By JOHN MARSHALL, Associated Press
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona's baseball team moved to a new ballpark this season, moving off campus to Hi Corbett Field, a former spring training site and home of the minor league Tucson Toros.
These new digs have suited the Wildcats just fine.
Shaking off years of postseason disappointment on the road, Arizona earned its first trip to the College World Series since 2004 by beating St. John's 7-4 on Saturday to complete a two-game super regionals sweep in front of a rowdy crowd at Hi Corbett Field.
"I told my wife, if we can get to the right regional, we can have a chance here with this group," said Arizona coach Andy Lopez, making his fifth trip the CWS. "And boy, we got the right regional: Tucson."
The Wildcats had been in the wrong ones the past few years.
A three-time national champion, Arizona (43-17) had trouble getting back to Omaha, in part because of its draw. The Wildcats lost to Miami in Coral Gables, Fla., in 2008, to TCU in Fort Worth in 2010 and to Texas A&M in College Station last season.
This season, Arizona (43-17) earned the right to play at home and made the most of it.
Coming off their first Pac-12 championship since 1993 — they shared the title with UCLA — the Wildcats raced through Missouri and Louisville in the regionals by a combined score of 47-10.
Arizona was again at Hi Corbett Field for the super regional and won the first game Friday by rallying from a five-run deficit. The Wildcats jumped on St. John's (40-23) early in Game 2 and never let up, riding the steady pitching of Konner Wade, superb defense and timing hitting to get back to Omaha for the 16th time.
Wade (9-3) allowed four runs in a six-hitter and didn't walk or hit a batter for the first time all season. Shortstop Alex Mejia had an RBI single and several superb plays in the field, Seth Mejias-Brean had three hits and Bobby Brown added two RBIs to set off raucous celebration.
"It's a big deal," Brown said. "To hear Coach Lopez talking about it day after day and now we can experience it ourselves, it's great."
St. John's suffered through a heartbreaking loss in the super regional opener to Arizona and fell behind early after a catcher's interference call led to three runs in the first inning against starter Sean Hagan (8-3). The Red Storm tried to fight their way back, but could never climb all the way out of that early hole to end their deepest postseason run since 1980.
"We couldn't keep them off us," St. John's coach Ed Blankmeyer said. "Everytime we were starting to chip away, they just kept us away."
Arizona had a dramatic win in the series opener, fighting back from the big deficit and down a run in the 10th inning to win 7-6 on Trent Gilbert's game-ending RBI single.
The Wildcats got out to the early lead this time, thanks to a mistake by Danny Bethea.
With two outs in the first inning, the St. John's catcher was called for interference when his glove got in the way of Robert Refsnyder's swing on a grounder up the middle. Instead of going off with the third out, St. John's had to stay out and watch Mejias-Brean, Brown and Joseph Maggi each hit run-scoring singles that put Arizona up 3-0 before the Red Storm came to bat for the first time.
Mejia added a run-scoring single in the second inning after Joey Rickard worked a walk for the second straight at-bat, giving Wade a nice early cushion.
Arizona's lanky right-hander was good early, needing just six pitches to get through the first inning. He got some help in the second, when Mejia made a sliding grab at shortstop to throw out Frank Schwindel, and Maggi dived to smother a ball down the line at first to rob Sean O'Hare.
Wade retired the first nine batters until Kyle Richardson's leadoff single in the fourth inning, but Mejia erased him with another spectacular stop, diving up the middle and flipping the ball to second baseman Gilbert to start a double play.
St. John's got an unearned run off Wade in the fifth inning, when Bethea lined a run-scoring single to left after Gilbert was charged with a throwing error on O'Hare's grounder. Another error by Gilbert, this one on a squirrely grounder by Richardson, and a passed ball by Riley Moore set up an RBI groundout by Matt Wessinger in the sixth that cut Arizona's lead to 4-2.
That would be as close as the Red Storm would get to forcing a third game.
Mejias-Brean chased Hagan with a leadoff double in the seventh inning and scored on Brown's run-scoring double off James Lomangino. Brown followed with a run-scoring single that made it 6-2.
Hagan allowed five runs — four earned — on six hits in six innings, with seven walks.
"I probably should have put them down before that," Hagan said of the three runs after the catcher's interference call. "It was just one of those days when the balls were bouncing like that and the plays were bouncing like that."
St. John's Zach Lauricella followed Jeremy Baltz's leadoff double with a run-scoring single in the seventh inning off Wade, but Johnny Field had a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning that pushed Arizona's lead to 7-3.
Wade induced a double play that gave up a run and then finished off his fourth complete game of the season by getting O'Hare on a nubber to second, sending the Wildcats into each other's arms and on to Omaha.
"It's a great accomplishment," Mejias-Brean said. "Being to regionals the three years I've been here and to get to super regionals and then go to Omaha is going to be fun for us to actually experience it."
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