June 14, 2004
LONG BEACH, Calif. - Catcher Nick Hundley’s sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 11th inning gave Arizona a 4-3 victory Sunday over Long Beach State and sent the Wildcats to the College World Series for the first time in 18 years.
Arizona coach Andy Lopez will take his third team to Omaha. He previously coached Florida and Pepperdine to series appearances, winning the 1992 championship while with the Waves. He is one of only eight Division I coaches to take two different schools to Omaha.
‘‘These guys are in for a neat experience I can tell you that,’’ Lopez said of the Wildcats who will face Georgia. ‘‘I went in as the seventh seed in 1992 and walked away with a championship. It all comes down to who’s playing well at this time of the year.’’
Long Beach (40-21) rallied to tie the score 3-3 on right fielder Sean Boatright’s run-scoring single off Wildcats starter John Meloan with one out in the ninth inning. Meloan pitched 8 1 /3 innings, giving up three runs on nine hits and throwing 144 pitches.
‘‘I’m kind of an old-time guy. I’m 50,’’ Lopez said, of leaving Meloan in the game so long. ‘‘I know that’s the thing now, counting pitches. But were not out to hurt arms.’’
Right fielder and Chaparral High graduate Jeff Van Houten’s two-run single off Long Beach reliever Brian Anderson that was just past the glove of second baseman Chuck Sindlinger gave Arizona (35-25-1) a 3-2 lead in the seventh inning. Anderson replaced left-hander Jason Vargas, who gave up three runs on seven hits in 6 2 /3 innings. Neil Jamison gave up the gameending sacrifice fly.
Long Beach had taken a 2-1 lead on sacrifice fly by first baseman Mike Hofius in the second and a run-scoring fielders choice by shortstop Troy Tulowitzki in the fifth. After squandering a five-run lead and losing the opening game, 6-5, Long Beach rallied to win Game 2, 9-4, setting up the deciding Game 3 on Sunday. Long Beach eliminated Arizona in 1989, advancing to its first College World Series by defeating the top-seeded Wildcats at Tucson.
Long Beach last played in the series in 1998. Arizona’s last appearance at Omaha was in 1986, when it won the last of its three titles.