OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Michael Paez and Coastal Carolina guessed wrong for most of Game 1 of the College World Series finals. JC Cloney was that good.
The Chanticleers managed just four singles in a 3-0 loss to Arizona on Monday night. Cloney struck out six and walked three in his second career complete game.
“You want to sit on a fastball, and he throws you a cutter,” Paez said. “And you sit on the off-speed, and he throws a fastball.”
Now Coastal Carolina (53-18) needs a win on Tuesday to stay alive for the school’s first national championship in any sport. The Chanticleers haven’t lost consecutive games since getting swept at Georgia Tech from April 29-May 1.
“We know where we’re at. If we lose, it’s over, obviously,” coach Gary Gilmore said. “At this point we just want to play really aggressively and really hard and compete and play with a lot of confidence. Cloney, I honestly think he just kind of took a little bit of that away from us tonight.”
The Chanticleers, playing in the finals in their first CWS appearance, went down in order four times against Cloney (8-4) and never had a runner advance to second base until the ninth inning.
Anthony Marks singled leading off and Zach Remillard bunted down the third-base line for a base hit on a close play. Connor Owings hit into a double play, and Cloney caught G.K. Young looking at strike three to end the game.
The Wildcats (49-22) are in position to wrap up their fifth national title and first since 2012.
“They all know where we’re at and what we’re doing,” first-year Arizona coach Jay Johnson said. “We need to prepare well tonight, the coaching staff and players alike, and get ready to attack the opportunity.”
The Wildcats scored in the first when Ryan Aguilar singled in Cody Ramer, who led off with a double. Aguilar added another RBI single in the seventh to make it 3-0.
Arizona’s defense, which has committed only one error at the CWS, continued to come up big. Second baseman Ramer, playing in short right field as part of a shift in the fourth, sprinted to bare-hand G.K. Young’s grounder. His throw to first barely beat Young’s headfirst slide. Right fielder Zach Gibbons went with his back to the wall to catch Paez’s deep fly to end the eighth inning.
“I thought I got enough of it,” Paez said, “but knowing this field, you can’t predict what’s going to happen.”
Coastal Carolina starter Zack Hopeck (3-4) lasted 6 1/3 innings and threw 103 pitches, both career highs. He tipped his cap to the Coastal fans and got a hug from reliever Bobby Morrison as he neared the dugout.
Hopeck was solid, but Cloney was great.
Coastal Carolina was shut out for just the second time this season, and first since an 11-0 loss to Wake Forest on March 8. The Chanticleers had scored in 58 straight games.
“The kids never quit,” Gilmore said. “I think they were more frustrated than anything, just trying to figure out how to solve this guy and get some runners on base.”
Arizona pitching has yielded 12 earned runs in 11 CWS games at TD Ameritrade Park, for a 1.06 ERA. The Wildcats have allowed six earned runs in six games this year with 54 strikeouts in 54 innings.
Arizona can clinch its fifth national championship with a win in Game 2 on Tuesday night. Coastal Carolina will try to even the series and force a Game 3 on Wednesday.
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