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Saturday, June 16, 2012
Updated: June 17, 6:54 PM ET
Arizona bullpen ages nicely

By Mitch Sherman
ESPN.com

OMAHA, Neb. -- The results of this baseball season suggested that if Arizona got into a battle of bullpens with any of its foes at the College World Series, the Wildcats were in trouble.

Not so Friday night.

Arizona defeated No. 3 seed Florida State 4-3 in 12 innings, capitalizing on 4 1/3 scoreless innings of relief from freshmen Tyler Crawford and Mathew Troupe.

Mathew Troupe
Arizona's Mathew Troupe reacts after the final out against Florida State in the 12th inning.

Crawford, a left-hander from Glendale, Ariz., replaced ace starter Kurt Heyer and allowed only a leadoff single in the 10th inning. Troupe, a right-hander from Northridge, Calif., took over with two outs in the 10th and recorded the final seven outs, allowing only two Seminoles to reach base to earn his fifth win.

The Wildcats stayed perfect in six postseason games by scoring in the top of the 12th on consecutive one-out doubles by Joey Rickard and Johnny Field.

Without the clutch bullpen pitching, Arizona coach Andy Lopez said, the game wouldn't have lasted long enough to give his hitters a chance.

"I joke with our guys that the safest place I've ever known is a bullpen," Lopez said after his team advanced to a 9 p.m. ET meeting Sunday with its Pac-12 co-champion, UCLA. "I can get bit by a snake at my house, but I can't do that in a bullpen.

"So sometimes bullpens have to be a little tougher, and our pitchers hear that comment a lot. I don't want it to be a safe place."

Largely, the Wildcats' bullpen has been a quiet place this year. Heyer added Friday to his nation-high total of innings pitched, upping the figure to 145 2/3 innings by working into the eighth for a 12th consecutive start.

Heyer has thrown seven complete games. Fellow starters Konner Wade and James Farris aren't far behind. They've combined for seven complete games and 217 1/3 innings of work.

"It's been a catch-22," Lopez said, "because the starters have done such a marvelous job, especially in the postseason. I understand the balance of it all, but I really felt like these guys would be ready to go. The things they do on a day-in, day-out basis and the drills we go through, our bullpen's extremely intense."

Crawford had pitched only once in the postseason before Friday, one inning in June in the Wildcats' 16-4 win in the regional round over Louisville. But he worked like a veteran in Omaha, retiring the 2-3-4 hitters in the Florida State lineup -- which produced 35 runs in two super regional games against Stanford -- in order in the bottom of the ninth inning.

Likewise, Troupe had pitched just once since the regular season ended, two-thirds of an inning in Arizona's 7-6 super regional opening win against St. John's.

Troupe endured some struggles midway through this season, in particular back-to-back bad outings in April at Arizona State and Washington. He rebounded late in the year to throw five scoreless innings against rival ASU.

"I was pitching young," Troupe said. "I needed to pitch old. It took me a while to grasp on to that."

At TD Ameritrade Park on the biggest stage of his young career, Troupe surrendered a one-out single in the 11th to Justin Gonzalez but picked him off first.

In the 12th, Troupe hit Seth Miller in the leg with one out. Miller moved to second base on a wild pitch, but Troupe got dangerous leadoff man Sherman Johnson on a bouncer to second base and struck out Devon Travis on a full-count fastball to end it.

"I just wanted to make sure I threw a strike," Troupe said.

He said he didn't remember much else about the final at-bat.

That's the freshman in him. On Friday, it was plenty good enough to win.