Coastal Carolina Wins National Championship
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Coastal Carolina coach Gary Gilmore often said he just wanted his team to reach the College World Series. Until this week, he never imagined the Chanticleers would do so much more.
They're heading back to Conway with the school's first national championship in any sport.
Coastal Carolina capitalized on two errors on the same play for four unearned runs in the sixth inning, and the Chanticleers defeated Arizona 4-3 in the deciding Game 3 of the College World Series finals on Thursday.
Coastal Carolina (55-18 with 55 wins tying a school record) became the first team since Minnesota in 1956 to win the title in its first CWS appearance. Arizona (49-24) was trying for its second national title since 2012.
"We're not the most talented team in America. We're just the national champion," Gilmore said. "That's all that matters."
In addition to the national title, Gilmore won his 1,100th career game, improving to 1,100-540 overall (27th year) and 847-438 in his 21tst year at CCU.
Andrew Beckwith (15-1), the national leader in wins, went 5 2/3 innings after pitching two complete games and picked up his third victory of the CWS. He was named the Most Outstanding Player.
"He's been coaching for 21 years, and he deserves every bit of it," Beckwith said of Gilmore. "We got him to Omaha and we got him a national championship. The senior class, the hard work in the fall, the dedication of the guys who don't play much. It doesn't go unnoticed. It was a full team effort the whole College World Series, and we got it done."
Alex Cunningham earned his first career save, striking out Ryan Haug with a full-count fastball to end the game after Arizona had pulled within a one in the bottom of the ninth. When Haug swung and missed, Cunningham turned to his dugout, beat his chest with his fist three times and saluted before flipping his glove away to start the celebration.
"We're not the most talented team in America. We're just the national champion. That's all that matters."
"The last three innings, all I've been doing in the dugout is folding my hands and praying to God that this is His will," Gilmore said. "I know my dad's up there. I lost him two years ago, and I wanted him so bad to be here with me. I know he's watching over me right now."
Arizona's Bobby Dalbec (11-6) also worked 5 2/3 innings, with all the runs coming against him. He struck out eight to increase his CWS total to 25 in 20 innings.
The championship also was the first in a team sport in the 33-year history of the Big South Conference. The Big South could savor the accomplishment for only about eight hours. The Chanticleers become members of the Sun Belt Conference on Friday.
"This program has been a lot better than people give it credit for," Gilmore said. "They thought we played in a small conference and couldn't get this done. This bunch wanted to prove everybody wrong."
Arizona, which came into the day with just two errors in seven CWS games, saw second baseman Cody Ramer commit two on the same play in the sixth inning. Ramer couldn't get a handle on Zach Remillard's grounder, allowing David Parrett to score from third. Then Ramer tried to get Michael Paez running from second to third, but he overthrew Kyle Lewis. That allowed Paez to come home. G.K. Young then launched a no-doubt homer into the seats above the right-field bullpen for a 4-0 lead.
"It's the best feeling of my life," Young said. "I'm trying not to cry right now. Just dreaming of that in my head since I was 10 years old, hitting a home run in the College World Series. I never would have thought it would come in the championship game."
All four runs in the sixth were unearned, and Dalbec was relieved by Cameron Ming after facing one more batter. Before the sixth inning, Ramer hadn't committed an error in 17 games.
The Wildcats cut the lead in half with two unearned runs in the bottom half of the sixth against a tiring Beckwith. An error on first baseman Kevin Woodall Jr. and a walk loaded the bases before Jared Oliva's two-RBI single knocked out Beckwith. Bobby Holmes relieved and struck out No. 9 batter Louis Boyd to end the inning.
Coastal Carolina caught a break in the third inning after Ramer sent a liner into right field that got under Connor Owings' glove and rolled to the wall. Ramer made it to third on the two-base error. Zach Gibbons then hit a comebacker to Beckwith, who went home as Ramer tried to score. After catching Beckwith's wide throw, catcher Parrett reached back to put the tag on Ramer, who was called out on an extremely close play.
Arizona's first two batters in the bottom of the ninth reached base against Cunningham, and Gibbons' sacrifice fly made it a one-run game with two outs. Ryan Aguilar then doubled into the left-field corner, but Ramer was held at third to bring up Haug.
ARIZONA CATCHER HURT
Arizona catcher Cesar Salazar left the game at the end of the seventh inning after getting hit on the top of his head by Paez's bat on a swing-and-miss strike three. Salazar briefly lay face down and was tended to by an athletic trainer. He walked off under his own power and was replaced by Haug.
COME ONE, COME ALL
Because of the noon-hour start on a weekday - caused by the rain-and-lightning postponement Wednesday night - people attending the U.S. Olympic swim trials across the street at CenturyLink Center were admitted for free to the outfield seats. The game drew 18,823, raising tournament attendance to 341,667, the third-highest all-time.
The celebration of Coastal Carolina's first national championship in any team sport gets underway in Conway, South Carolina. The Wildcats return to Tucson to regroup after a season of low expectations ended with them playing for the title.