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College World Series: Arizona baseball shuts out Coastal Carolina in championship series opener

Jun 27, 2016

JC Cloney was brilliant on the mound and the top of the order provided the offensive spark as the Arizona Wildcats topped Coastal Carolina 3-0 Monday night in Omaha to take the first game of the College World Series Championship Series. 

Once again, leadoff man Cody Ramer got the ball rolling for the 'Cats, knocking the second pitch of the game for a ground-rule double down the left field line. He moved to third on a groundout from Zach Gibbons, and scored on an RBI single from Ryan Aguilar. Ramer has been key to igniting the Arizona offense, getting on base and eventually scoring to lead off their last three games. 

Despite throwing 28 pitches in the first inning, Coastal Carolina's starting pitcher Zack Hopeck settled in and managed to quiet the Wildcat offense that has averaged 4.4 runs per game – the most in the tournament. 

Arizona did manage to scratch across some insurance runs in the top of the seventh when Cesar Salazar lead off with a single against Hopeck, before Louis Boyd sacrificed him to second. That was all for Hopeck, as the righty ended up throwing 103 pitches over 6.1 innings, surrendering just two runs and walking three, while striking out five. 

Cole Schaefer came out of the bullpen for the Chanticleers, and a wild pitch from him allowed Salazar to take third. Ramer then worked a walk, reaching base for the fourth time in four plate appearances. Gibbons' sacrifice fly to center not only brought in Salazar from third, but allowed Ramer's bold base running to take second and put himself into scoring position. 

That moved proved to be crucial, as Aguilar followed it up with his second RBI single of the night, giving Arizona a 3-0 lead. 

And that was more than enough for Cloney, as Arizona pitching did as it has done all tournament. Entering Monday night's game, the Wildcats pitching staff led the CWS in ERA (1.20) and strikeouts (48). The lefty added to those impressive numbers in the championship series opener. Cloney allowed four hits and three walks while striking out six, including striking out the side in the bottom of the sixth. 

Coastal Carolina wouldn't go down without a fight, and things got dicey for the 'Cats in the bottom of the ninth. Anthony Marks led off with a single, and Zach Remillard executed a perfect bunt single up the third base line to put runners on first and second with nobody out. But Cloney induced a 4-6-3 double play and struck out G.K. Young looking to end the game and give Arizona a critical 1-0 in the best-of-three series. 

Cloney continued his impessive run on the mound, giving up four hits and three walks, while striking out six. Most impressively, Cloney has not allowed a run in Omaha. 

The Wildcats turned in an all-around perfomance on Monday night, playing near-flawless defense. With a runner on first in the bottom of the fourth, Ramer made a barehanded grab to get Young at first and end the inning. Not to be outdone, Gibbons later added a signature moment of his own. With two down and a runner on first in the bottom of the eighth, Michael Paez smoked a ball to right field. Gibbons made the leaping catch at the wall to end the threat and preserve the shutout. 

The 'Cats will look to bring home the championship on Tuesday night at 5 p.m PT/6 p.m. MT on ESPN.