Power surges Wildcats to finals
Notebook: South Carolina pitchers allow five hits in two games
OMAHA, Neb. – A lot has been made about the pitching and defense of the teams that made it to Omaha in 2012. The days of gorilla ball are long gone. But that doesn’t mean teams can’t swing the bats.
Arizona’s lineup awoke on Thursday in a 10-3 dismantling of Florida State to send the Wildcats to the CWS Championship Series. The Wildcats hit just .219 in their first two games in Omaha, but that all changed against the Seminoles.
Arizona scored six runs in the first inning to become the second team at the CWS to bat around in an inning, and the first to score that many times in the first frame since June 15, 2003, when South Carolina put up six against LSU. Ten batters came to the plate as Florida State’s freshman ace Brandon Leibrandt last just 1/3 of an inning.
“It was just a tremendous job by [Arizona] and the way they played the game,” Florida State head coach Mike Martin said. “They were very difficult outs all day long. They battled extremely well, especially offensively.”
On a team that has seen its starters pitch at least 7.0 innings in each game of the NCAA tournament, Arizona has a lethal combination of offense, pitching and defense. The Wildcats even got the home run involved Thursday with two, marking just the third time all season Arizona hit more than one in a game. Both came in a four-run fourth inning by Bobby Brown and Robert Refsnyder.
Refsnyder wasn’t even feeling right.
“Funny part is, I felt terrible in batting practice,” Refsnyder said. “I was popping up everything. I was glad coach Lopez didn't see, yelling at me a lot. With my home run, I just saw he was pitching me out, Florida State has been pitching me out a little bit. So I was looking away and kind of reacted on a fastball in. Anytime you get away from Hi Corbett [Field], it's nice, hit the ball in the air, it might go.”
It also marked the first time a team had hit multiple home runs in an inning at the College World Series shifted over to TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The last team to do it was Florida State against TCU on June 24, 2010.
And if Arizona is going to continue to score, they will be really tough to beat in a best-of-three. The Wildcats are now 18-0 when scoring nine runs or more this season and has won 55 games in a row when doing so, dating back to March 2, 2010.
All of it done against a Florida State pitching staff which boasted a team ERA of 1.92 in eight postseason games with 75 strikeouts and just 18 walks.
The Wildcats are clicking on all cylinders.
FRESH VET: First it was a senior who kept South Carolina’s season alive with a complete game two-hitter on Thursday. Then it was time for a freshman to take the stage and get the Gamecocks to a Friday game.
Freshman Jordan Montgomery threw eight innings of three-hit ball while not allowing a run in a 2-0 win against Arkansas. The lefthander followed right in the footsteps of his elder Michael Roth, picking up right where he left off.
Roth retired the final 22 Kent State batters in the first of three College World Series games on Thursday. Montgomery got that streak to 34 of 35 opponents who were kept off base.
In all, South Carolina pitchers faced just three batters over the minimum in their 18 innings of work. Both games saw masterpieces, but it was business as usual for this Gamecocks team which has allowed four runs or fewer in 18 consecutive CWS games dating back to 2004.
“I’ve learned a lot from those lefties,” Montgomery said. “I watched Roth out there and knew I had to follow up by putting zeroes on the board.”
Talk about things working out perfectly for the two-time defending champions. For a team that needed to play three games in day, Ray Tanner’s team needed only three pitchers in two games, setting up perfectly for Friday night’s rematch against the Razorbacks. His starters threw a combined 17 innings, allowing one run on five hits and one walk.
In the process, South Carolina became the first team since 1952 to win two games on the same day in the CWS. Only two other teams have accomplished that feat, Holy Cross in 1952 and Tennessee in 1951.
That’s what two-time defending national champions do.
QUICK HITS: An SEC team is guaranteed to be in the CWS Championship Finals for the fifth consecutive year, as Arkansas or South Carolina will win Bracket Two. … Through the CWS’s first 12 games this year, the losing team’s starting pitcher has averaged just 3.14 innings, while the winning team’s starter has averaged 7.11 innings. … Arkansas’ Brandon Moore tossed 5.2 innings of relief and was the 21st scoreless relief outing of that length or more at the CWS since 1961 and the seventh among those to include two or fewer hits allowed. The last to toss that many shutout innings of relief in a loss was Doug Slocum of Arizona State in the 1973 national championship game. …