Wow! Coastal baseball is the little team that DID

col-tbuzz-2Wow!

I’m rarely at a loss for words, but that’s really all I can say or write right now. Moments after Coastal Carolina shocked the college baseball world by winning the College World Series and its first national championship, all I can say is “Wow!”

Where to start? How about the beginning of the Gary Gilmore era 21 years ago when the CCU alum returned to build the program into a national contender. For those who are new to the Coastal bandwagon, let me assure you those were more than lofty goals for a small school and even smaller athletic budget. But that didn’t stop him from dreaming big, and it finally came true.

If ever a program was built in a coach’s image, it was this team. Just as Gilmore ignored the naysayers and simply put his head down and went to work at beating the odds, the Chanticleers showed that same true grit and determination all season long. That scrappy play and refusal to die (CCU went 6-0 in elimination games) was instilled by the big man in the dugout.

There was pitcher Andrew Beckwith, who went 3-0 with two complete games in the CWS. He dug deep and threw 137 pitches in the win that got Coastal to the finals. And there was usual closer Mike Morrison, who made just his second career start when there was no else to take the ball and turned in an inspired performance. And reliever Bobby Holmes was a lifesaver for CCU.

In the field, Coastal spark plug Anthony Marks was the inspirational leader and embodied the scrappy style of play Gilmore recruits and coaches. Marks made the game-saving play in the bottom of the ninth when he tracked down a would-be triple that kept the tying run from scoring. And Conway native GK Young, who crushed a two-run homer that proved the be the game-winner for CCU.

There are too many names to mention, too many great plays to name in one column. But then again, there is way too much to say about the rags to riches story played out by the Chants on a national stage. And for those who were following the team before the CWS, you know this is the character the Chants displayed all season long.

Coastal started the season 7-7 before going on to win 48 of their last 59 games overall. They almost didn’t make it that far, but a ninth-inning, rain-delayed rally to beat NC State was the tipping point that reassured the Chants they could play with – and beat – any team they stepped on the field to face.

They defeated three top-five national seeds – sweeping No. 3 LSU in Baton Rouge in the Super Regional to reach the CWS for the first time. They knocked off No. 1 Florida in the CWS opener, and eliminated No. 5 Texas Tech to earn a rematch with TCU. They took two from the Horned Frogs to make the finals, then once again found themselves in a position of needing to beat the same team back-to-back against Arizona. Mission accomplished.

The Chants also made a whole lot of new fans who only pay attention to college baseball in the CWS. The underdogs earned converts and left a lasting impression that will reflect positively on the university for years to come. No longer will you have to explain to your friends what a “Chanticleer” is, or where CCU is located. Now outsiders will be saying “Oh yeah, I remember what they did in Omaha.”

And you know what you will say?

Wow!

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