OMAHA, Neb.– Arizona coach Andy Lopez thought he had the makings of a national championship team four years ago.
Better late than never.
Arizona ended South Carolina’s two-year run of dominance at the College World Series with a 4-1 victory on Monday night, delivering the long-awaited national title to the coach who took over Arizona’s downtrodden program 11 years ago.
Brandon Dixon’s tie-breaking double started a three-run ninth inning for Arizona, and the Wildcats (48-17) won their first title since 1986.
Lopez figured it would come in 2008, but a team that started the season ranked No. 1 lost in the super regionals at Miami. Lopez still talks of the disappointment of ’08.
The hurt only got worse when his 2009 squad failed to make the national tournament. The last two years ended in regionals.
“Coach Lopez means the world to us, and we’re so happy we brought joy back to his life in coaching,” said Robert Refsnyder, the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “This goes out to Coach Lopez and everyone involved in the program.”
James Farris and Mathew Troupe combined to limit the Gamecocks (49-20) to three hits as the Wildcats won their fourth title overall. The others came in 1976 and 1980.
Dixon, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, sent a grounder down the third-base line past LB Dantzler’s outstretched glove for his first hit of the CWS.
“When I saw him hit that ball, I knew it was fair,” Refsnyder said.
Tyler Webb relieved Matt Price (5-5), and Trent Gilbert drove in his second and third runs of the game with a two-out single to break it open.
South Carolina had been trying to become the first team since the USC dynasty of the early 1970s to win three national titles in a row. But the Gamecocks lost two straight to the Wildcats in the best-of-three final series.
Lopez, who won a national championship at Pepperdine in 1992, became the second coach to win an NCAA Division I baseball title at two schools. Augie Garrido was the first, winning three at Cal State Fullerton and two at Texas.
Down three runs in the bottom of the ninth, South Carolina loaded the bases against Troupe (6-1) on two walks and a single.
With one out, Tanner English sent a line drive up the middle that second baseman Trent Gilbert gloved. Gilbert rushed to the bag to double off Dantzler, but Dantzler got back just in time.
Grayson Greiner then flied out to right fielder Refsnyder on a 2-1 pitch, sparking a rush of Arizona players to the middle of the field for the celebratory pile-on.
leader is the pac
Arizona claimed its fourth College World Series title, and the Pacific-12 Conference’s 22nd – by far the most of any conference:
Big 12 2
So. California Association 2
Atlantic Coast 1
Missouri Valley 1
West Coast1 *Included in the WAC’s total are four by Arizona State and one by Arizona before both joined the Pac-10 in 1978.