Photo by Associated Press.
Originally Published: June 27, 2016 11:04 p.m.
OMAHA, Neb. — JC Cloney just keeps rolling along at the College World Series, pushing Arizona to the doorstep of its second national championship in five years.
Cloney pitched a four-hitter, Ryan Aguilar drove in two runs and the Wildcats beat Coastal Carolina 3-0 in Game 1 of the College World Series finals on Monday night.
Cloney extended his scoreless innings streak at the CWS to 16. The junior left-hander pitched seven innings in the Wildcats’ 3-0 win over UC Santa Barbara last Wednesday.
“I’m not really tired right now. The adrenaline is still going,” said Cloney, who threw 122 pitches. “I’m still trying to figure out what just happened.”
He wasn’t the only one. The Chanticleers, playing in the finals in their first CWS appearance, went down in order four times and never had a runner advance to second base until the ninth inning.
Cloney (8-4) allowed four singles, walked three and struck out six in the second complete game of his career. He was spot on with his location of a fastball in the 80s, a cutter, breaking ball and changeup. He induced 13 groundouts.
“You want to sit on a fastball, and he throws you a cutter. And you sit on the off-speed, and he throws a fastball,” said the Chanticleers’ Michael Paez.
The Wildcats (49-22) can wrap up their fifth national title and first since 2012 with a win Tuesday.
“They all know where we’re at and what we’re doing,” first-year coach Jay Johnson said. “We need to prepare well tonight, the coaching staff and players alike, and get ready to attack the opportunity.”
The Wildcats scored in the first when Aguilar singled in Cody Ramer, who led off with a double. Aguilar added another RBI single in the seventh to make it 3-0.
Coastal Carolina (53-18) threatened in the ninth. Anthony Marks singled leading off and Zach Remillard bunted down the third-base line for a base hit on a close play. Connor Owings hit into a double play, and Cloney caught G.K. Young looking at strike three to end the game.
Arizona’s defense, which has committed only one error at the CWS, continued to come up big. Second baseman Ramer, playing in short right field as part of a shift in the fourth, sprinted to bare-hand G.K. Young’s grounder. His throw to first barely beat Young’s headfirst slide. Right fielder Zach Gibbons went with his back to the wall to catch Paez’s deep fly to end the eighth inning.
“I thought I got enough of it,” Paez said, “but knowing this field, you can’t predict what’s going to happen.”
Coastal Carolina starter Zack Hopeck (3-4) lasted 6 1/3 innings and threw 103 pitches, both career highs. He tipped his cap to the Coastal fans and got a hug from reliever Bobby Morrison.
Hopeck was solid, but Cloney was great.
Coastal Carolina was shut out for just the second time this season, and first since an 11-0 loss to Wake Forest. The Chanticleers had scored in 58 straight games.
“The kids never quit,” Chanticleers coach Gary Gilmore said. “I think they were more frustrated than anything, just trying to figure out how to solve this guy and get some runners on base.”
Arizona pitching has yielded 12 earned runs in 11 CWS games at TD Ameritrade Park, for a 1.06 ERA. The Wildcats have allowed six earned runs in six games this year with 54 strikeouts in 54 innings.
Arizona can clinch its fifth national championship with a win in Game 2 on Tuesday night. Coastal Carolina will try to even the series and force a Game 3 on Wednesday.