Wildcats to Play for NCAA Baseball Title

A 10-3 victory over Florida State clears a path to the championship series.
June 21, 2012
Kurt Heyer
Kurt Heyer
A win over Florida State has advanced Arizona to the championship series. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)
A win over Florida State has advanced Arizona to the championship series. (Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics)

OMAHA, Neb. – Arizona thumped Florida State, 10-3, on June 21 to win its side of the bracket and earn a spot in the NCAA championship series at TD Ameritrade Park.

The UA pounded out 15 hits and used two big innings to score all its runs, taking advantage of some Florida State mistakes and using a solid pitching performance from junior Kurt Heyer (13-2), who won his 13th game to earn a spot in UA's all-time single-season victories chart. Heyer beat Florida State twice in the series.

The Cats' mark in Omaha is 3-0. They avoided an if-necessary game against Florida State and moved it into the 7 p.m. (CDT) June 24 game against either Arkansas or South Carolina.

Arizona (46-17) took a 6-0 lead in the bottom of the first, batting around and helped by three Florida State errors.

Joey Rickard led off with a hit and moved to third when pitcher Brandon Leibrandt threw Johnny Field's sure-thing double-play grounder past second base and into center. Alex Mejia blooped a single into short right to drive in Rickard, and Robert Refsnyder drew a walk to load the bases.

Seth Mejias-Brean hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Field to make it 2-0. The Cats pulled a double steal with Mejia sliding under the tag at third. Leibrandt continued to struggle, reloading the bases in issuing a walk to Bobby Brown.

A pair of errors by left fielder Jose Brizuela on Joseph Maggi's single made it 4-0. Maggi's hit drove in Mejia, and a mishandle by the fielder allowed Refsnyder to continue running and score. Brizuela's subsequent throw was in the dirt at the plate and allowed Brown and Maggi to move up an extra base, for two more in scoring position.

The action chased Leibrandt in favor of reliever Luke Weaver. He struck out Riley Moore but Trent Gilbert singled to left to bring in two more runs, both unearned, to make it 6-0, and then struck out Rickard to end the inning.

In all the damage cost the Seminoles four unearned runs and had Leibrandt (8-3) leave the game after one-third of an inning, with three walks and three hits. In two games against Arizona in the College World Series, Leibrandt pitched four and one-third innings, well under his season average of five-plus innings per appearance.

The Seminoles (50-17) answered with singles by Jayce Boyd and Justin Gonzalez to put two on with one out in the second, but Heyer got two fly balls to end the threat.

A single by Refsnyder and walks by Mejias-Brean and Brown loaded the bases with two outs in the bottom of the second, but Maggi flied out to strand three.

The Seminoles got on the board in the top of the fourth. Boyd singled to right, and Gonzalez followed an out later with a deeper ball in right-center for an RBI double.

Arizona got into FSU's bullpen in the fourth. Refsnyder hit a one-out solo home run, his seventh, to get the run back in the UA's half of the inning. It was the Cats' first in the series and third in the eight NCAA games this year. It was his first homer since May 12 at Cal and in the most likely spot at TD Ameritrade Park, down the line where the fence is 340 or so in front of the bullpens.

After Refsnyder's home run, Mejias-Brean doubled down the left field line and then Brown smacked a 2-0 pitch into the matching bullpen in right to make it 9-1. FSU responded by bringing in reliever Kyle Bird, ending Weaver's stint at three innings.

Maggi singled and Moore walked and FSU brought in its fourth pitcher, Brandon Johnson. He got a flyout from Gilbert and FSU brought in Gage Smith, the Seminoles' fifth hurler in the game.

Rickard singled through the left side to drive in Brandon Dixon, pinch running for Maggi, and make it 10-1. Field walked to load the bases and bring up UA's ninth batter in the frame, Mejia, who flied out to strand three more.

After a single by Brizuela, Sherman Johnson drew a walk off Heyer in the top of the fifth, only the ninth base on balls off the UA pitching in 71 innings of postseason play to that point.

It snapped a string of 18 and one-third innings of no walks issued by UA pitchers in Omaha since one he issued the seventh inning of the CWS opener. Heyer struck out Devon Travis, got a fly ball from James Ramsey and a groundout from Boyd to leave two aboard.

Gonzalez doubled down the left field line with one out in the sixth, but Heyer retired the next two batters and the Seminoles left a seventh runner on base. The Cats went down one-two-three for the first time in the bottom of the frame.

Florida State got to Heyer in the seventh and scored another run. Brizuela collected another hit to lead off the seventh, and after Heyer walked Johnson, UA assistant Shaun Cole took a mound visit and UA got its bullpen working.

Heyer walked Travis to load the bases. James Ramsey fouled out, but Boyd hit a sacrifice fly to right, scoring Brizuela to make it 10-2. Stephen McGee fouled out to Moore behind the plate, stranding two more.

Against a seventh Seminoles pitcher, Peter Miller, Mejia was hit by a pitch but erased on a double play ball by Refsnyder to start the Cats' seventh. Mejias-Brean singled through the right side and Brown drew a walk, but Dixon was struck out looking to strand two Cats, the 12th of the game.

Heyer gave way to freshman lefthander Tyler Crawford with one out in the eighth, his second appearance backing Heyer at the CWS. Heyer left the game with a typical 123 pitches thrown, 75 of them for strikes. He scattered nine hits, walked three and struck out three.

Florida State tied a CWS record with an eighth pitcher in a nine-inning game when Bryant Holtmann came in to pitch. After a two-out fielding error he gave up base hits to Field and Mejia before a groundball from Refsnyder ended the inning. The Cats three stranded runners gave them 15, a season high.

Back-to-back one-out doubles by Johnson and Travis produced another run for the Seminoles in the top of the ninth.