before giving way to Cody Deason. The freshman righty induced a 6-4-3 double play to end the inning and the threat.
Rooker wasn’t done hitting home runs on Saturday. With one out in the eighth, he took Deason deep to left-center to make it a 5-1 game.
From there, it was all Arizona.