The 2012 College World Series is in the books, and there is a new king of the diamond.
The Arizona Wildcats swept aside Cranston native Evan Marzilli and the South Carolina Gamecocks, winning the best-of-three championship series and preventing the latter club from accomplishing a three-peat.
In the series opener Sunday evening, Arizona rode the arm of Konner Wade, who hurled a complete game, while Robert Refsnyder keyed the offense with a two-run homer in the first as the Wildcats took the first game 5-1.
Facing elimination, coach Ray Tanner summoned Michael Roth, the warhorse of the Gamecock pitching staff to start Game 2 after he went the distance against Kent State on Thursday, allowing just two hits as South Carolina eliminated the Golden Flashes 4-1.
Roth, making his final appearance in a Gamecock uniform, made the most of the opportunity, going 6.2 innings, striking out three and surrendering a run.
However, the Wildcats answered with James Farris, who responded with four strikeouts of his own, while surrendering two hits and what was then the game’s tying run in 7.2 innings of work.
With the score knotted at one heading into the ninth, Arizona was staring at the very real possibility of clinching its first national championship since 1986, and the bats of the Wildcats held up their end of the bargain in the top half of the frame.
Refsnyder led things off with a base hit and advanced to second when Seth Mejias-Breen laid down a sacrifice bunt. Bobby Brown then received an intentional walk from Gamecock reliever Matt Price, setting the stage for Brandon Dixon.
Dixon did not disappoint, drilling Price’s 1-1 offering down the third base line for a monumental double that drove home the go-ahead run in the form of Refsnyder.
Price then trudged off the mound to make way for Tyler Webb, who promptly struck out Riley Moore on three straight pitches.
The next batter, Trent Gilbert, then added to the Arizona lead with a shallow fly ball that landed with significant daylight between it and South Carolina right fielder Adam Matthews. Dixon and Brown crossed home safely, and the Wildcats were now 4-1 up.
Arizona reliever Mathew Troupe was entrusted with a most difficult task as he began what he hoped was his only full inning of work in the bottom of the ninth: collect the final three outs of the season.
Troupe got off to an inauspicious start to his mission when Christian Walker singled on the first pitch he saw, with the situation deteriorating further courtesy of an LB Dantzler walk.
Things calmed down when Troupe struck out Matthews, but heated up once more when Kyle Martin reached on the second base on balls recorded by Troupe in the frame, which loaded the bases.
Just as the Gamecocks began to believe, Troupe dug deep and unearthed the final two outs, getting Tanner English to line out to Gilbert and Grayson Greiner to fly out to Refsnyder, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Marzilli went 1-for-8 over the two championship series contests, and drove home South Carolina’s only run in game 1, plating Greiner with two outs in the sixth.
A big decision now awaits for Marzilli, who was selected by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month.
The choices laid out in front of him are clear: stay at South Carolina for one more year and one more crack at a third national title or turn pro and begin the long, hard journey to the big leagues.
Whatever the decision, Marzilli has made sure that he has left an indelible mark on the Gamecock baseball program’s rise to its place among the national elite.