Jun 25, 2016 11:17 PM
Arizona heading to CWS finals after 5-1 win over Cowboys
The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) The celebration was subdued after Arizona earned its spot in the College World Series finals. A bunch of players gathered in the outfield grass and tried out some funny dance moves. That was all.
The dogpile can wait. The Wildcats are looking for an even bigger party.
Led by Bobby Dalbec and Zach Gibbons, Arizona beat Oklahoma State 5-1 on Saturday to grab a shot at its second national championship in five years.
The Wildcats (48-22), picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 in the preseason, improved to 6-0 in NCAA Tournament elimination games. Next up is the first day of the best-of-three finals on Monday against Coastal Carolina, a 7-5 winner over TCU in the late game Saturday night.
"We love being together, and we want to keep going as long as we can," first-year Arizona coach Jay Johnson said. "The competitive side to it? I'd walk down an alley with those guys at 2 in the morning in the roughest part of the world, and we're going to come out of it fine."
Dalbec pitched seven innings of one-run ball and Gibbons drove in three runs, helping Arizona win Bracket 1 with its second victory against Oklahoma State in two days.
Dalbec (11-5), a fourth-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, allowed only two baserunners over his last four innings. He struck out six and is leading the national tournament with 33 in his five appearances.
"He's been borderline legendary here in the postseason," Johnson said.
The Wildcats chased Thomas Hatch (9-3) when their first two batters reached in the third inning. It was the shortest outing of the season for the Chicago Cubs' third-round pick. He was charged with four runs and five hits.
"What a remarkable season," OSU coach Josh Holliday said. "He missed last season due to injury. He bounced back and became a first-team All-American and Big 12 pitcher of the year. That kid walked in and twirled big-time games at big-time moments that allowed this team to get here."
Gibbons was 2 for 4 and drove in runs in the first, second and fourth innings. He went a combined 5 for 9 with five RBIs in the Friday and Saturday games. He is 9 for 19 (.473) with seven RBIs in five games in Omaha.
"Zach Gibbons was put on this planet to hit with runners in scoring position," Johnson said.
The Cowboys (43-22) threatened in the ninth against Kevin Ginkel, putting two runners on. Arizona shortstop Louis Boyd made a diving stop on Jon Littell's grounder and threw to first for the second out.
"I used to rate my play based on the amount of dirt I got on my jersey when I was younger," Boyd said. "I'm happy it's really dirty today. We got the ground ball we needed. I was able that I was happy to get to it."
Left-hander Alfonso Rivas then came on and struck out pinch hitter Colin Simpson to end the game.
"Our last two games in the Big 12 tournament were disheartening, but we never let that affect us," OSU's Corey Hassel said. "We knew we played well enough to go somewhere for a regional, and we got better and trusted the process. All of it came together at the right time. No matter how far we got knocked down, we came right back, and ultimately didn't believe there was anyone who could beat us."
Nobody did beat the Cowboys through the first seven games of the NCAA Tournament. After defeating Arizona 1-0 on Monday, the Cowboys had allowed only six runs in the tournament.
That untouchable pitching became very touchable the past two days. The Wildcats pounded out 14 hits Friday, and they had nine more Saturday. Hatch allowed four doubles after giving up one extra-base hit in his previous three starts.
"We've kind of played the role all year that we're the underdog," Boyd said. "We've totally embraced that. Whether or not we're the underdog going into Monday, it doesn't matter. We're playing the game of baseball, and we're playing it well."
BACK TO FINALS
Arizona is in the national championship game or series for the eighth time and is looking to become the fifth program with five CWS titles. That would tie the Wildcats with in-state rival Arizona State.
The attendance of 9,326 was the smallest since the CWS moved to TD Ameritrade Park in 2011. There was no guarantee any Saturday games would be necessary to determine bracket winners. The crowd also might have been affected by heat and the threat of severe thunderstorms.
Arizona plays Coastal Carolina in the best-of-three finals starting Monday.