OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Arizona’s Konner Wade got payback, and then some, against UCLA on Sunday night.
Wade pitched his first career shutout, limiting the Bruins to five singles in a 4-0 victory that gave the Wildcats control of their bracket at the College World Series.
Two months ago, UCLA knocked the sophomore out of a Pac-12 game after three innings and dealt him the first loss of his career.
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“I got hit pretty hard the last time I pitched against them, and I knew they took advantage of the mistakes I made that game,” Wade said. “I was really eager for the opportunity to throw against them today. I was going to try to keep the ball down in the zone, and I let my movement take care of it.”
It’s safe to say Sunday’s game was more important than Wade’s 15-3 loss in Tucson back in April.
This win gave the Wildcats (45-17) three days off and put them one victory away from the best-of-three finals, in which they would play for their fourth national championship and first since 1986.
Second-seeded UCLA (48-15), which lost for the first time in 11 games, will play Florida State in an elimination game Tuesday.
“It’s all about taking blows at the College World Series,” Bruins coach John Savage said. “It’s not a dagger. It’s a blow. We’ll move on and we’ll be ready to play on Tuesday night.”
Wade (10-3) outdueled Nick Vander Tuig (10-4), throwing his second straight complete game and fifth of the season. It was Arizona’s sixth shutout in 62 CWS games and its first since Craig Lefferts blanked Michigan in 1980.
“He pitched as well as anybody we’ve seen all year,” Savage said.
Wade walked one and struck out four in a 109-pitch outing in which he threw 79 strikes.
“It’s an understatement for me to say he was outstanding. He was pretty doggone good,” Arizona coach Andy Lopez said. “I thought it was a great matchup. We were fortunate enough to get one inning where we got some offense, and when you have two good clubs getting together like that, that was the difference.”
The Wildcats’ runs came on five straight hits off Vander Tuig in the fourth.
Johnny Field, who had the game-winning double in Friday’s 4-3, 12-inning win over Florida State, singled with one out for Arizona’s first hit. Alex Mejia and Robert Refsnyder reached to load the bases before Seth Mejias-Brean drove in the first two runs with a hit into right-center. Brown followed with a two-RBI double.
“He left some balls up there that one inning and we took advantage of it and put some good swings on the ball,” Brown said. “I tip my hat to their starting pitcher. He shut us down except for that inning.”
Wade ran into trouble just once.
UCLA went three up, three down in the first four innings before breaking through after two outs in the fifth. Pat Valaika, Cody Regis and Kevin Kramer hit consecutive singles to load the bases, but Kevin Williams flied out to end the inning.
“Keep my composure, that’s what I tried to do,” Wade said.
Savage said Wade completely took the Bruins out of their offensive rhythm. UCLA was shut out once before this season, at Oregon State in April, but had outscored opponents 42-10 in six previous NCAA tournament games.
“We weren’t ourselves,” Savage said, “but it had a lot to do with (Wade). We were uncharacteristically impatient. That’s what good pitchers do. At the end of the day I thought he really made pitch after pitch. The times we did get something going, there were two outs.”
Vander Tuig allowed six hits, walked one and struck out eight in 6 1/3 innings. The four runs in the fourth were the most Vander Tuig had surrendered in an inning this season.
Arizona has won 15 of 17 games and has four shutouts this season.
“We’re making big pitches when we have to right now,” Lopez said. “We’re playing good baseball.”