The Arizona Wildcats are now one win away from a National Championship.
JC Cloney led them to a CWS Final-opening win with a four-hit shutout of the Coastal Carolina Chanticleers, giving Arizona a 3-0 win.
Thank you... Thank you...— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 28, 2016
True SUPER ⭐️ performance by JC Cloney! #BearDown pic.twitter.com/VdpPfskrda
Ten of the last 13 teams to win the first game of the best-of-three series have gone on to take the whole thing.
"Hall of Fame performance," Arizona head coach Jay Johnson said after the game. "I don't know how many good swings they got on him tonight. He has a special level of competitiveness that's been on display here for 16 innings and it's been a special performance."
Cloney has not allowed a run in 16 innings pitched in Omaha, having a seven inning performance against UC-Santa Barbara on Wednesday.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early lead on Zach Hopeck, who had been used sparingly by CCU over the last month or so. Cody Ramer led the game off with a double down the left field line. He would move up to third on a Zach Gibbons groundout, and then come home thanks to an RBI single up the middle off the bat of Ryan Aguilar.
They would only get the one run out of it though as Jared Oliva and Alfonso Rivas both struck out with two runners on.
Hopeck would continue striking out batters, matching his career high of five whiffs in the first three innings.
That third inning was a bit of a Houdini act by him though.
The Wildcats would put two runners in scoring position before recording an out thanks to a Ramer single and Gibbons double to start the third. But Hopeck escaped with a short fly out, strikeout and groundout forced to get out of the situation unscathed.
In the fourth, Ramer continued his ridiculous game with this defensive play.
GLOVE OPTIONAL!— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 28, 2016
Cody Ramer's HUGE day continues for Arizona... this time with a glove-free out! #CWS pic.twitter.com/bkigWh11oG
That led right into him drawing a leadoff walk in the fifth. A couple of fielder’s choices and a foul out made that irrelevant though.
WEB GEM! Zach Remillard covers a whole lot of ground making this TREMENDOUS snag! #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/aa749eWa1k— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 28, 2016
Hopeck lasted into the seventh, pitching 6 1/3 innings, more than CCU could have asked for.
He was replaced by Cole Schaefer, who inherited Cesar Salazar at second. A wild pitch moved the Arizona catcher to third base, and Ramer walked, putting runners on the corners with one out for Gibbons.
Gibbons hit a fly ball to center, which both runners tagged up on. The throw came into second, and the shortstop cut it off, costing CCU as the throw would have had gunned down Ramer if it had made it to the bag and the second baseman. It also would have gotten the Chants out of the inning without allowing a run because Salazar had not yet reached the plate.
But alas, Ramer was safe and Salazar scored to make it 2-0. Aguilar came right up and ripped the first pitch he saw to left field to drive in another, giving Arizona the 3-0 advantage.
Coastal was unable to hit the ball hard until the 7th. Then they hit a few fly balls to the warning track, but that’s not how you score in Omaha, and all of them were caught.
Zach Gibbons...— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 28, 2016
AMAZING AMAZING AMAZING CATCH!! #CWS pic.twitter.com/f4LLWp5HHd
The Chants had one last rally in them in the 9th. They put two runners on with no out, but a double play mitigated that trouble, and a Cloney strikeout looking ended the game.
The two teams will play again on Tuesday night for Game Two of the best-of-three series. First pitch is scheduled for 5 PM PT on ESPN.