OMAHA, Neb. – It’s tough when an injury has a major impact on a game, especially a national championship contest.
Arizona trailed 4-2 in the top of the seventh. Coastal Carolina had an insurance run on third with two away. Cameron Ming struck out Michael Paez swinging to end the inning.
On the follow-through, the bat of Paez struck catcher Cesar Salazar in the head. Salazar was sprawled on the dirt over the top of home plate for several minutes before he was able to walk off the field. But he would play no more.
The Wildcats had the top of the order coming up in the bottom of the seventh. A pair of walks were sandwiched around a fly out. Salazar, hitting cleanup, was not able to come to the plate. Backup catcher Ryan Haug, a sophomore, came up for his first CWS at-bat. On a 1-1 pitch, Haug grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Arizona rallied in the ninth to pull within one and had runners on second and third with two away for the cleanup spot. Haug swung through a 3-2 pitch, sparking the Chanticleer celebration.
“I moved him up to the 4-hole today for a reason,” UA head coach Jay Johnson said. “He kills submarine and side-arm pitchers. We’re only down 4-2 and we’ve got runners on first and second in the seventh inning and he’s up. And then we’ve got second and third in the ninth inning and he would have been up. So it had a huge impact on the game.”