College World Series: JC Cloney dominates, Arizona beats UCSB 3-0 to set up rematch with Oklahoma State
Arizona left-handed pitcher JC Cloney pitches the ball during Arizona’s 6-1 victory over UCLA on Thursday, March 24 at Hi-Corbett Field. Cloney pitched a complete game shutout against Coastal Carolina.
OMAHA, Nebraska — As Arizona baseball head coach Jay Johnson headed back to the team clubhouse after a 3-0 win over UC-Santa Barbara at the College World Series Wednesday night, Johnson turned to reporters and asked, “How do you score runs in this place? Anybody got any ideas?”
The Wildcats used TD Ameritrade Park’s large dimensions to their advantage in an elimination game victory over the Gauchos. Arizona advances to a Friday afternoon rematch with Oklahoma State.
JC Cloney pitched seven scoreless innings on the mound and Jared Oliva powered the offense with a third inning two-run homer to lead Arizona.
Cloney was efficient on the mound, striking out two UCSB batters, walking two more and allowing just five hits over 94 pitches.
The Gauchos never put together a formidable rally against Cloney, who made his first start since a poor outing in Regional play when he allowed seven runs to Louisiana-Lafayette.
On Wednesday, Cloney relied heavily on his off-speed pitches to flummox a streaky UC-Santa Barbara offense.
“It was just mixing and matching,” Cloney said. “The changeup was really good today. Sliders to lefties, changeups to righties, just trying to really let the fastball tail on them.”
Only twice did UC Santa Barbara advances baserunners into scoring position under Cloney’s watch.
All three of Arizona’s College World Series starters have pitched seven or more innings giving up one run or less.
“Based off what [Bobby] Dalbec and [Nathan Bannister] have done, I just want to go out and kind of match them,” Cloney said. “All year that’s what we’ve done – the Friday night guy will set the level, and the next two guys just have to either reach it or go beyond it.”
The Wildcats struck at the plate with a third inning rally that got going on a Cody Ramer single followed by a Zach Gibbons walk.
With two on and no out, Bobby Dalbec drilled a fly ball to deep left-center, but Gauchos center fielder Andrew Calica made a warning track catch to rob Arizona’s third baseman of an extra-base hit.
The fly ball did advance Ramer to third base, who scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Aguilar.
On the next pitch, Oliva crushed a fastball to the left field bullpen to bring the score to 3-0.
“I was sitting on one location, one pitch, and sure enough he gave it to me,” Oliva said. “I just tried to put a good swing on it.”
Oliva’s homerun was just the ninth long ball of this College World Series.
Arizona’s offense never threatened once UCSB brought in right hander Trevor Bettencourt in relief in the fourth inning.
Bettencourt struck out seven Wildcats over the next five innings, allowing just one hit.
Cloney matched Bettencourt until the eighth inning when Arizona’s Cameron Ming relieved Cloney with one on and no outs.
Ming induced a double-play and a pop-up to get out of the inning.
In the top of the ninth, Ming allowed a lead-off double to UCSB’s Devon Fisher and then walked the next batter to put two on with no outs, but the left hander bounced back by striking out the next three batters to earn the save.
With the win, the Wildcats improved to 24-1 when holding opponents to two runs or less.
The one loss came on Monday, when Arizona fell to Oklahoma State 1-0 in another’s pitcher’s duel.
Arizona will rematch the Cowboys on Friday at 12:05 p.m. MST. If the Wildcats win, the two teams will face each other again Saturday with the winner going to the College World Series Finals. If the Wildcats lose, they'd be eliminated from the CWS.
“They beat us 1-0 the last time so I don’t assume that’s going to be the score the next time,” Cloney said. “I’m pretty sure we’re going to put up some runs and they’re going to put up some runs. It’s going to be a dogfight.”
Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter