Scrappy Chants stay alive, one win from national title

ccubase-cwscelebFacing elimination by Arizona in the finals of the College World Series, the resilient Coastal Carolina baseball team had the Wildcats right where they wanted them.

For the fifth time this postseason, Coastal Carolina was on the brink of elimination and, for the fifth time this postseason, prevailed to play another day.

This was the fourth time at the College World Series that CCU has stayed alive, defeating Texas Tech and TCU twice last week to reach the championship series and now Arizona after losing game one of the championship series Monday.

Tuesday night, seniors Mike Morrison and Anthony Marks led the Chanticleers to a 5-4 victory over Arizona to force a winner-take-all National Championship game Wednesday at 7 pm (CT)/8 pm (ET) on ESPN.

Morrison did not get the decision, leaving the game to a standing ovation with the contest tied at 2-2 in the seventh inning. However, he established career highs in innings pitched (6.2), strikeouts (10) and number of pitches (103). He scattered six hits and two walks to allow two runs. After giving up a run in the first inning, he retired 11 of the next 13. Then, after allowing a run in the fifth, Morrison the last eight batters he faced, including four strikeouts.

Bobby Holmes (7-4) earned the win, pitching the final 2.2 innings. He is now 3-0 with two saves in eight NCAA postseason appearances, including a 1-0 with a save at the College World Series. Holmes allowed two hits, two walks and two runs (one earned).

Marks, the usual leadoff hitter who had been batting second in the lineup the last four games, returned to the top of the batting order and produced one of his best games of the season. He was 3-for-4 and accounted for three of CCU’s five runs, scoring once and driving in two. Kevin Woodall Jr., added two hits while G.K. Young came through with a two-run single that proved to be the game winner.

As they did last night, the Wildcats scored once in the first inning. (The team that scored first had won the first 11 times this College World Series.) Cody Ramer and Zach Gibbons started the bottom of the first with singles and, after a strikeout; Arizona loaded the bases on a walk. CCU dodged one bullet when Arizona tried a suicide squeeze, but did not execute. Ramer was thrown out as third and CCU nearly turned a double play. Bobby Dalbec followed with a sharp single past third to score Gibbons for the 1-0 lead.

Coastal snapped a season-long, 15-inning scoreless streak with two runs in the top of the third. Billy Cooke hit a leadoff single, took second on a wild pitch and moved to third on a Woodall sacrifice bunt. David Parrett then hit high pop fly to shortstop, which was dropped, and Parrett, hustling all the way, ended up on second. Two batters later, Marks delivered a two-run single back up the middle.

Arizona tied the game at 2-2 in the fifth inning. Ramer drew a leadoff walk and moved to third on a single by Gibbons. Two batters later, Ryan Aguilar reached on an RBI fielder’s choice, scoring Ramer.

The Chanticleers regained the advantage and then some in the top of the eighth, scoring three runs to lead 5-2. Marks had a leadoff single, his third hit of the game, and advanced to second on a Michael Paez sac bunt. Connor Owings followed with a bloop single to left field to bring home Marks. Zach Remillard then delivered two-strike, line drive down the left field line, moving Owings to third. With the double, Remillard now has 99 hits, tying David Sappelt for the CCU single-season record, and 177 total bases, which leads the NCAA. Arizona turned to left-handed pitcher Alfonso Rivas to face the left-handed hitting Young, but the CCU designated hitter came through with a bullet past the Wildcat first baseman to drive in both Owings and Remillard.

The Wildcats responded with two runs in the bottom of the eighth. After loading the bases with a single and two walks, Holmes got a pop out. Then, Justin Behnke reached on a fielder’s choice, scoring Aguilar and leaving runners on the corners. Holmes looked to get out of the inning with a ground out, but an error allowed Bobby Dalbec to score, cutting the deficit to one, 5-4.

Holmes worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the ninth to secure the win and send Coastal to the national championship game.

Coastal, which improved to 50-1 on the year when leading after eight innings, will now have the services of starter Andrew Beckwith, who has two complete-game masterpieces so far in the CWS.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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