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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona’s Refsnyder comes up big in more ways than one

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Gerry Melendez
Robert Refsnyder of teh Arizona Wildcats crosses home plate after his two-run homer in the first inning against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the College World Series game Sunday, June 24, 2012, at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Nebraska. (Gerry MelendezThe State/MCT)

OMAHA, Neb. – They weren’t feeling any anxiety or nervousness, but Arizona left fielder Robert Refsnyder’s opposite field two-run homer in the bottom of the first certainly didn’t hurt the Wildcats, who used his blast as a springboard to a 5-1 won over South Carolina in Game 1 of the College World Series final.

“I don’t think there were any jitters, to be honest with you,” Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said. “I think when you score in the postseason, it just feels good to be up versus chasing runs.”

Lopez’s Wildcats have yet to lose a game in the World Series, and even more remarkably, have yet to trail in four games in Omaha. With Sunday’s win, Arizona improved its record to 27-6 when it scores first and 23-5 when they score in the first inning.

“When you get ahead of an opponent like that, that’s been here two years in a row, this is the third, to be honest, you get more relief,” UA shortstop Alex Mejia said. “You get settled in faster than you would as opposed to going into the ninth chasing one or two.”

Refsnyder’s home run, his eighth of the year, which drifted into the South Carolina bullpen in right field, partly because of a hitter friendly wind that blew from left to right field, was the first South Carolina has given up in its last 77 innings of play, stretching back to a June 2 game against Clemson.

Refsnyder now has two home runs in Omaha, which is no small feat considering the Wildcats have only hit 23 of them on the season. Arizona may not hit a lot of home runs, but when they do hit one out of the park, they have a 15-3 record.

After Refsnyder’s home run, South Carolina made an effort to take him out of the game, intentionally walking him twice, but his presence was still felt, as he recorded a single in the seventh inning that set up a Bobby Brown RBI single to the right side, which scored Refsnyder from second.

“Anytime you can get a little bit of a lead for (Arizona starting pitcher) Konner (Wade), it helps his confidence I’m sure,” Refsnyder said. “South Carolina is the two time defendin champ. Anytime you can get ahead of a team like that, you’re going to need every run against them.”

Refsnyder also impacted the game defensively, catching two South Carolina pop flies in the sixth inning, both of which could have gone for RBIs with South Carolina catcher Grayson Greiner threatening on second base following his center field double.

Refsnyder’s play of the game however, came on a perfect throw out from right field to third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean while South Carolina’s Adam Matthews attempted to reach third base from first on a Kyle Martin single.

Matthews reached second base safely, but hesitated rounding the base.

“When he (Martin) touched the ball off, I said ‘That ball’s been hit hard,’” South Carolina head coach Ray Tanner said. “I expected it to be off the warning track, one hop the fence or something. He had to make the perfect throw to third. He did.”

“I was surprised Matthews decided to take the extra base,” Refsnyder said. “I saw he kind of hesitated, so I just decided to let it rip. If you throw the ball anywhere near (Arizona third baseman) Seth (Mejias-Brean), he’s got the hands of apes, so it was pretty easy. It was a big momentum shift for us.”

Refsnyder’s brilliant defense and timely hitting now have the Wildcats one game away from an NCAA title. Arizona will continue its championship series against South Carolina Monday night at 7 p.m. CDT.

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