By Eric Olson/The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Konner Wade threw his third straight complete game, Robert Refsnyder homered for the second game in a row and Arizona beat two-time defending national champion South Carolina 5-1 in the opener of the College World Series finals Sunday night.
Wade (11-3) limited the Gamecocks to six hits in a steady outing to help the Wildcats (47-17) move within a win of their first national championship since 1986 and fourth overall.
The Gamecocks (49-19) swept UCLA and Florida in the best-of-three finals the past two years but now need to beat Arizona twice to become the first team since Southern California in the early 1970s to win three championships in a row.
Refsnyder, batting .444 (8 of 18) in the CWS, went 2 for 3 and was intentionally walked twice. He hit a two-run homer off Forrest Koumas (2-3) in the first to give Arizona the lead, and scored in the fifth on Bobby Brown’s single to make it a four-run game.
Refsnyder, who has eight homers this season, also went deep Thursday in the Wildcats’ bracket-winning victory over Florida State.
His home run Sunday was the first allowed by South Carolina in 77 innings.
Refsnyder also showed off his arm in right field, throwing out Adam Matthews when he tried to go from first to third on Kyle Martin’s single in the seventh.
Wade has won four straight starts in the postseason. He worked eight innings against Louisville in regionals, nine in the super regional-winning victory over St. John’s, and threw a complete-game shutout against UCLA last Sunday.
Wade is 4-0 with a 1.29 in four NCAA tournament starts (35 innings, five earned runs). He struck out three. His walk to Walker in the sixth was the first he issued in 31 innings.
The Arizona bullpen was inactive until Christian Walker singled leading off the ninth. Wade got a fly out, groundout and foul out to end the game.
Arizona, which hasn’t trailed in the CWS, scored unearned runs in the third and fifth innings.
No. 9 batter Trent Gilbert reached to start the third when shortstop Joey Pankake flubbed his grounder. Gilbert moved to third on Joey Rickard’s hit and scored on Alex Mejia’s single to left.
Seth Mejias-Brean drove in a run in the fifth after Johnny Field reached third on a wild pitch and error.
South Carolina cut it to 4-1 in sixth on Evan Marzilli’s RBI single, the first run allowed by Wade in 15 innings.
The loss ended the Gamecocks’ streak of yielding two runs or less in four straight CWS games.
Sunday, June 24
Arizona 5, South Carolina 1, Arizona leads series 1-0
Monday, June 25
Game 2 — Arizona (47-17) vs. South Carolina (49-19), 7 p.m.
Tuesday, June 26
x-Game 1 — Arizona vs. South Carolina, 7 p.m.