Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Arizona Wildcats One Win from National Champions


Arizona baseball notebook

Leadoff man Ramer again gets Cats going at College World Series

Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star photos
OMAHA, Neb. Zach Gibbons has Arizona’s highest batting average, but Jay Johnson considers Cody Ramer the Wildcats’ best all-around hitter. Johnson likes to bat his best hitter first to put immediate pressure on the opposition. Ramer has been doing that all year long.
The senior second baseman jump-started Arizona’s 3-0 victory over Coastal Carolina in Game 1 of the best-of-three College World Series finals on Monday with a leadoff double. It was the fourth time in six CWS games that he has reached base in his first at-bat. Only a ridiculous catch by Oklahoma State center fielder Ryan Sluder last Monday prevented Ramer from reaching in five of six games.
He went 2 for 3 against the Chanticleers with two runs and two walks. He also played perfect positional defense.
Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star photos
“He did it the first game of the season,” Johnson said. “It’s cool that’s how it’s going here in Omaha. He stirs the pot for us.”
Ramer squelched a possible CCU rally in the bottom of the fourth inning. Playing in shallow right field against left-hand-hitting DH G.K. Young, Ramer charged Young’s slow roller, bare-handed the ball and got him at first. The previous batter, Connor Owings, had drawn a two-out walk.
Ramer scored the game’s first and third runs. The third came after a daring dash to second base on Gibbons’ sacrifice fly. The Chanticleers cut off the throw and nearly tagged out Ramer before Cesar Salazar crossed the plate.
“It wasn’t the most ideal thing,” Ramer said. “But I saw a little opportunity when both infielders vacated the bag, and I figured if I got to the outside I would be safe, which would get me in scoring position with two outs. And Ryan (Aguilar) was able to drive me in. But I’ve got to be a little smarter, especially with our catcher on third base.”
Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star photos
Pitching update
Johnson planned to huddle with his staff to figure out a pitching plan for Tuesday. He said they would review Monday’s game and “evaluate some things that we did well and some things that we can expose.”
The possibilities include sophomore left-hander Cameron Ming, who has served as the team’s closer during the postseason, but started and pitched in long relief during the regular season. Ming threw 79 pitches Friday, but said he feels strong enough to start if called upon.
“I have no idea what the coaching plan is,” Ming said. “They’re going to go over it a million times tonight, figure out what’s best for our team. … I’ll find out when I find out, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes.”
Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star photos
Senior right-hander Nathan Bannister reported slight improvement in his strained right forearm. Bannister played catch from 45 to 60 feet Monday, tossing the ball about 20 times.
Bannister said his forearm didn’t feel sore, but still felt tight. He had to leave Friday’s game after 2ยบ innings. He’s being re-evaluated daily.
“I’m still taking it day by day,” Bannister said. “We still have a bunch of pitching left.”
JC Cloney’s complete game enabled the Wildcats to rest their bullpen.
Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore said he would not start aceAndrew Beckwith, who threw 138 pitches in a complete game Friday.
“Absolutely not,” Gilmore said. “No shot.”
Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star photos
Fun Bunch II
If Arizona has the most fun dugout in Omaha, Coastal Carolina is a close second.
The Chanticleers had an inflatable shark in their dugout during Saturday’s bracket-clinching victory over TCU and brought it back Monday. They also have been toting around a stuffed monkey named Rafiki. It has brought them good luck, or so they believe.
“Rafiki has become a part of who we are,” Gilmore said. “Those kids, they’re not going to the park, they’re not getting on the bus, they’re not doing anything without that monkey going with us.”
Baseball players and coaches are notoriously superstitious, and Rafiki isn’t the only one the Chanticleers have.
Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star photos
On long bus rides during the season, Gilmore and assistant coach Matt Schilling would watch “Bull Durham.” Repeatedly.
“If we’ve watched it once, we’ve watched it 25 times,” Gilmore said.
“And it’s incredible: Every time we watch it, we win.”
Gilmore and Johnson, his Arizona counterpart, believe there’s value in having a loose dugout. The game is harder than their players make it look.
“It just keeps the moment in perspective,” Gilmore said.
“Anybody tells you every now and then (that) it isn’t hard to breathe out there, they’re not being truthful with you. We all put a lot into it. And it can be nerve-racking at times.”
Kelly Presnell, Arizona Daily Star photos
Inside pitch
• Aguilar has a team-high 13 RBIs in 13 postseason games.
Arizona has 12 two-out RBIs during the College World Series, the most of any team.

• Coastal Carolina was shut out for just the second time this season. The first came against Wake Forest on March 8.

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