OMAHA, Neb. - The Arizona Wildcats' first College World Series game since 2004 was a showcase of styles and a battle of wills.
When the UA blew a two-run lead in the sixth inning and the game crawled into midnight, the club's chances of winning seemingly shriveled.
But then Arizona catcher Riley Moore threw out the potential tying run and Mat Troupe picked off a base runner. And then Joey Rickard doubled, and Johnny Field - 0 for 4 at the plate - did the same, and the UA found itself staring at serious Omaha stakes.
The result: An opening-night shocker on college baseball's biggest stage.
The Wildcats scored in the 12th inning and held on to defeat Florida State 4-3 late Friday night at TD Ameritrade Park. With the 4-hour 7-minute win, the Wildcats (44-17) advance to play UCLA on Sunday night at 6 in the winners' bracket. The Bruins routed Stony Brook 9-1 in Friday's Game 1. Florida State (48-16), meanwhile, must try to fight off elimination against the Seawolves.
"Momentum is a huge thing, and being able to get that first win will carry us forward," said Troupe, who pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings and earned the win. "I think we'll ride the momentum Sunday and for the rest of the World Series."
Friday's finish in front of 22,391 fans was stunning given the UA's MO - starting pitching and defense - through the first two weeks of the postseason. Third baseman Seth Mejias-Brean committed a critical throwing error in the bottom of the sixth, leading to two Florida State runs and forging a tie.
The rally ruined a stellar performance for UA starter Kurt Heyer, who threw 128 pitches before being lifted for Tyler Crawford. The right-handed ace went 7 2/3 innings, allowing three runs - only one earned - and six hits. He struck out eight and walked three while throwing 81 strikes.
Crawford threw 1 2/3 scoreless innings, and Troupe got the final eight outs. Combined, the two relievers threw more innings (4 1/3) than the UA's entire bullpen (1 2/3) did in the first five games of the postseason combined.
"Really proud of our two freshmen coming out of the 'pen," UA coach Andy Lopez said. "We do not win tonight without Crawford and Troupe doing what they did."
Still, the bullpen endured two scares.
FSU's Devon Travis led off the bottom of the 10th with a single, but got no further. James Ramsey struck out, Travis was thrown out trying to steal second base and Jayce Boyd grounded out to the pitcher. Justin Gonzalez ripped a one-out single in the 11th, but was picked off first base by Troupe.
The base running error seemed to spark the Wildcats - and render FSU closer Robert Benincasa surprisingly human. After retiring nine batters in a row, including three on strikeouts in the 11th, FSU's All-American struggled.
Trent Gilbert ripped a line drive to lead off the 12th that was caught. Rickard followed with a double to deep center field and Field ripped another double to practically the same spot.
Field said he "wasn't really seeing the ball too well and had really bad at-bats early in the game."
"I was trying to do too much, and chasing pitches that weren't in my zone," he said. "The last at-bat I made adjustments, went back to the drawing board and tried to look for a pitch to hit in the middle and he just threw one over the plate and I was lucky enough to get my barrel on it."
Like that, Arizona had a lead. And thanks to Troupe, it cemented the win.
The freshman escaped a major jam in the bottom of the 12th after hitting a batter and uncorking a wild pitch with one out. Troupe then got Sherman Johnson to ground out to first base and, with two outs and the tying run on third base, the reliever struck out Travis on a full-count pitch. Troupe said it was a four-seam fastball with uncommon movement.
"Credit Troupe: He made great back-to-back pitches," FSU coach Mike Martin said.
• Game 6: Arizona vs. UCLA
• Where: Omaha, Neb.
• When: 6 p.m. Sunday
• TV; radio: ESPN2; 1290-AM