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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona’s Wade’s confidence growing with each start

OMAHA, Neb. – Call it what you want. Revenge. Justice. All Arizona starting pitcher Konner Wade is calling it is a win. Arizona’s 4-0 World Series win over UCLA is a result of a lot of growth for Wade, who with Sunday’s win puts the Wildcats one win away from the College World Series Championship Series, no small feat for Wade.

Coming into Sunday night’s game, it was no secret that the “X-Factor,” if you will, was going to be the pitching of Wade, who has struggled with his confidence at times.

“We know if we go in there and Wade gives us a good outing and play good baseball, we have our chances,” UA left fielder Johnny Field said.

For a team that averages over seven runs per game, sometimes the difference between winning and losing just comes down to the guy on the mound.

That guy Sunday was Wade, who as few as two months ago was maybe the pitching rotation’s biggest question mark.

Against UCLA on April 14, Wade lasted just three innings in what turned into a 15-3 nightmare for the Wildcats. Wade gave up 10 hits and six runs, five of which were earned.

“I got hit pretty good the last time I pitched against them,” Wade said. “I knew they took advantage of the mistakes I made that game. I was really eager for the opportunity to throw against them today.”

Against the Bruins Sunday night, Wade tossed just the 79th complete game shutout in World Series history, and the first World Series shutout since the Wildcats’ Craig Lefferts shutout Michigan in Arizona’s 1980 World Series championship run.

“ We weren’t ourselves tonight, but it had a lot to do with him,” UCLA head coach John Savage said. “We had our way with him, I don’t know, a month and a half, two months ago, and he really, really pitched well tonight.”

Wade’s performance Sunday night not only dropped his postseason ERA to 1.53, but marked the second time in three games he did not walk a batter, no small feat against a Bruin team who walks an average of 3.6 times per game.

“Needless to say, Konner Wade’s performance, it’s an understatement for me to say he was outstanding,” Arizona head coach Andy Lopez said.

Understatement indeed. Through three innings, Wade had only tossed 26 pitches, 20 of which were strikes. Through four innings, Wade had only thrown 10 balls, forced eight groundouts and still had a perfect game in tact.

Not bad for a guy who threw 20 balls in his first 22 pitches and gave up four runs in just one inning of work against New Mexico State in mid-March.

The Konner Wade of mid-March may have been rattled by Sunday’s fifth inning, in which the Bruins loaded the bases with two out in a rally, but not this new Wade.

“I probably wouldn’t have handled it as well as I did,” Wade said. “But I was able to get out of it.”

Lopez came to the mound and told Wade to stay on the track he had been paving, and the next pitch, Wade got out of the inning, forcing UCLA’s Kevin Williams to pop out.

From that pitch through the end of the game, the Bruins reached base just two more times.

“That was huge,” Wade said. “A couple of those pitches I made before that weren’t where I wanted to be. I was able to get out of the inning, which was nice.”

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