Arizona scored one run in the first inning and two in the seventh to claim a 3-0 victory over Coastal Carolina in the first game of the NCAA National Championship Series Monday night at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha. The same teams will meet again Tuesday at 7 pm (CT)/8 pm (ET) on ESPN and, should Coastal (53-18) win, the teams will play in a winner-take-all game Wednesday.
The Wildcats (49-22) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first. Leadoff hitter Cody Ramer hit the second pitch of the game for a ground rule double and scored two batters later on an RBI single to center field by Ryan Aguilar. However, after a walk to put runners on first and second, Zack Hopeck recorded back-to-back strikeouts to limit the damage.
Arizona threatened in the third as Ramer hit a leadoff single and Zach Gibbons doubled. Hopeck responded with a shallow fly out, keeping the runners at second and third, and a strikeout. He did allow a walk to load the bases, but escaped unscathed by getting an inning-ending ground out.
The Wildcats were kept in check until the top of the seventh when they scored twice to take a 3-0 lead. Cesar Salazar a leadoff single, moved to second on a sac bunt, which ended the day for Hopeck. Ramer walked to put runners on the corners with one out. Gibbons followed with a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Salazar. On the play, Ramer tagged at first and beat the tag at second. His hustle play proved key as Aguilar followed with an RBI single.
Coastal would have chances in the both the eighth and ninth innings, but came up empty to suffer just its second shutout of the season and first since Mar. 8 (Wake Forest won 11-0).
In the eighth, Tyler Chadwick had leadoff single. With two outs, Michael Paez put a charge into the ball that looked to be a two-run home run, but the ball was caught just shy of going out of the park. Then in the ninth, Anthony Marks and Zach Remillard started the frame with singles before Arizona starter JC Cloney got a double play and strikeout to end the contest.
Cloney (8-4) earned the win, pitching nine shutout innings. He allowed four hits and three walks with six strikeouts.
Hopeck (3-4) was the tough-luck loser. The sophomore scattered five hits and three walks to allow two runs. He pitched a career-high 6.1 innings and tied his career high with five strikeouts. Cole Schaefer worked the final 2.2 innings and allowed one hit, one run and one walk.
Coastal Carolina & Arizona press conferences