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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona baseball claims 4-3 win in extra-innings thriller to open College World Series

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Amy Webb
Amy Webb / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA Baseball vs. NDSU in the opening weekend of the season and on Hi-Corbet Field.

OMAHA, Neb. — In a game Arizona led most of the way, the Wildcats baseball team opened up its 16th College World Series appearance with a 4-3 win over Florida State in 12 innings.

The game started slow for both teams, who both average over six runs per game. Arizona ace Kurt Heyer, who was going for his nation’s best 13th win, allowed six hits and three runs in 7 2/3 innings. Heyer struck out eight and walked three and was not a factor in the decision.

Heyer routinely found himself checking runners on the bases, as he was seemingly unable to fool Florida State’s batters as he did to so many others this season. Heyer gave up Arizona’s first walk in 22 innings in the third, following a solo home run by FSU leadoff man Sherman Johnson, his seventh career postseason homer, that put the Seminoles on the board.

The Wildcats replied with a fifth inning that they should have scored more than one run in. Center fielder Joey Rickard started the inning off, reaching base via hit by pitch. Left fielder Johnny Field reached base by trying to move Rickard to second, but was able to advance to third on a Mejia single.

Florida State freshman pitcher Brandon Leibrandt was pulled after the Mejia hit in favor of relief man Gage Smith. Leibrandt struck out five and gave up six hits in his World Series debut.

Arizona junior Robert Refsnyder singled up the right side, advancing Mejia to third on shortstop Justin Gonzalez’s second error of the game, coming on a bad throw trying to get Mejia out in a pickle situation. Field scored, and Seth Mejias-Brean came up to bat looking to extend the Arizona lead.

Mejias-Brean, however, grounded into a inning ending double play, stranding both Refsnyder and Mejia on the bases.

In the sixth, Florida State tied the game on a John Holland double that scored right fielder Josh Delph and Jayce Boyd, who lead the Seminoles with 28 multi-hit games this season, but was unable to extend that streak against Heyer.

Smith, who pitched 2 2/3 innings, gave up just one hit to Arizona. The one run they were able to score while he was on the mound was charged to Leibrandt.

In the eighth, Lopez finally called on his bullpen, after 128 pitches from Heyer. Tyler Crawford, who has the second most relief appearances on the team, entered the game in the middle of the eighth and forced an inning ending ground out from Delph.

The ninth inning came with all the drama one would expect from two undefeated postseason teams going at it in the World Series. Catcher Riley Moore, who was three-for-four on the night started off the inning with a single. Florida State All-American closer Robert Benincasa entered the game for Scantling and retired both Joey Rickard and Johnny Field, who was 0-for-five on the night, giving the Seminoles a walk-off opportunity in the bottom of the ninth.

Crawford held his own however, forcing all three FSU batters in the bottom of the ninth out.

The Wildcats went quickly and quietly in the 10th, as Mejia, Refsnyder, and Mejias-Brean all popped out, again bringing the Seminoles to the plate with a chance to walk off.

Crawford, who allowed a single to leadoff man Devon Travis to start the tenth, ended his night with a strike out of the Seminoles’ best batter, James Ramsey.

As the game crept into extra innings, Benincasa put on a showcase, retiring every Arizona batter – in a row – over the ninth, tenth, and 11th innings. Mathew Troupe, who replaced Crawford in the tenth frame was not as brilliant, giving up a single to Gonzalez that put the winning run on the board in the bottom of the 11th. Troupe did however, pick off Gonzalez at first and struck out Delph to push the gamei into the 12th.

Arizona finally got a bat on a ball in the 12th, as Rickard nailed a one-out double into center, and was then brought home by Johnny Field, who was 0-for-five at the plate before his double, putting Arizona up 4-3 in the 12th.

Troupe came back out in the bottom of the 12th, and retired three of the four batters he faced, ending the game.

***

Benincasa has put on a show in extra innings, mowing down every Arizona batter he faced in a row, until leadoff man Joey Rickard reached base on a double in the 12th inning.

Johnny Field, who was previously 0-5 at the plate brought Rickard home to take the lead 4-3. Benincasa intentionally waked Alex Mejia in order to get to Refsnyder, who was 2-5 at the plate.

Refsnyder struck out and Mejias-Brean grounded out, ending the Wildcats scoring.

4-3 bottom of the 12th

***

Florida State kicked off the 10th with a leadoff single by Devon Travis, bringing first-team All-American James Ramsey, who reached base on a single and two walks earlier in the game to the plate.

