By no means can you discount what the Wildcats have proven over the past few weeks. They’ve earned the right to be one game away from a CWS title.
Arizona’s perfect in the postseason, winning its last 10 games — including the first in a best-of-three series against South Carolina Sunday night. In NCAA tournament play, the Wildcats won two games against the Big East co-champions (Louisville and St. John’s) and the ACC champ (Florida State). They’ve also defeated UCLA, who they shared the Pac-12 title with this year.
Nice resume. But it’s missing something.
One more win. And it will not come easy Monday. It’s going to take one extra special effort to take down South Carolina on a night in Omaha when senior Michael Roth is on the mound — and reliever Matt Price is ready to take over in the bullpen.
Yes, South Carolina, two-time defending champions, won their titles by out-executing and out-performing their opponents when the pressure was at its highest. But the efficiency of its two poster-boys, Roth and Price, on the mound has been the major component of this dynasty.
These Wildcats said Sunday that they weren’t nervous before the 5-1 victory over the Gamecocks. Arizona’s players were able to control their emotions (jumping out to an early lead helped them do it).
This is a different kind of moment, though. The spotlight’s at its brightest Monday. SC’s facing elimination. Arizona has its close-out chance.
You don’t want to give South Carolina new life by extending the series to Tuesday. You don’t want potentially harmful thoughts of self-doubt to creep into your psyche.
Monday’s not quite must-win for the Wildcats. But it’s pretty close. They will have to do it against perhaps the two best performing pitchers in recent College World Series history — Roth (career CWS stats: 4-0, 1.51 ERA) and Price (4-0, 0.42, four saves).
Let’s see how Arizona responds.