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OMAHA, Neb. — Gary Gilmore, the Coastal Carolina coach of the past 21 seasons who ushered the Chanticleers from their infancy in Division I to a national title-clinching, 4-3 victory Thursday over Arizona in the decisive Game 3 of the College World Series finals, could not hold back any longer.
For two weeks here, Gilmore stuck to baseball — lineups and pitching moves and other strategy. But as he clutched the trophy moments after securing the first NCAA championship in school history, Gilmore thought primarily about his father.
Richard Gilmore died two years ago early in the spring.
He taught Gary everything about the game and about life. He taught him to stay the course in the most frustrating times, and there were plenty as the coach of a Big South program in a state dominated by two national powers.
“I’d give a gazillion, millions of dollars to give him one hug right now,” Gilmore said Thursday, standing in shallow right field at TD Ameritrade Park, the CCU logo spinning behind him alongside a championship emblem on the big scoreboard.
It was Gilmore’s one regret, that his father could not celebrate with him.
Everything else about this day was nearly perfect. At the end of the longest CWS ever — 17 games over 13 days, ending some seven hours before the calendar flips to July and Coastal Carolina leaves the Big South for the Sun Belt Conference — the Chanticleers accomplished a once-unthinkable feat.
“Some people are still going to say we got lucky,” senior Anthony Marks said. “And that’s fine. They can say whatever they want. It ain’t luck. This is blood, sweat and tears.”
From Conway, South Carolina, to Omaha, Marks’ words resonate to the thumping beat of a celebration like none this university has triggered in its 62-year history.
The past two weeks, in fact, unfolded as a dream for the Chanticleers. They landed at Eppley Airfield on June 16 and bused straight to this ballpark, walking through the double doors adjacent to 13th Street at 3:30 p.m. — two weeks to the moment, almost the exact second, that Alex Cunningham fanned Ryan Haug on a full-count pitch with Wildcats at second and third base.
The final pitch ignited a rush to the pitcher’s mound, with Cunningham buried by more than a dozen bodies.
“To say, ‘Coastal Carolina, national champions,’ ” Gilmore said, “it’s got a great ring to it. But did I really think that was going to happen when we started back in February?
“Shoot, I thought we had a chance to be good.”
Alums, fans all over the sports world congratulate CCU
Carolina Panthers players, a Tampa Bay Rays guy and even the Clemson football team gave props to the Coastal Carolina baseball team for its national championship.
2016 NCAA baseball championship results
The Coastal Carolina Chanticleers staved off elimination six times in the NCAA tournament to win the first national championship in school history.
The Chanticleers were more than good in Omaha, closing this CWS with a nation-high 55 wins as ace right-hander Andrew Beckwith earned his nation-best 15th victory for 5⅔ innings of work.
It wasn’t vintage Beckwith, but Bobby Holmes bailed him out of the sixth inning after Arizona scored twice. And Cunningham pitched the final two innings, giving up one run in the ninth on two hits, a walk and a sacrifice fly.
Arizona coach Jay Johnson held Cody Ramer, who raced from first base, at third on Ryan Agulilar’s two-out double to the left-field corner.
A good throw from shortstop Michael Paez would have surely nailed Ramer. And to that point, Coastal made every play when needed. The win Thursday marked its sixth this postseason in elimination games.
It came back in the ninth to beat North Carolina State on the road in regional play, then won two straight at powerful LSU in a super regional. The Chanticleers beat TCU twice to reach the championship series and won Tuesday to force a winner-take-all final.
After stormy weather postponed the final game until Thursday afternoon, Coastal capitalized on Ramer’s two errors on the same ground ball hit by Zach Remillard in the sixth inning. Paez and David Parrett scored on the misplay before designated hitter G.K. Young hit a laser into the right-field bullpen for a two-run homer.
“It wasn’t always a golden path,” Remillard said. “But this is a grinding group. To say we were worried, I don’t think so.”
After the dogpile, the Chanticleers lingered on the field for an hour. A few players scooped dirt from the first-base line into empty water bottles.
“There’s been nothing bigger than this for our university,” athletic director Matt Hogue said. “We keep telling people across the country, globally, anybody who will listen, ‘This university is a special place. There’s a special force, a special energy.’
“Sometimes that message doesn’t resonate. Sometimes, in our state, it doesn’t resonate, but we knew this day was going to come.”
Gilmore clutched the trophy before passing it to his players and administrators.
“I hope he keeps it in his office,” Marks said, “then keeps it in his house when he’s done coaching.”
A party on Myrtle Beach awaits the Chanticleers in South Carolina. Gilmore will partake, then he said he wants to take this weekend to reflect. He’s going to turn off his cellphone and talk to no one.
“I need two days to put this in perspective,” the coach said. “I’m numb.”
No doubt, he’ll think about his father and the inspirational figures who drew this team together — like the wife of pitching coach Drew Thomas, Jaymie Thomas, who has battled breast cancer this year , and the son of associate head coach Kevin Schnall, Jayden Schnall, who faced life-saving surgery after a series of recent strokes.
“All the things that have happened to us, I just have to know in my heart, there are bigger things at work,” Gilmore said.
It sure looked like it over the past two weeks in Omaha.
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The Road to Omaha is continues with the Super Regional round this weekend.
