The Arizona Wildcats will get at least one more crack at the Oklahoma State pitching staff.
U of A avoided elimination on Wednesday, taking down the UC-Santa Barbara Gauchos by a score of 3-0, and setting up the rematch with OSU on Friday.
The Gauchos made an interesting choice on the mound, starting Justin Kelly for the first time since the very first weekend of the season. He went up against JC Cloney, and Cloney, who had struggled of late, won the matchup.
All of the runs in this one came in the third inning.
Cody Ramer and Zach Gibbons opened the frame with a single and walk, bringing up Bobby Dalbec with no one out.
Arizona’s two-way star hit a long fly ball to center, which was caught, but put Ramer on third. Another fly ball to center by Ryan Aguilar allowed Ramer to score, putting the Cats up 1-0.
But then Jared Oliva came up and ended the small ball phase of the game with a two-run homer into the left field bullpen, putting Arizona up 3-0.
NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 23, 2016
That was all the Wildcats would need.
Arizona ran itself out of a possible run in the second. With JJ Matijevic on first and Kyle Lewis up to bat, Lewis grounded a ball hard to the right side.
Unfortunately, it hit Matijevic in the leg, erasing him from the basepaths instead of having two on with just one out in the inning.
It proved costly, as Ryan Haug followed that with a single up the middle, which would have likely scored Matijevic. Instead, it put runners on first and second for Louis Boyd, who grounded out to short to end the inning and the threat.
The very next inning, UCSB had runners on first and second, but a nice double play turned by Boyd and Aguilar kept the game scoreless.
After scoring the three runs in the third, U of A would put the leadoff hitter on base in the 4th, forcing Andrew Checketts to make a pitching change. He went to Trevor Bettencourt, who stranded that runner at first thanks to a trio of strikeouts with his ridiculous curve ball.
Bettencourt continued his dominance of Arizona hitters throughout the rest of the game, setting down 13 straight before a Dalbec single in the 8th. The command of his curveball was just outstanding.
But it was too little, too late for the Gauchos, as Cloney rolled through seven innings of shutout baseball, scattering five hits and two walks along the way.
As has been the case in the postseason, Cameron Ming, who is now sporting a mustache (kind of), came on to close out the game, recording the final six outs, allowing the Wildcats to stay alive. He did allow two runners to reach in the ninth, but worked out of it with three strikeouts.
Arizona will now play Oklahoma State again on Friday at Noon PT. The Wildcats will need to beat the Cowboys twice to advance to the CWS Finals. I’d think Nathan Bannister would start in that game against OSU's Jensen Elliott. OSU has not allowed a run in the CWS, so winning two games against them is certainly no easy task.