In the least surprising turn of events ever, the Arizona Wildcats were locked in a pitchers’ duel at the College World Series on Monday.
Unfortunately, the Wildcats and Bobby Dalbec ended up on the wrong side of it, losing to the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Tyler Buffett by the score of 1-0.
Dalbec struck out 12 in eight innings, tying the mark for most strikeouts in a CWS game in TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
But Buffett matched him pitch-for-pitch, tossing eight innings of three-hit ball.
This catch to start the game by Ryan Sluder was just ridiculous, and ultimately ended up being the difference.
A web gem if there ever was one. #okstate pic.twitter.com/UJ7SE5Ak41— Jordan Smith (@Doafhat) June 21, 2016
"Honestly I was just trying to get a good read and sometimes that happens," Sluder explained. "It just fell in my glove. It's just instinct to dive and if you get it you get it, if you don't you don't. I've had a few pop out of my glove this year but luckily that one stayed in."
"That's as good as it gets," Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said afterwards. "Unfortunately I'm going to have to go home and watch it on Sportscenter I'm sure."
"I thought that ball was going to sit for sure," Cody Ramer added. "I was already rounding second by the time I heard the crowd go wild, so I know I'd either be standing on third or going home for an inside-the-parker, so I feel like it's a completely different game."
Zach Gibbons singled after this, which would have surely made the score 1-0 Arizona if Ramer hadn’t just scored himself on the play. Gibbons was stranded at first to keep the game scoreless after the first inning.
The Wildcats got a runner on base with one out again in the second. But a swing through by Cesar Salazar on a hit-and-run allowed the Cowboys to gun down Kyle Lewis at second.
The game would remain tied at zero until the top of the 4th. Donnie Walton led the frame off with a double for OSU, and was driven home by the very next batter, Garrett Benge.
Dalbec then "hit" the next guy up, putting runners on first and second with no outs. But a couple of strikeouts and a popup allowed him to escape the inning without any further damage.
Arizona never really threatened to score a run in this game. The Wildcats never had multiple runners on base in a single inning against Buffett. OSU’s pitching has just been too good, throwing up two shutouts to advance to the bracket final on Friday.
The game ended in somewhat controversial fashion. Gibbons hit a groundball to third base, and was originally called safe at first when the first baseman’s foot came off the bag.
That call was overturned by the home plate umpire after a meeting, which seems ridiculous without using replay. On replay, it looked like the umps ultimately made the right call, but reversing that call without replay is kind of amazing.
"After they talked about it, they said that they had felt like he was out," Johnson said of the explanation he received of the call. "I saw one video up on the board, and it looked like he was out. And I saw another one on my phone and his foot was off the bag."
The Wildcats will now take on the team that was shutout by OSU on Saturday, the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos. UCSB beat Miami 5-3 Monday afternoon to eliminate the Hurricanes while picking up the program’s first-ever win at the College World Series. OSU beat UCSB on Saturday, also by a score of 1-0. This is the first time ever that a team has opened the CWS with two 1-0 wins.
The elimination game will take place on Wednesday at 4 PM PT on ESPN. Arizona will be the home team.