The 2016 baseball championship is down to 16 teams competing at eight Super Regional sites this weekend for the right to advance to the College World Series in Omaha. Four sites host games for their best-of-three series on Friday and Saturday with an if-necessary Game 3 on Sunday, while the other four sites will play Saturday and Sunday with the possibility of Monday.
The College World Series begins on Saturday, June 18 at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha.
Interactive Bracket | Scoreboard | 16 must-see players in Super Regionals
Follow the live blog below for the latest updates from around the country.
Read more college baseball coverage at D1baseball.com .
Things to watch at Super Regionals
OMAHA, Neb. — Super Regionals is the next stop on the NCAA baseball tournament’s Road to Omaha.
Four of the best-of-three series are Friday through Sunday, with the other four Saturday through Monday. The eight winners advance to the College World Series at TD Ameritrade Park Omaha starting June 18.
Some things to know heading into the round of 16:
Florida has been talked up for months as the favorite to win the national championship, though Louisville and a few other teams might have something to say about that. The No. 1 national seed Gators are matched in a super regional at home against Florida State for the second straight year. The Gators swept their in-state rival by a combined 24-9 in last year’s super regional, and they won all three of their meetings this season. It will be a surprise if the Gators don’t make it to Omaha to play for the program’s first national title.
MORE: Full Super Regionals bracket
HOT WHEN HEALTHY
It’s about time Oklahoma State’s Conor Costello caught some good breaks. He’s the hottest hitter in the NCAA tournament, batting .667 (8 for 12) with two homers and seven RBIs.
Costello had Tommy John surgery on his right arm before he arrived at OSU. In 2014 he was hit in the face by a pitch. Last year he tore his esophagus when a piece of steak got lodged in his throat. This season he’s dealt with a sore arm and knee and wrist injuries that limited him to 25 regular-season games.
The pitcher-outfielder-designated hitter has raised his batting average from .279 to .367 over the last seven games, going 16 for 29 with three homers and 14 RBIs.
No. 2 national seed Louisville is the only team in the nation with three pitchers with 12 wins, and that doesn’t include Kyle Funkhouser, who came back to school after being a first-round draft pick in 2015. Funkhouser (9-3, 3.86 ERA), Brendan McKay (12-3, 2.12) and ACC pitcher of the year Drew Harrington (12-2, 2.08) held three regional opponents to one run over 21 innings. The Cardinals also have Kade McClure (12-0, 2.54).
UC Santa Barbara’s appearance is Louisville is a mild surprise. The Gauchos had to replace seven everyday players, two starting pitchers and two of their best relievers from the 2015 squad that made regionals. The 6-foot-6, 265-pound first baseman Austin Bush, one of the new starters this year, hit three home runs in the Nashville Regional.
JOIN THE TEAM.
IT’S BEEN A WHILE
Boston College and No. 3 national seed Miami both are in the ACC but different divisions. Their super regional in Coral Gables will mark their first meeting since March 2014, when the Hurricanes swept a three-game series.
If you guessed Boston College is the northernmost school to ever play in a super regional, you would be wrong. The campuses of past participants Oregon and Oregon State are a couple latitudinal degrees farther north, though neither is as cold early in the season. Boston College played its first 20 games on the road or at neutral sites in warmer climes before its March 29 home opener. Of the 64 teams that made the NCAA tournament, only Utah and Princeton played their home openers later (March 30).
Texas A&M has been lying in wait for TCU. The Horned Frogs won one of the most memorable super regionals ever when they rallied from seven runs down in the eighth inning to beat the Aggies 5-4 in 16 innings in Game 3 last year in Fort Worth. This time TCU visits College Station, and it would be an upset if the No. 4 national seed Aggies don’t win to get to Omaha for the first time since 2011.
NOTHING FINER IN CAROLINA
East Carolina and Coastal Carolina might not be the first teams that come to mind when you think of programs from North and South Carolina still playing this time of year. East Carolina, a No. 3 regional seed, is in the round of 16 for the first time since 2009 and heads to Texas Tech 0-6 all-time in super regionals. Coastal Carolina, a No. 2 regional seed, is in supers for the first time since 2010 and heads to LSU 0-4 in this round. South Carolina, which had to win four straight on its home field after losing its regional opener, hosts Oklahoma State in its first super regional appearance since 2013.
HOME RUN HIRE
First-year coach Jay Johnson has Arizona in super regionals for the first time since Andy Lopez coached the Wildcats to the national title in 2012. The fast ascent was unexpected, given that the Wildcats finished 11th, 11th and sixth in the Pac-12 in the three seasons following the championship. Picked to finish ninth in the preseason, Arizona ended up fourth. The Wildcats’ everyday lineup includes four returning starters, two who were key reserves and three freshmen. The pitchers who have three of the four highest innings totals also were on the 2015 roster.
POCHE’ THE MAN
The Southpaw was STELLAR out of the bullpen for the Tigers! #RoadToOmaha pic.twitter.com/rLDu8358qG
— NCAA Baseball (@NCAACWS) June 7, 2016
LSU left-hander Jared Poche’, who started his team’s CWS opener in 2015, has been one of the hottest pitchers in the tournament . He picked up two wins while working 12 innings in regionals, allowing one run, striking out 14 and walking none. He retired 16 in a row in six innings of one-hit shutout relief against Rice in the regional final.
This article was written by Eric Olson from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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