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Information from the Arizona media relations department contributed to this report.
It’s a long way from Sahuaro High School to Omaha, Neb., but Cesar Salazar can attest that dreams can reach that far.
Only a year removed from a stellar career with the Cougars, Salazar singled with two outs and the bases loaded Saturday night to score Kyle Lewis and give the Arizona Wildcats a 6-5 win over Mississippi State in 11 innings, capturing the Starkville (Miss.) Super Regional.
“We knew (Salazar) was a great hitter,” Arizona’s Zach Gibbons (4 of 6 with a run in the game) said in the post-game press conference. “We knew he could get it done. And after that, it was just a blur.”
Arizona (44-21) has won 12 of its last 13 games including four victories on the road in the last couple of of weekends against Louisiana-Lafayette in the Regional round and Mississippi State (44-18-1) in the Super Regionals.
The Wildcats are making their 17th College World Series appearance. They hope to build on their four national titles in 1976, 1980, 1986 and 2012.
Arizona is 16-1 in its last 17 postseason games dating to the 2012 title run.
The Wildcats trailed 5-1 heading into the eighth, and scored three runs on a home run by Ryan Aguilar that inning to pull within one. Alfonso Rivas singled to score Cody Ramer in the ninth to tie the game at 5.
Jay Johnson on his CWS-bound #ArizonaWildcats: 'I thought I knew what toughness was, competitiveness, heart … and then I met them.'
Cameron Ming, a stalwart out of the bullpen during the postseason, pitched two scoreless innings in relief to earn the win.
Johnson, who coached Nevada for two seasons before his hire last June, heads to Omaha in his postseason debut as a head coach.
Bobby Dalbec, who pitched 8 2/3 scoreless innings Friday night in Game 1 to earn the win, launched a solo home run to left with two outs in the second inning to tie the game at 1. It was Dalbec’s seventh home run of the season and second of the postseason.
Don't forget this is Jay Johnson's 1st trip to NCAA tournament as a head coach. Does this make him the Steve Kerr of college baseball?
After back-to-back singles from Gibbons and Rivas in the eighth, Aguilar hit a three-run home run to right field to make it 5-4. It was Aguilar’s team-leading eighth home run of the season and put him over 50 RBI for the season, giving him 51.
“I think that after I hit that everyone believed more than ever we could win that game,” Aguilar said in the press conference. “It just gave us that extra boost of confidence we needed to pull it out.”
Former Wildcats from the College World Series title team four years ago add their congratulations.
Congrats @ArizonaBaseball on the trip back to Omaha! Enjoy it!
Sophomore right-hander Robby Medel likes his Cheez-its and knows how to have a good time sensing a victory.
When you can taste victory pic.twitter.com/B9JlGsmZe7
Arizona getting some love from Arizona’s pro sports franchises.
More respect from Arizona’s basketball and football programs.
I guess Omaha is gonna be Wildcat country!! @ArizonaBaseball BEARDOWN fellas 🐻🔽
ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.