Eric Francis, Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. — Arizona coach Andy Lopez thought he had the makings of a national championship team four years ago.
Better late than never.
Arizona ended South Carolina's two-year run of dominance at the College World Series with a 4-1 victory on Monday night, delivering the long-awaited national title to the coach who took over Arizona's downtrodden program 11 years ago.
Brandon Dixon's tie-breaking double started a three-run ninth inning for Arizona, and the Wildcats (48-17) won their first title since 1986.
Lopez figured it would come in 2008, when a team that started the season ranked No. 1 lost in the super regionals at Miami. Lopez still talks of the disappointment of that season.
The hurt only got worse when his 2009 squad failed to make the national tournament. The last two years ended in regionals.
"Coach Lopez means the world to us, and we're so happy we brought joy back to his life in coaching," CWS Most Outstanding Player Robert Refsnyder said. "This goes to out to coach Lopez and everyone involved in the program, and without (athletic director) Greg Byrne this wouldn't be possible."
James Farris and Mathew Troupe combined to limit the Gamecocks (49-20) to three hits as the Wildcats won their fourth title overall. The others came in 1976 and 1980.
Dixon, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, sent a grounder down the third-base line past LB Dantzler's outstretched glove for his first hit of the CWS.
"When I saw him hit that ball, I knew it was fair," Refsnyder said.
Tyler Webb relieved Matt Price (5-5), and Trent Gilbert drove in his second and third runs of the game with a two-out single that broke open the game.
"I was just trying to get a hit, because I knew they would be big insurance runs," Gilbert said.
South Carolina had been trying to become the first team since the Southern California dynasty of the early 1970s to win three national titles in a row.
"We battled as hard as we could, but they did a little bit better than we did," Gamecocks Ray Tanner said. "Though we're disappointed tonight, I'm not disappointed in my players. We battled awful hard. We made a run, got to the postseason and got back out here. We got in the losers' bracket and got back to the finals."
Lopez, who won a national championship at Pepperdine in 1992, became the second coach to win a Division I baseball title at two schools. Augie Garrido was the first, winning three at Cal State Fullerton and two at Texas.
Lopez took over a program that had gone to the NCAA regionals just once in the previous eight years. He came within that one win of getting to the CWS in 2008, then took a step backward in 2009 when the Wildcats didn't make the national tournament.
The 2010 and 2011 seasons ended in regionals. The Wildcats won 18 of their last 20 games this season, including their last 11.
Down three runs in the bottom of the ninth, South Carolina loaded the bases against Troupe (6-1) on two walks and a single.
With one out, Tanner English sent a line drive up the middle that second baseman Trent Gilbert gloved. Gilbert rushed to the bag to double off Dantzler, but Dantzler got back just in time.
Grayson Greiner then flied out to right fielder Refsnyder on a 2-1 pitch, sparking a rush of Arizona players to the middle of the field for the celebratory pile-on.
"We were extremely fortunate to get away with this victory," Lopez said.
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