The University of Arizona baseball team is heading back to the College World Series in Omaha, Neb., for the 16th time in school history and the first time since 2004.
Arizona (43-17) dispatched St. John's (40-23), 7-4, before a crowd of 3,907 fans at historic Hi Corbett Field. The victory was the club's 30th at the venue this season and marks the most overall victories in a single season for the program since 1989.
The Wildcats, the designated visiting team, jumped out to a three-run lead in the top of the first inning. From there, Arizona rode the arm of sophomore right-hander Konner Wade, who tossed his fourth complete game of the season in an efficient 98 pitches over nine innings.
After a thrilling 10th-inning walk-off victory on June 8, Arizona carried its momentum over into the June 9 contest. Seth Mejias-Brean, Bobby Brown and Joseph Maggi delivered run-scoring singles in the opening frame to spot the UA the 3-0 lead.
Arizona tacked on a fourth run in the top of the second inning. Joey Rickard drew a one-out walk and moved to second on Johnny Field's single, before Alex Mejia poked a run-scoring single to right field to extend the lead to 4-0.
That was nearly enough run support for Wade, who did not allow a base runner until Kyle Richardson reached on an infield single in the fourth inning. A double-play, one of two on the day and five in the series for the Wildcats, erased Richardson, allowing Wade to face the minimum through 4.2 innings.
With two down in the fifth, Sean O'Hare reached on a throwing error by second baseman Trent Gilbert. Later, Danny Bethea drove in O'Hare on a single to put the Red Storm on the scoreboard.
Wade surrendered a second unearned run in the bottom of the sixth, as another error by Gilbert was eventually followed by a passed ball and an RBI groundout by Matt Wessinger.
Suddenly it was a 4-2 ballgame, before the Wildcats' bats came alive in the top of the seventh. Mejias-Brean hit a ground-rule double to open the inning and Brown followed with a two-bagger of his own to plate Mejias-Brean. After a groundout, Riley Moore singled up to middle to knock in Brown and give the Wildcats some breathing room and a 6-2 lead.
The Red Storm answered with another run in the bottom of the seventh, but Arizona tacked on an additional insurance run in the top of the ninth on Field's sacrifice fly.
Wade ran into a bit of trouble in the bottom of the ninth after consecutive singles put runners on the corners with nobody out. But the right-hander induced a 5-4-3 double play, which allowed a run to score, before a soft grounder ended the game and capped a season to remember for a resilient group.
A day after racking up 18 base hits, the Red Storm mustered just six all game against Wade, who for the first time this season did not walk a batter or hit a batter during one of his 17 starts. He struck out two and faced just six over the minimum all day on Saturday.
Offensively, the Wildcats rapped out a dozen hits of their own on Saturday. In five postseason games, the club has hit .420 and outscored the opposition a cumulative 61-20, including a 19-4 margin in two-out RBI. Wildcat hitters have drawn 26 walks and struck out just 21 times in those games.
Arizona heads to Omaha with a Pac-12 co-championship, a Tucson Regional championship and a Tucson Super Regional championship in tow. The Wildcats now will have a chance to win their fourth national championship.
The 2012 College World Series begins on June 15 and continues through June 26 at TD Ameritrade Park. The Wildcats will play their opening round game against the winner of the Tallahassee Super Regional (Stanford vs. Florida State) on either June 15 or June 16.