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No Cinderella, But Chanticleers Are Champions

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Coastal Carolina celebrates its CWS crown (Photo by Andrew Woolley) Coastal Carolina won its first national championship in any sport (Photo by Andrew Woolley)[/caption] SEE ALSO: CWS Scoreboard OMAHA—Nothing about Coastal Carolina’s journey to the College World Series was easy, so it was only fitting that the final out of the decisive third game of the CWS finals against Arizona was as stressful as possible. With two outs in the bottom of the ninth Thursday, Arizona had the tying run on third base and the winning run on second. But that was as close as the Wildcats would get to completing the comeback. Righthander Alex Cunningham blew a 3-2 fastball by Ryan Haug to strike out the sophomore and clinch a 4-3 victory and the national championship. Coastal’s triumph came a day after the series was supposed to end. Bad weather in Omaha on Wednesday night forced Game Three to be pushed back a day to Thursday afternoon. It proved to be worth the wait for the Chanticleers, who won the first Division I national championship in any sport in school history. Righthander Andrew Beckwith, who won Game Three and was named CWS Most Outstanding Player, said the victory was the culmination of a long journey for the Chanticleers. “Just the hard work we put in,” he said. “The hard work the alumni have put in to get us to have these great facilities, and this coaching staff is just unbelievable. And the senior class pushed everyone from the start when they got back in the fall, and just one goal was to get to Omaha and win it all. “And we got to Omaha and we won it all. We won a national championship.” Coastal’s run to that national championship, not because the Chanticleers were a Cinderella team—as Texas Christian coach Jim Schlossnagle said after Coastal knocked his team out, it’s wrong to classify a team that won 55 games as a Cinderella, particularly one that has been to three super regionals in program history. Instead, Coastal’s run was improbable because of the path it took to reach Thursday’s dogpile. How They Got Here The Chanticleers had hoped to host a regional, and went into Selection Monday ranked No. 12 in RPI. The selection committee followed RPI almost exactly when picking the 16 host sites. The only team ranked in the top 16 of the RPI not to host a regional was Coastal Carolina. So the Chanticleers began a month-long road trip that would take them from Raleigh, N.C., to Baton Rouge, La., to Omaha. In the Raleigh Regional, they fought off rain and were pushed to the brink by the host Wolfpack. In the second regional final game, rain forced the game to be suspended with one out in the ninth inning and Coastal trailing by two runs. The Chanticleers came back the next day and found a way to win. Emboldened, they went into Alex Box Stadium, one of the toughest venues for a visiting team in college baseball, and swept LSU, the No. 8 national seed. In Omaha, Coastal was drawn into the tougher bracket, and opened the CWS with Florida, the No. 1 national seed. But, led by Beckwith, the Chanticleers knocked off the Gators before falling into the loser’s bracket with a loss to TCU. Coastal again fought its way out, eliminating Texas Tech, the No. 5 national seed, and then beating TCU twice to reach the finals. After losing the first game to Arizona, Coastal’s back was again against the wall. But the Chanticleers wouldn’t be denied. They won Game Two, pushed through Wednesday’s rainout and, again led by Beckwith, found a way to win the decisive third game. “They never faltered,” coach Gary Gilmore said. “You look at who we had to beat. To do this is an incredible feat. I don’t care what team you are. To go through LSU and then come here, Florida, TCU, Texas Tech, TCU twice and (Arizona), three times, it’s an incredible journey for any program.” At the CWS, Coastal leaned heavily on Beckwith. The junior flummoxed hitters with his ability to mix arm slots, pitches and velocities. He started the CWS by holding Florida to one run in a 98-pitch complete game. He matched that effort five days later against TCU. On Thursday, Beckwith held Arizona to two runs (none earned) on six hits and three walks in 5 2/3 innings. He finished the year 15-1, 1.85, setting a program record for wins. While it wasn’t as good as his first two starts at the CWS, it was just what Coastal was looking for. Bobby Holmes and Cunningham followed him out of the bullpen. Holmes got the Chanticleers out of a jam with an inning-ending strikeout in the sixth. Cunningham, who had been slated to start Wednesday before the rainout, followed with three innings to earn his first save of the season. Man In The Middle

2016 CWS: Beckwith's Latest Gem Keeps Coastal Alive

For the second time in the CWS, Andrew Beckwith flummoxed opposing batters

Gilmore said after the rainout, the Chanticleers decided to give Beckwith the start. “I told (pitching coach Drew Thomas), I said, ‘Since this thing got rained out, I just feel like, for me personally, the way Beckwith has pitched, he deserves the opportunity to go out,’” Gilmore said. “'And if we get beat, we get beat with our guy on the mound.’” Beckwith would not be denied, however. After Arizona righthander Bobby Dalbec shut out Coastal for five innings, the Chanticleers finally broke through with four runs in the top of the sixth. They took advantage of two walks by Dalbec and two errors by second baseman Cody Ramer to break through for two runs. DH G.K. Young tacked on with a two-run homer to right field. Beckwith, Holmes and Cunningham made that advantage stand up, even as Arizona refused to let its season end quietly. In the end, however, the Chanticleers ended their incredible postseason with a dogpile in the middle of TD Ameritrade Park. It was a national championship a long time coming for Gilmore, who has been the head coach at his alma mater since 1996. Thursday marked his 1,100th career win as he became the first coach to win the national championship in his first CWS appearance since 2008, when Mike Batesole led Fresno State to the title. Batesole’s Bulldogs did it at Rosenblatt Stadium in an offensive era. Gilmore’s Chanticleers did it by grinding through TD Ameritrade Park in seven games of a challenging offensive atmosphere, where the teams combined to hit .232 with 10 home runs. They did it by beating teams from the SEC, and Big 12 and Pacific-12 conferences. They did it with grit from left fielder Anthony Marks, who hit .382 (13-for-34) to pace Coastal’s offense and made a key defensive play in the bottom of the ninth, holding the tying runner, Ramer, at third on Ryan Aguilar’s double. They won with offense from catcher David Parrett, who had four RBIs against Texas Tech and TCU in the loser’s bracket, after entering the CWS hitting just .130 (9-for-69) on the year. And they triumphed with heroics from closer Mike Morrison, who started an elimination game in Game Two and went a career-high 6 2/3 innings, striking out 10 in a 5-4 victory. Gilmore thanked God for the opportunity to coach the Chanticleers. “That’s one of the greatest blessings,” Gilmore said. “Whenever I die, I’ll know that this group of guys here, they willed themselves to be national champions.”

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