The Arizona Wildcats dethroned the two-time defending College World Series champion South Carolina Gamecocks Monday night, sweeping the final series and silenced the few “S-E-C” chants that follow college baseball. In notching their first baseball national championship since 1986, the Wildcats joined a select group of schools with four titles all-time.
Finishing 2012 at 48-17, Arizona boasted an elite club late in the year but one that failed to land a national seed. It didn’t matter because as the hardball in Omaha showcases annually, the trophy favors the hottest team in June (see regional fourth seed Fresno State in 2008). It is manager Andy Lopez’s second national title, he won another with Pepperdine in 1992 and Lopez punches his individual ticket into the prestigious club of skippers to take two different schools to championships (along with Augie Garrido: Cal State-Fullerton and Texas).
In Game One, the Wildcats received timely performances from starter Konner Wade, who tossed his third complete game in a row and College World Series Most Outstanding Player Robert Refsnyder. The latter kept up his torrid hitting pace, going deep to push his stat line in Omaha to a memorable 8/18 with 2 home runs. He’s been so detrimental (and completed his run at the CWS 10/21 with 5 RBI) to opposing pitchers that South Carolina intentionally walked Refsnyder twice on Sunday.
Game Two saw a sterling effort from Arizona starter James Farris (7 2/3 innings, 2 hits, 1 earned run) and a clutch offensive ninth inning that produced three go-ahead runs. The loss ends a remarkable run in Omaha for South Carolina, who matched Oregon State’s back-to-back titles from 2006-2007. Where the Gamecocks distinguished themselves though were elimination games, winning them with ease over the last three years.
Finally, an adversary found a way to put South Carolina down. And though the Southeastern Conference managed to finish atop the football and basketball standings, baseball’s national title is bound for Tuscon and the Pac 12.