Crawford fell behind in the count to Ramsey 2-0, causing a meeting on the mound between Crawford and coach Lopez. Ramsey struck out swinging.

Mathew Troupe, who has 22 appearances for Arizona this season and a 3.90 ERA forced second team All-American Jayce Boyd to ground out, pushing the game to the 11th inning.

3-3 top of the 11th.

***

WIth a golden opportunity presented to them, Arizona was unable to get anything going against Benincasa, who retired both Joey Rickard (strike out looking) and Johnny Field, who had a miserable batting night, going 0-for-five in the game.

Crawford came right back at Florida State retiring both of the first batters he faced. Sherman Johnson, who hit a solo homer in the third inning, popped out to send the game to extra innings.

3-3 top of the 10th

***

Coach Lopez allowed Heyer to stay on the mound through seven innings, despite throwing 121 pitches. Freshman Tyler Crawford, who has the second most relief appearances on the team with 13, began to warm up in the top of the eighth inning.

In the top of the eighth, Arizona’s batters were once again silenced, this time by relief man Hunter Scantling, who replaced Gage Smith at the start of the inning. Scantling forced Mejias-Brean, designated hitter Bobby Brown, and Brandon Dixon, who was brought in at the start of the sixth in favor of freshman first baseman Joe Maggi, to fly out.

***

Heyer and Smith traded 1-2-3 innings in the bottom of the fifth and top of the fourth. Heyer struck out two, and is starting to make his mark on the game, having retired eight of a possible 12 batters over the course of the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings.

In the sixth, Heyer reached his 100th pitch, but in customary Andy Lopex fashion, remains in the game.

Heyer did give up an RBI double to designated hitter John Holland with two outs in the sixth, tying the game at three.

3-3

***

Arizona added another run in the fifth on a bad infield play by the Seminoles. Refsnyder recorded his second RBI of the game, scoring Johnny Field. Field reached base on a fielder’s choice single. Alex Mejia headed to third, thinking Refsnyder’s hit went farther than it did, but was bailed out by shortstop Justin Gonzalez’s second error of the game, on a throw back to second base.

Mejia reached third base safely, but Seth Mejias-Brean grounded into a double play, spoiling a great opportunity for the Wildcats.

Leibrandt was pulled in favor of relief pitcher Gage Smith. Leibrandt pitched 4 1/3 innings with five strikeouts and six hits.

3-1 Arizona

***

Florida State leadoff man Sherman Johnson took Kurt Heyer’s pitch over the wall in right field in the bottom of the third, shortening the Wildcats’ lead to 2-1. Heyer gave up the first walk of the game, and Arizona’s first in 22 innings to the James Ramsey.

Heyer bounced back however, striking out Jace Boyd, who leads Florida State with 28 multi-hit games and forcing catcher Stephen McGee to ground out, ending the third inning.

2-1 Arizona

***

A Riley Moore single started the third for Arizona, and a Trent Gilbert sacrifice bunt moved Moore into scoring position. Joey Rickard slapped a ball into left field, bringing Moore home, putting the Wildcats up 1-0.

The hitting continued with an Alex Mejia single on an error by Seminole shortstop Justin Gonzalez, moving Rickard to second. Robert Refsnyder’s single scored Rickard, pushing the Arizona lead to 2-0.

The third inning is the first time Arizona has been able to do much of anything offensively, as Leibrandt, until now, has shut down the Wildcats’ bats, to the tune of three hits (including Moore’s and Rickard’s) and three strikeouts. Leibrandt has thrown just 40 pitches.

2-0 Arizona

***

In the first inning, Arizona’s bats were quieted by pitcher Brandon Leibrandt. Only Alex Mejia was able to get on base, hitting a single up the middle.

The Seminoles knocked through two hits, both one-out singles before Heyer forced two fly outs from second-team All-American Jayce Boyd and catcher Stephen McGee.

0-0

***

No surprises in Arizona’s lineup for their first World Series game. Tonight’s lineup is as follows:

1. Joey Rickard (.326)
2. Johnny Field (.383)
3. Alex Mejia (.361)
4. Robert Refsnyder (.354)
5. Seth Mejias-Brean (.366)
6. Bobby Brown (.356)
7. Joseph Maggi (.333)
8. Riley Moore (.292)
9. Trent Gilbert (.280)

P: Kurt Heyer (12-2, 2.28 ERA)

Per usual, expect Maggi to come out of the game sometime after the fifth inning. Maggi will be replaced by Brandon Dixon (.252).

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