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College World Series game blog: Wade’s shutout puts Arizona in driver’s seat

Johnny Field

Johnny Field signals a runner to hold up after he scored Arizona's first run in the fourth inning. Photo by Bruce Thorson-US PRESSWIRE

Konner Wade threw the first Arizona shutout at the College World Series since 1980, leading the Wildcats to a 4-0 victory over UCLA on Sunday night.

Arizona moves into the driver’s seat in its half of the bracket, having won its first two games. The Cats are off until Thursday at 2 p.m. Tucson time, when they will play the winner of Tuesday’s elimination game between UCLA and Florida State.

If Arizona loses Thursday, the teams will play again Friday with a berth in the best-of-three championship series on the line. The championship series begins Sunday.

Wade retired the first 14 batters before allowing three consecutive hits with two outs in the fifth. He got out of the bases-loaded jam when second baseman Kevin Williams flied out to left.

Wade (10-3) finished with a five-hitter, striking out four and walking none.

The last Arizona shutout at the College World Series was accomplished by Craig Lefferts against Michigan in 1980.

* * *

Three outs away. Konner Wade gives up a single with one out in the eighth, but quickly puts out the fire by getting a groundball to third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean, who starts a double play.

* * *

Freshman catcher Riley Moore’s one-out single in the seventh chases UCLA starter Nick Vander Tuig. Moore, the eighth hitter in the order, is now 11 of 26 in the postseason (.423). Just another example of how there are no soft spots in the UA lineup.

The new pitcher is freshman lefty Grant Watson, who is 9-2 with a 4.41 ERA. He retires left-handed hitting Trent Gilbert, who does his job with a sacrifice bunt that gets Moore to second.

UCLA continues to play the matchups, bringing in freshman side-arm righty David Berg to face leadoff hitter Joey Rickard. Berg wins the battle in one pitch, getting Rickard to bounce out.

Going to the eight. Arizona up 4-0.

* * *

Konner Wade is through six scoreless innings, with only 72 pitches. He could be looking at his second consecutive complete game. His postseason ERA (four starts over two seasons) has dropped to 1.20.

* * *

The Arizona lineup is back to its three-up, three-down pattern vs. UCLA’s Nick Vander Tuig. Leadoff hitter Joey Rickard has struck out three times. But with a 4-0 lead going to the sixth inning, the rest of this game might be all about pitching and defense.

* * *

Andy Lopez on Konner Wade during the in-game ESPN interview: “Throwing a lot of strikes. If he throws strikes, he’s pretty effective. So far, so good.”

* * *

Konner Wade’s perfect game lasts 4 2/3 innings. He then leaves a pitch up at the top of the strike zone, and shortstop Pat Valaika takes it the other way and plops it into right field.

Just as what happened in the bottom of the fourth with Arizona, the floodgates open … and UCLA follows with two more singles to load the bases.

Wade needs only one pitch, though, to get second baseman Kevin Williams to fly out to left to end the inning.

* * *

UCLA’s Nick Vander Tuig threw 35 pitches in the fourth inning. He needed only 33 through the first three innings.

* * *

First 22 batters of the game: No hits.

Next five: All hits.

Arizona strings ‘em together with one out in the bottom of the fourth, with Seth Mejias-Brean coming up with two RBIs with a bases-loaded line-drive single just over the glove of the second baseman.

Bobby Brown follows with another two-run hit — this one a stand-up double down the right-field line.

Arizona isn’t able to do more damage, but it does bat around and will take that 4-0 lead into the fifth.

* * *

And there’s a hit. The first 22 batters of the game were retired in order until Arizona’s Johnny Field became the first baserunner when he sliced an opposite field shot just inside the right-field line with one out in the fourth.

* * *

Konner Wade makes it a fourth perfect inning. He has been working down in the zone — his pitches have natural arm-side sink — and has gotten eight of 12 outs on the ground. He had two strikeouts and two flyouts.

* * *

A pair of perfect games through three innings. Jinx!

UCLA’s Nick Vander Tuig has thrown 33 pitches. Konner Wade just 26.

* * *

Fifteen batters up, fifteen batters down. Not much more say to that.

* * *

Konner Wade needs only 14 pitches to get through two innings. He drops his postseason ERA — this is his fourth such start — to 1.38. Feeling pretty good about next season’s Friday starter?

* * *

Each team goes down 1-2-3 in the first inning. Konner Wade needed only eight pitches to get through the top of the winning, looking calm and in control.

* * *

Same ol’ Arizona lineup. You know it, you love it:

1. CF Joey Rickard
2. LF Johnny Field
3. SS Alex Mejia
4. RF Robert Refsnyder
5. 3B Seth Mejias-Brean
6. DH Bobby Brown
7. 1B Joseph Maggi
8. C Riley Moore
9. 2B Trent Gilbert

* * *

Konner Wade has made three postseason starts, including throwing seven scoreless innings in an elimination game against Seton Hall in a regional in College Station, Texas, last season.

Wade has thrown 24 postseason innings, allowing 19 hits and eight runs — only four earned. That works out to an ERA of 1.50. He has struck out nine and walked five in that span.

* * *

UCLA won the season series against Arizona, taking two of three at Hi Corbett Field in mid-April.

Of particular interest is the second game of that series, when the Bruins knocked around UA starter Konner Wade, touching him for 10 hits and six runs (five runs) in three innings. UCLA went on to make more hay against reliever Vincent Littleman.

Wade comes in confident, though, coming off last weekend’s complete game victory that clinched the Super Regional against St. John’s.

UCLA will counter with sophomore right-hander Nick Vander Tuig (10-3, 4.35), who was the winning pitcher in Tucson in the game Wade started. He went 5 2/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three runs, while striking out one and walking one.

* * *

Pac-12 co-champs Arizona and UCLA will be meeting in Omaha in a critical winners’ bracket game tonight.

The second game of a double-elimination tournament is where a team can take the easy path … or the hard path.

Consider the options:

–If Arizona wins, it is off until Thursday, having two chances to win one game to advance to the best-of-three championship series. The Cats would play either UCLA or Florida State, which eliminated Stony Brook on Sunday afternoon. If Arizona were to lose Thursday, the teams would meet again on Friday.

–If Arizona loses, it has to play Tuesday in an elimination game against Florida State. Win that game and then the Wildcats would need to beat UCLA on Thursday and Friday.

Given UA’s lack of pitching depth, Option A becomes even more desirable.

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